Have you ever learned how oysters make pearls? They spend all their lives sitting at the ocean’s bottom filtering out water for food. But when unintended junk such as sand gets inside, the oysters cover the sand with nacre, a protective coating that smooths out the foreign objects to keep from being irritated. It continues this process from small specs of sand into finally one day, this beautiful pearl. I think this is a good illustration on how sometimes.. ‘junk’ just simply gets in our lives and makes us frustratingly uncomfortable. Certainly life can be difficult, but it’s in those difficult times that we grow. Think about it, if you’re comfortable with where you are now, then what motivating factors will get you to challenge yourself to be better? Why risk trying to create value when things are just fine the way they are? Unless you’re Jesus, you will always have something to work on, and the world has a way of exposing that by challenging you in the areas where you’re the weakest.
On every team, the strength of that team is limited to the weakest link. Imagine watching the Olympics as Michael Phelps, a 23-time gold medalist, swims to gain 10 body lengths from the 2nd placer. As he taps the edge, the 2nd swimmer dives in, and after another 100m he taps the edge maintaining the lead for the next guy. What if the finisher dives in and swims like he was never supposed to be there. It wouldn’t take much for that lead to diminish and to give up all the gains the team had so gloriously maintained. Your skillset is also the same as you are the sum of all your skillsets combined. It doesn’t matter how great you are in one area if you allow yourself to never grow in the other areas.
Expand your Hard Skills: Your hard skills are those skills that are related to your trade. If you want to be a great attorney, don’t just learn the law. Learn how to write, concisely communicate, strategize, and negotiate. If you want to be a great basketball player, don’t just learn to shoot. Work on dribbling, defense, jumping higher, and running faster. How many basketball players in the NBA do you know who are great at the 3-point line but couldn’t dribble? Learn your trade, and find an area in your trade that you struggle with and hate. Usually, skills become more fun when you become really good at them.
Strengthen your Soft Skills: These skills are related to how you interact with people. In the healthcare world, we call this “bedside” manner. We are in a day and age where how we make a client or a partner feel is just as important as the result we give them. If you cure someone’s cancer, but are a jerk about it, they still hate you and all they remember is their experience. Statistics show that doctors who communicate well with their patients are sued far less than the ones who don’t. Find an area where you struggle. This could be how you communicate or the frequency of your communication. If you’re an introvert, find social events and make yourself talk to as many people as you can. If you’re always late to events, get yourself to drive the speed limit and plan your route to be 15min early. If you’re not a good listener, grab lunch with a friend, ask a question, and then zip that lip.
Visualize the Best Version of You: Have you ever grown up with an idol? No, I’m not talking about a gold calf. For example, we hear slogans such as “I want to be like Mike” on countless Nike commercials, and it’s as if Michael Jordan owns them. It’s why so many brands pay celebrities to showcase their brands. We want to emulate who we think are “the best,” and because in our human nature to want to be “the best,” we will buy what they buy, do what they do, and say what they say. Ultimately, what we simply want is an example to follow that will help us be the best version of ourselves. So think of the person you want to be. What does he/she look like? Would you follow him/her? What do you need to do physically, spiritually, mentally, relationally, and occupationally to be that very person you know you could be? Write that down and start hammering at it everyday.
It’s not so easy being imperfect. It’s draining, and as parts of you get stronger, better, and faster, the other parts of you start to deteriorate. It’s like playing “whack-a-mole.” But unfortunately, this is life. In fact, it’s everyone’s life and they’re dealing with themselves just as much as you are. We all face challenges, but that’s a good thing. Without them, you would never know where your weaknesses are so don’t let your life’s obstacles go to waste. Sometimes the most uncomfortable things in life are what will bring out the greatest value of you to yourself and those around you. So go out and make some Pearls!