When I was at Landmark, one of the things they taught us was how to identify where our “strong suits” (the “best” parts of ourselves) came from.
You’d probably think that the best parts of yourself would be pure awesome – and to an extent they are – but it was really fascinating to learn that any of our strong suits are all compensating for something else.
The premise of strong suits is that when we come into this world we don’t yet have a personality. Our experiences make up our personality – and there are 3 distinct events that happen throughout our lifetime to form 3 huge parts of our personality.
Understanding your strong suits explains why you have the job you do, why you have certain hobbies, and a lot about what you do on a daily basis. As you read on you’ll see how the father of Tae Kwon Do got started – and it’s pretty funny.
I just got a Myers-Briggs profile, and interestingly enough, the strong suits that I learned at Landmark coincided very well with the Myers-Briggs learnings.
I am going to give some examples of peoples’ strong suits, including mine, so you can see how these strong suits show up for different people. To set the record straight before I begin, I am VERY HAPPY with how my life turned out. I am ecstatic that I had to endure so much when I was younger, because everything was a learning lesson. I’ve moved on. I understand I put my meaning on everything and have chosen to make my meanings that struggles make me more experienced, understanding, and better equipped to deal with the world.
Initially I was hesitant to give examples from my own life because I didn’t want my parents to start blaming themselves or feeling bad about certain things. I also didn’t want to feel judged from people who read this blog. The only reason I’m letting this go is because I think you could possibly benefit from learning about strong suits and so I don’t want to let selfishness stand in the way of what might be an empowering experience for some people.
With that out of the way…
There Are 3 Things To Know Before You Identify Your Strong Suits:
a) You may not remember what happened during the timeline for each strong suit right away. That’s fine – several people at the forum needed to think hard about them.
b) It’s very possible to have multiple strong suits – but these are just the biggest 3.
c) You don’t need a horrible childhood to have strong suits. EVERYONE has strong suits – different people will make different things “traumatic” to them. I’ll go into more detail shortly.
With that said, let’s get started.
Identifying Strong Suit #1
This strong suit occurs when you’re about 5 years old, and something happens where you feel like you’re not good enough.
So for example, the father of Tae Kwon Do went to a Landmark Forum and realized that it was during this time period he got beat up by a 4 year old girl. He spent his entire life trying to compensate for it.
There was another person who went to Landmark whose brother switched out the apple juice in his bottle for urine. After the kid drank it, his brother told him what he did at the family dinner table, and everybody started laughing. The kid grew up to be one of the world’s foremost experts on water purification.
For me, mine was when my parents were having a huge fight. My dad said he was leaving for good, and stormed out to his car. I ran out after him, trying to make everything better. For some reason I told him he should just go on a vacation with my mom and everything would be better. (I have no idea where I got that). He seemed to calm down, so I felt on top of the world, thinking I singlehandedly saved my parents’ marriage. When I told my mom what I did though, she was very emotionally charged and upset with me. She said, “How could you do that? We don’t have the money to go on vacation!”. (I am not faulting either one of my parents for anything – what happened is what happened – but my father was prone to unbelievably crazy tirades/physical violence and my mom was afraid he’d get violent with her after realizing they didn’t have the money.)
From that situation, I learned to always look for win-win solutions and to be as objective as possible. I’ve learned how to word things wonderfully. It’s helped me a lot in identifying great marketing offers (I can really get in the head of prospects and go into their point of view) and copywriting. I very rarely get into arguments with people because I can see where the other person is coming from. There are a lot of AWESOME things that have come from it. There are ALWAYS awesome things that come from these situations.
Identifying Strong Suit #2
This happens when you’re around 12 and a situation happens where you feel like you no longer belong.
Remember when I said that it doesn’t need to be that something traumatic has happened? A perfect example is how one guy at the Forum ended up having this happen because his father told him he loved him too much.
His father would say “I love you” all the time. One time, he said it in front of his friends at soccer practice. The kid asked his father to please not say it in front of his friends because it embarrassed him, but a few months later, the father did it again. From there, the boy decided that his father must NOT love him. He “learned” nobody loved him and to be very independent and get his love from himself.
Mine was looking around my classroom in 7th grade… I think it was when I weighed the most (around 250-265 pounds). I remember always just knowing that everyone in school was better than me. It wasn’t something I questioned – I just felt as if they all had a lot more value than I did. It was a fact in my mind that they were all worth more than I was. It’s hard to explain, but it wasn’t something I felt like I could decide – it just was.
Again, awesome things happened from feeling that way. Because I just “knew” that everyone was worth more than I was, I was super-nice and super-generous. I figured it was the least I could do to all these people that were so much better than I was. Because of that, I have always made friends very, very easily. And since generosity always comes back around, my generosity has landed me some phenomenal things. People are ALWAYS giving me incredible stuff – either experiential or tangible. And it’s helped with business, too. Tons of people tell me they buy my stuff because they like ME.
Identifying Strong Suit #3
This happens when you’re around 18 and something happens where you realize you’re on your own.
For one lady in my Forum, she said her parents had taken care of her all her life. When she went to college though, they lost their money and had to claim bankruptcy. They told her they’d still pay for college, but she had to come up with her own spending money. This was crazy to her, and she started feeling very resentful when her friends asked her to go to the movies or do anything involving money. Because of that she ended up becoming extremely frugal. Now she’s a realtor and excellent at finding the best deals, scrutinizing contracts to make sure nobody’s taking advantage of her clients, and always getting the best possible bottom line.
Mine was after I had moved to Pennsylvania. My stepfather (who I get along with great now) had been hitting me. It wasn’t the first time, but I was more upset than usual about it. I think it was because I was super-resentful of moving to PA, and I felt like he was trying to be my father (my father used to be violent too, but with him, I figured it was OK because he was my dad and that’s what dads did). Anyway, my stepdad wasn’t stopping, in my mind nobody in my family was doing a thing about it (even though they were all in the room), and out of fear, I called the police. After I did, my stepdad stopped, so I calmed down and figured the police would solve everything. By the time the cops got there, because I had been so calm, I guess they didn’t believe me. They asked me, “Can you walk? Can you talk? Then don’t bother us.”
Obviously I felt ridiculously powerless at that point, and knew that I was on my own.
Because of that experience, I became very, very independent. I got promoted with a quickness at work. I’d work multiple crazy 36 hour shifts when I was a salaried manager because I wanted my area to be in tip-top shape all the time and didn’t feel like I could depend on the overnight managers. I drove cross country several times, sleeping in my car when I had to. I walked on tightropes. Broke an arrow against my throat. Quit my job to go into business for myself full time. Lost 110 pounds. Won best speaker at Toastmaster’s. That’s just skimming the surface – I have a TON of fantastic accomplishments under my belt. I’m saying that to reiterate that these crappy situations enable us to do PHENOMENAL THINGS. I am grateful for them. I love both of my parents very, very much. I’m sure I’ve done stupid things that have unknowingly hurt people. When I have kids – man, I don’t even want to think about some of the things I might unknowingly do.
Here’s How You Can Gain From Knowing Your Strong Suits:
There are a few ways in which you can gain by knowing these.
First of all, this really helps you see that YOU put the meaning on things that happen.
For example, if a friend tells you, “I can’t hang out tonight”, you can make it mean “He doesn’t like me as much as he used to” or “He doesn’t want to spend time with me”… OR, you can take it at face value – your friend can’t hang out tonight.
Going through the strong suits is sometimes hilarious. The father of Tae Kwon Do created his entire life because a 4 year old girl made him feel not good enough. There was a woman who ended up becoming an insect doctor when she killed a bug at 5 years old, and her mom yelled at her because that was one of the “good bugs” that helped the garden. Some stories we talked about at the Forum were really, really interesting.
Once you identify WHY your strong suits are strong suits, you may be able to back away from them a bit and go into things more objectively.
I can say for me, identifying my strong suits helped me not live in such an automatic “tape” mentality. In most situations, my “tape” before I identified my strong suits was to say, “No, I’ll do it myself.” I didn’t need anyone else to help me with anything. Now that I understand WHY I chose to be that way, I can release it.
Since identifying this strong suit, I have hired an awesome coach who I can learn a lot from. I probably wouldn’t have done that before, figuring that I could read books on my own, go to seminars on my own, etc. I am now feeling more willing to accept help from others.
Strong suits also help you realize that the strongest parts of your personality are often compensating for something else (ie if you’re frugal, you’re afraid to spend money. If you’re the father of Tae Kwon Do, you’re really just scared you’ll get beat up again. If you’re always looking for win-wins, you’re afraid to be selfish. etc.) Identifying these things, and then working to release them can help you push out of your comfort zone bigtime, and get a much wider-view experience of the world.
All in all, I was pretty fascinated about this concept, learned a lot, and hope you’ve got some use out of it too.