As a high-school teacher, one of the most consistent sources of frustration for me is watching kids being put in situations that focus on their weaknesses rather than their strengths. A kid who is an exceptional writer but poor at science still has to go through several challenging science courses just to graduate, and if he or she has troubles with the material, that student tends to spend an inordinate amount of time on science, which keeps him or her from actively strengthening the talents that will probably be much more important years down the road.
We live in cultures that tend to think that everyone should be able to do everything, and we force people to live up to that expectation. But at what cost?
Imagine this: the kid who's really good at math and poor at writing is allowed to focus strongly on math, while learning the basic writing skills, not having to pass silly standardized tests in writing, but being expected to reach high levels in his or her area of focus, math. That student would leave high school as an expert in the field of math, not as someone who has become a jack of all trades, but a master of none.
Students who are really interested in writing could focus on writing and reading, while taking basic math and science courses. We do not need every student who goes through our schools to be strong in math and science, especially those who never again will use math and science in their lives.
Somehow we've grown to think that we have to beat other countries at the test-score game; our students have to score better across the board than students from other countries if we're to be seen as "successful." But that's just silly--who cares if Amber scored high in math in high school if she goes on to be a counselor? Who cares if David was able to write a perfect essay in high school if he goes on to be a pharmacist?
And what about you? How well do you nourish your strengths? And how much time do you spend focusing on "areas of improvement," all the while neglecting your strongest points?
I tried playing the guitar for a while because I love music. I was okay at it, but I quickly realized that if I wanted to get good at it, I would have to devote far too much time than I wanted to. I didn't want to devote a lot of time because that was time that I could use developing my two strongest areas--writing and teaching. Once I made the decision to drop the guitar, I freed up a lot of time for those areas in which I could excel, and which I really loved. I think I would have liked playing the guitar, but I'm pretty sure I never would have gotten very good at it, and my coordination between my left hand on the frets and my right hand strumming or plucking just isn't very good.
Which of your strengths do you really enjoy using? How often do you exercise that strength? Perhaps you're really good at giving encouragement or advice; perhaps you're really good at baking; maybe organizing time or space is your calling. Whatever you're really good at and you love doing, stick with it, and try to let other things not distract you from developing those strengths. You have a lot to give to the world, but your greatest gifts are going to come when you give something other than a half-hearted effort, which almost always comes when we do something that isn't a strong point, or even that's a strong point that hasn't been developed.
You don't have to be good at everything. As a parent, I was good at teaching and helping, but not so good at discipline, so I usually deferred to my wife unless she asked me to take care of something. She was much more fair at it than I was. As a teacher, my strengths are instruction and grading, while I'm not so good at organization and planning ahead. So I've found ways to compensate for these weaknesses without spending inordinate amounts of time trying to get really good at them, for that's time that I can use to get even better at instruction and grading.
You have strengths that are unique to you. Use them. Enjoy them. Excel at them. The world and the people in it will appreciate it when your contribution comes from your areas of expertise and ability rather than from areas in which you don't shine. There will always be others to shine in those areas, and you can complement each other really well if you work at it, instead of everyone trying to be good at everything.