My Biggest Weakness

February 14, 2011
Estimated reading time:
4 minutes

I saw a thread the other day on Quora asking how best to respond when a job interviewer asks what you think your weaknesses are. Judging by what people with more experience than me have said, it's not the best interview question in the world, but in a sledgehammer, brute force kind of way, it does require you to be at least a little introspective and self-critical.

So, what is my biggest weakness, according to me? Undoubtedly, it's pushing through the dip.

I've written before about how a lot of things came easily to me when I was younger. I did well in school, no problem. I did really well in my A-levels, no problem. And I'm doing pretty well at uni. But when something comes up that I truly find challenging, I struggle to push through the dip and persevere with it. find it hard to keep going with a project if it isn't inherently easy to me.

This is probably a fairly common problem, but that doesn't make it OK. It's easily my biggest mental block and what stops me from achieving what I could, if only I could keep working at it. I can look back on tons of things I've attempted to do or learn over the past 3-4 years, and had mild success to begin with, only to give up when it becomes slightly difficult. In fact, here's a list:

And that's just off the top of my head.

My constant failure to push through the dip and acquire some valuable, quality skills and experiences comes from the fact that, if I were to try really hard at something and still suck, it wouldn't sit well with the self-image that I've created, and present me with undeniable evidence that I'm not as smart and confident and brilliant as I think I am. Time and time again, I do the first 20-30% of something, and it's easy, and I think I'm the man. Then the dip comes, and it's hard, so I give up, telling myself "I could do [whatever] if I wanted to, but I don't have time/have better stuff to do/don't feel like it right now."

It's a paralysing fear of failure, of facing the fact that I might have to tear down this carefully crafted self-image and realise how little I know and how much work I need to do to get to where I want to be.It's tempting to see my actions as a positive thing - to think that it's OK to go from one thing to another constantly, telling myself that I'm searching for the thing that I'm passionate about and naturally good, and that once I find that thing, it will come easily and everything will be OK.

But it's wrong. I've just finished Outliers again, and there's a quote that seems somewhat apt:

Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing that makes you good.

Similarly, working hard isn't something you do once you've found what you want to do. It's something you should always be doing, and by doing so, you'll get to where you want.

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