Whether it's work, relationships, or school, we often spend too much time trying to change our weaknesses rather than focusing on our strengths. By focusing on our strengths and making them stronger, we can be authentic and extraordinary. By worrying mainly about improving on our weaknesses, we become frustrated and low-performing.

Identify Your Strengths
Remember when you brought home your report card with all As except for the C in math? Maybe instead of talking about the 5 perfect grades, your parents said, "we really need to work on that math grade." Or perhaps, now you are in a work environment, and you've been "promoted" to a position where you are managing the work of others. Yet, you notice that while you excelled at writing press releases or answering technical questions on the telephone, you are consistently fail to get good results from those who report to you. Think of the work that you do best, the personal characteristics that make you stand out in a positive way, and the types of things you do that bring you the most joy. 

Give Your Weaknesses Just a Little Break
So, maybe one of your strengths is that you are very deliberative, detailed and careful, always wanting to turn in your best work. On the flip side, a weakness if that it takes you longer to complete a project than it does your friend or colleague. While completely disregarding your weakness to the point that you miss a deadline is self-destruction, consider ways to restructure your work  - or find a job or a major - that requires steadiness over speed. Then practice thinking less about your weaknesses, letting go of some of the guilt that accompanies it and turns into a vicious cycle of underperformance.

Feed Your Strengths
So you realize, perhaps, that you are great writer and a great cook, but not so good at public speaking or gardening. Instead of taking a personal development class on speaking or growing organic vegetables, invest more of your time in becoming an even better writer or a better cook. In other words, take your natural talents and forge an authentic path to greatness.

Building Greatness in Others
One of the great, classic problems in relationships is the tendency for one person to want to change another. Instead of finding the flaws in your parents, spouse, or other loved ones, actively point out their strengths and think of the person in terms of acceptance. Identify the gifts of your children and proactively nurture these. With employees, recognize the positive and explore whether or not low performance is actually a function of poor job fit. Sometimes, this change in perspective and direction will yield very welcome results.

Some students feel invisible in their online courses, and don't do as well as they could. But there are ways to get noticed, making sure the professor knows exactly who you are. Here are our top five:
  1. Get personal. Many courses have an introductory week when students share information about themselves. Reveal a bit more than your major and why you're taking the course. Tell about your job, your kids, your hobbies, and a couple of interesting things about yourself. Reveal a bit more throughout the course.
  2. Post first or very early each week. The first responses to a discussion posting will typically get noticed more than the ones that approach the deadline. It will usually impress the instructor that you're early and on top of your game.
  3. Raise your hand. Pose questions to the instructor. Don't be obnoxious, but ask the instructor a question every week or so related to the content. It's even okay (and intelligent) to question or disagree with the content that's presented.
  4. Address people by name. When you're responding to a classmate or an instructor, something very magical happens when you use their name. For example, say, "Dr. Smith, I found your analysis of the Clinton years very interesting," or "Sally, that must have been a difficult experience for you."
  5. Provide your instructor with useful feedback some time during the course. If there is something negative to be said, sandwich it with something positive. For example, you might say, "Dr. Smith, I so appreciate the depth of feedback you have given me on my written work. It has really improved my writing. I would like to express my concerns about the amount of group work that we have in this class. While I appreciate the engagement with other students, I believe that I would be more successful if one of the three group projects were independent. This is a great class, and I have enjoyed your anecdotes." You might be surprised, but most instructors will really welcome this.
Whether you're hoping to be an accountant, an elementary teacher or a public relations specialist, you may find it hard to get a job related to your future career while you're still in college. No need to fret - the experiences you get now in a part-time job really do matter, even if they're not related. Here's a list of worthy part-time gigs for college students, and how they really provide you with more than a little food and gas money. Note that it's often the less-glamorous jobs that give you the strongest experiences.

  1. Waiter/Waitress. Many employers love to hire folks with waiting experience because they have learned to work hard and fast, and have exceptional customer service skills. Learning how to deal effectively with angry or impatient customers in the local burger joint actually translates well to dealing with upset parents (for teachers) or patients (medical services). 
  2. Market Researcher. Okay, so maybe you hate getting those phone calls during dinner when people want to ask you just a few questions. But actually working on the dialing end for a few months is superb preparation for sales or leadership down the road. How? You've practiced constant verbal communication, being perpetually outgoing, and not taking rejection personally. That's exactly what college presidents and CEOs do everyday.
  3. Babysitter. This is a job with serious responsibility - so don't do this if you don't genuinely love kids. But strong experience in this area can demonstrate reliability, nurturing, and patience. These skills easily translate to careers in teaching and nursing, but also to other social science areas, such as counseling. Up those credentials even more with CPR certification.
  4. Marketing Intern. If you are interested in public relations, marketing, or related areas, your best bet is to get into a part-time position where you can demonstrate your talent. This area is very competitive, and may require you to possibly take on an unpaid internship initially. Volunteer to write press releases or handle social media work. It's tough to find people with strong creativity, and if you do this job well, you will have a very strong advantage in the job market upon graduating.
  5. Tech Help-Desk. Many colleges employ students to work on various help desks. This work will quickly ramp up your technology skills as well as customer service skills. This job will enhance your preparation for a career in information systems or instructional design.
Another benefit of these lower-wage positions is that you're less likely to get derailed from college and graduation. In other words, some college students take jobs that actually pay too well and are too time consuming, and end up prioritizing an unintended career without passion over education.