A couple of years ago I took StrengthsFinder 2.0 with our new law students as a part of their orientation. StrengthsFinder is a test that reveals your greatest strengths, and the idea was to make sure that the new law students knew that they had strong points before law school did its thing and made them question whether they had any value at all. I enjoyed the test and found it quite useful, but embarrassingly, messed up a bit at the first of the test, which kicked “brainiac” out of contention for one of my top five strengths. Still, my top three—Discipline, Strategic, and Achiever—seemed spot on.
Recently, I retook the test alongside the entire law school staff and was careful to get it right from the start. This time, my top three strengths from the first go-around came in as #1, #3, and #5—but #2 and #4 were new and spot on, too! My second greatest strength, MIA the last time, is Futuristic according to StrengthsFinder. “People who are especially talented in the Futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be.” Oh yeah. That’s me.
I have long believed that not only can our greatest strengths be our greatest weaknesses, but in fact they are our greatest weaknesses. I don’t have to look hard at Futuristic to see how this is true with me—I can be so busy dreaming of the future that I miss out on the present.
A Wendell Berry poem in Given punches me in the gut on this particular point:
For God’s sake, be done
with this jabber of “a better world.”
What blasphemy! No “futuristic”
twit or child thereof ever
in embodied light will see
a better world than this, though they
foretell inevitably a worse.
Do something! Go cut the weeds
beside the oblivious road. Pick up
the cans and bottles, old tires,
and dead predictions. No future
can be stuffed into this presence
except by being dead. The day is
clear and bright, and overhead
the sun not yet half finished
with his daily praise.
I do think that looking ahead is important, and I value it as a strength, but looking ahead is important so that we see clearly how to act today. If that element is missing, this supposed strength renders me nothing more than, to quote Berry, “a ‘futuristic’ twit.”