I’ve been a big fan of Marcus Buckingham for a number of years now.  So I was very excited to find out about his latest book, The Truth About You.  When the review copy came in the mail yesterday, I opened the package and saw not a typical book, but really a book/pack, that came with a DVD, a book, and a note pad.

I have to admit, even though I am a huge fan of audio books, the thought of sitting down and watching a DVD gave me a slight pause.  Would this be worth my time?  How long would it be?  Would it take me away from my other work?  Would it simply be a re-hash of what I’d read from Marcus before?  But because I believe in all my heart in the Strengths Movement, I popped in the DVD and gave it a whirl.

It was simply the best produced and most powerful piece I have seen ever.  And I say this with the utmost honesty- no hyperbole.  It was engaging and personal, and you can feel Marcus talking to you through your screen.

I was prepared for some motivational speaker stuff, blah blah, but what I got was a piece of video where Marcus’s absolute passion and caring shows through.  It’s one of the first videos that feels like a personal coach is in the room with you, and it’s simply inspiring.  In fact, the messages about how important it is for people to find what they’re best at and the specific steps you can take to reach for your special talents was so important, I made sure I sat my thirteen year old son down to watch the video right away.

I know that the path to helping James find his talents may mean working on some skills that may not come naturally.  But if he cannot express what makes him special to others, we’re going to miss out on so very much.  And he has to know, in his heart, that sometimes, finding your true strengths may require some work- but all of it is going to be so worthwhile.

Why is this important?

How many people do you run into, every day, who feel frustrated by their jobs and their life?  How many people phone it in every day?  Far too many.  We tend to do the stuff we have to do to get by, but have long stopped considering what we need to do to feel alive.

We’ve been taught that there are strict rules in life we have to follow.  That we need to ask for permission before reaching for our dreams.  And we tell people, even our children, that you just don’t get to do what makes you happy- you have to work, as if work was, by necessity, like an eight hour or more a day punishment we have to endure.  Why is that?

Part of this is that success is scary. That sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  But if you are successful, you are responsible.  You have to take charge and be the actor in your life.  You can no longer blame other people for your ups and downs- they’re all yours, each and every day.  And that means you are equally responsible for any of the failures as well.  What happens if you give it your best and still don’t end up on top?  What then?

Let’s look at an example.

Michael Phelps grew up with ADHD.  School was not a place that felt like home for him, but clearly, the pool did.  This summer, Michael won an unprecedented number of olympic medals in swimming, and is clearly the best in the world at this moment.  Here’s someone who found what he was best at, set a goal and met it.  Michael will do well, and be overwhelmed with endorsement deals and more- but the question will remain- what will he do next and for the rest of his life?  Will anything else feel as good as winning those gold medals?  What do you do for an encore?

And what about all those swimmers who came in just behind Michael in the pool?

We’ll assume these world-class swimmers worked as hard as Michael, but Michael was just a bit better, fractions of a second.  Does this make them lousy swimmers? No.  Will we remember any of their names like we do Michael Phelps?  No.  That is really tough.

But this is also why you need to play to your multiple strengths.  You need to find what you love most and have the most talent at, and make it part of your life, each and every week, like Marcus Buckingham suggests. Playing to your strengths not only helps you become successful, it sustains you- it’s what’s emotionally satisfying.

How Finding my Strengths Has Helped Me

A few years ago, I read one of Marcus’s books, First, Break All the Rules, and then systematically read everything he wrote.  Everything he said resonated with me, and so, I went and found my strengths and began playing to them in a systematic way.  And my life changed dramatically in a very short period of time.

I’ve changed from being someone who was floating along on life, taking whatever scraps might come my way and be satisfied with them, to taking charge of my life and my goals.  By playing to my strengths, I am so much happier each and every day, but moreover, I feel alive.  I feel in control of what happens to me, and capable of handling even the rough stuff.  Having control over your life, knowing you can swing for the fences and the risks you take are absolutely worth it- it’s simply life changing.

I strongly recommend you pick up The Truth About You, or frankly, any other book by Marcus Buckingham, and do not delay in making this a part of your life.  Know what you do best and what you can contribute to the world.  Make your mark.  The World needs your talents, but you need to be the one in control of your own life and using your talents to their utmost- no one else can do that for you.