My daughter and I were looking forward to watching the climax of the World Athletics Championships on TV, they were being hosted at London’s 2012 Olympic Stadium.
However, she was also firmly fixated on getting her applications out for the internship that her PR degree demanded she serve for a minimum of 8 weeks as an integral part of the course.
As we sat at the kitchen table with all her application forms neatly stacked together. She had gone through all of the requirements for each of the potential postings. She had carefully highlighted all the requirements she either didn’t have or she perceived herself to be weak at.
As I started reading through the application forms, there were many that I felt she had just the right personality traits for, and some she had the perfect experience and exposure for. But these had been dumped in a second pile.
When I suggested that perhaps she thinks about matching her strengths to the requirements, she looked at me puzzled and just replied “Dad, you just don’t get it!”.
“Nobody is interested in my strengths. Their total focus will be my areas for development – that’s what internships are for aren’t they?”
Well? Are they? Did she have a point? I asked myself.
She has been working extremely hard at all the things her well-intentioned teachers at school had said she wasn’t so good at. This was reinforced again at university.
It was very clear that she wanted to do this all on her own.
We settled down to watch the athletics.
The 3000 metres women’s steeplechase final was a race that was perennially won by the Kenyan women. They have had a stranglehold over all the medals in this particular race for what appeared to be forever.
As the exciting race entered the final lap, it was the Kenyans versus the Americans. As the Kenyans put their foot on the accelerator we expected them to break clear of the Americans and fight it out amongst themselves for the gold medal. But this was going to be different.
The two Americans, Courtney Frerichs and Emma Coburn decided they were not here to just participate, they wanted to win.
The commentators seemed to be obsessed with their weaknesses and kept questioning whether they had the necessary “endurance pace” or “the race winning mentality”? They seemed to completely ignore that they both had better technique over the jumps and had marvellously kept an even pace throughout the race, no matter how far ahead their arrivals stretched away.
This allied to their ability to work together as a team, brought Emma the gold and Courtney the silver, in an unforgettable climax.
My daughter looked at me and said nothing, she didn’t have to, her eyes were sparkling with that ‘light bulb’ moment. She instantly knew that they had won against all the odds by simply playing to their strengths and worrying so much less about their weaknesses.
Maybe we are the problem?
Let’s get ourselves and our old thinking out of the way, it’s time to embrace our strengths and the positivity that brings.
Africa’s first female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, sums it up beautifully, “All girls know that they can be anything now. That transformation is to me one of the most satisfying things”.
I’m pleased and proud to share that she was offered the first position she interviewed for – it was originally in the second pile that she had rejected her chances of ever getting.
Originally published on René Carayol.