Strengths and weaknesses – A different perspective

May 31, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Posted in Organizational culture | Leave a comment

Yesterday we saw an absorbing and thought provoking Marathi movie “Shikshanachya Aaiecha Gho” by Mahesh Manjrekar. The name loosely translates to “To hell with the education system”. The story is about a father and his son. The son is very good at and passionate about Cricket. His whole life revolves around it and naturally the studies suffer. Father is working as a municipal clerk and financially always under stress. He is a single parent of two school going children; the other being a younger daughter whom the circumstances have made mature far beyond her age.

The father strongly believes that cricket is a game for rich people and the future of his son depends on being good at his studies and making a career in an established profession. The son on the other hand is so consumed by his interest in cricket that he can’t think of anything else. This makes his father progressively more and more frustrated and keeps losing his temper. He wants his son to appear for a scholarship exam and promises the principal that he will get his son prepared come what may. When he finds that in spite of spending scarce funds for special tuitions still there is no improvement he starts beating his son. He starts hating everything cricket. The son on the other hand can’t bear the pressure. One day, the situation reaches a climax. The father hits the son so hard that back of his head bangs against the side of the bed and he goes into coma.

Rest of the movie is about the father going through complete catharsis and coming to terms with reality. He decides to fight the system. Though, to keep the audience interest it does become a bit too dramatic at times and has a happy ending where the boy recovers and excels at his love, Mahesh has handled it with great sensitivity. You come out empathizing with the frustrations of both the father & the son against a system which has developed so much inertia that it is tough for an individual to fight against it.

I am sure that things have improved since the time I went to school in terms of encouraging different talents of students. On the other hand, competitive pressures have increased tremendously. I was fortunate in having right talents to get good scores in exams but I used to feel the pain when my cousins were constantly told to follow my example. I am sure they must hate me for it till today.

The problem is not limited to the education system alone; we see it in the society & the organizations as well. The main issue is that the system believes it knows what is good for the individual and he must fall in line even though he strongly feels the contrary. The system also believes that anybody can do anything if he tries hard enough. It’s just that one person may do it more easily and the other needs to put in more efforts. It believes that standard strengths and weaknesses are applicable to all and only way to improve is identify and focus on your weaknesses.

When I look back on my career spanning 45 years, I can see clearly the highs and lows. I felt great at the highs and frustrated when in lows. I would blame myself and feel guilty but would not know what the solution is. Then one day, a colleague of mine introduced me to the online strengthsfinder assessment from Gallup which identifies your top 5 talents and guides you on how to convert them into your strengths. It encourages you to accept that everybody may have different combinations of unique talents and that it is okay. You could try and improve in areas where you don’t have talents to meet the needs of everyday life. But you can’t become strong in those areas however hard you may try. It was such a great relief. I would say it was a turning point in my life. Since then during last few years I have consciously chosen areas of work & leisure which are in line with my top talents. The results have been dramatic. I would also like to do whatever I can to make it easy for others.

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