This is an online only chapter for What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done that didn’t fit in the printed book. It goes in part two, “Gospel-Driven Productivity.”
What it means to build on your strengths
“The highest achievers in any field are those who do it because of passion, not duty or profit.” — Rick Warren
“You must none of you dream that you are in a position in which you can do nothing at all.” — Charles Spurgeon
“Your weaknesses are not an accident. God deliberately allowed them in your life for the purpose of demonstrating his power through you.” — Rick Warren
Lots of time management books focus on tactics for getting yourself motivated. This is puzzling to me. I believe that if you have to continually work to motivate yourself, you are doing the wrong things.
The best kind of motivation is intrinsic motivation—doing a task because you are excited about it and want to, not because you have to.
You will be far more productive if you select your tasks and areas of focus based on what you love to do, not on what you hate to do or don’t care much about.
Some people think this is a luxury. That this is the happy benefit of those who have finally “made it” and hence have control over their work and time.
But I submit it is actually the reverse. Being able to do the things that energize you is not the luxury you get to have once you’ve been successful; rather, it’s the way to become successful. For you will work harder, longer, and with more diligence at things you love to do over things you dislike to do.
My aim is to convince you that working in your strengths is the only way to be maximally effective and thus a truly good steward of the gifts you’ve been given. Further, seeking to focus your work and life primarily within the arena of your strengths is not selfish, but radically others-centered.
What Your Strengths Are Not
The first thing we need to know here is: What is a strength?
And immediately we encounter some common misunderstandings.
Sometimes people think of their strengths as certain skills or certain knowledge that they have. And skills and knowledge are indeed ingredients in your strengths, but in themselves they are not your strengths.
Other people tend to think that their strengths are what they are good at. “If I’m good at something, then that’s a strength.” Of course, if something is a strength, you are good at it—almost flawless (in human terms). But it does not follow, conversely, that if you are good at something that it is necessarily a strength.
Perhaps the biggest confusion comes among those of us who have taken the Strengths Finder test, which identifies your top five “talent themes.” When I first took the test, I thought it measured my strengths. I would say things like “my top five strengths are intellection, achiever, relator, input, and maximizer” (which are my top five talents, by the way).
But the top five talents that the test reveals for you are not even your strengths. The test is called the strengths finder because knowing these talents helps you find your strengths; but these talents themselves are not your strengths (and it isn’t the intent of the test to claim that they are).
What, Then, is a Strength?
Marcus Buckingham, who has written extensively on identifying and building on your strengths, gives the best definition. He actually gives two definitions, which highlight different angles. In his superb book Now, Discover Your Strengths, Buckingham states that a strength is “consistent, near perfect performance in an area.”
This highlights the fact that your strengths are, indeed, something you are good at. And not just something you are good at—something you excel at. You consistently do them with excellence. Which means that, even if someone else without that strength followed the same steps as you, they could not replicate the distinction with which you accomplished the task.
But being good at something is not sufficient to make it a strength, because you can be good at something you dislike. In his book Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance, Buckingham discusses the case of a guy named Matt (not me!) who was an all-star swimmer in high school. The only problem was, he hated swimming. He hated it to the point that he even came down with extreme migraines before the meets.
So was swimming a strength for Matt? No. That’s because a strength is not just something you are good at; a strength is something that strengthens you as well. When you are working within your strengths, you are energized, not depleted.
In other words, “your strengths are those activities that make you feel strong.”
Note also that strengths are not abstract attributes, but actual activities. For example, “writing blog posts” is an example of a strength. “Writing books” would be another example. And since you might be energized by writing blogs, but not books, simply saying that “writing” is a strength is probably not specific enough. You will have more clarity on your strengths the more specific you get in defining the activities that you excel at and which make you feel strong.
But How, Then, Do Knowledge, Skills, and Talents Relate?
The answer is that these are the three ingredients of a strength. A strength is not knowledge alone or skills alone or talent alone. Rather, a strength is the combination of all three.
Thus, to build a strength, you take one of your talents and add knowledge and skills.
It’s significant how I worded that. Here’s why: Knowledge and skills are things you can change about yourself. But talents are not. Hence, you can’t just add knowledge and skill in any area whatsoever and build a strength. You need to add them in an area of talent.
Now, what do I mean here by “talent”? Do I mean people who are especially gifted, like child prodigies or Beethoven or Carl Lewis (my favorite athlete back when I was a kid in the 80s and the fastest man alive at that time) or the twelve-year-old I just read about who is starting college at the University of Minnesota?
No. By “talent” I don’t mean something rare and special. Talents, in the sense we are talking about here, are something everyone has. Everyone is “talented”—we just have different talents. Thus, everyone has a specific area where they can stand out and excel.
Marcus Buckingham again captures the definition best when he notes that talents are “any recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied.” That is what a “talent” is and that what the Strengths Finder test measures.
The Gallup organization has identified about 34 unique themes, or talents, that exist in the human personality. As an example, one of my talents is “intellection.” This means that I’m always thinking about things. I like to think a lot, and I don’t even mind being alone because this just gives me more time to do one of the things I love to do—think. Talents are self-reinforcing and energizing. You cannot help but act that way. You don’t do it on purpose; it’s just how you are, apart from any deliberate choice.
Further, our talents are innate and unchanging. They are given by God and part of our intrinsic personality. They are likely a result of both genetics and early experiences in our life; Buckingham fleshes out the brain science on this in a very fascinating way in First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. But the point is that by about the age of 13 or so, our recurring patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior are pretty fixed. Our talents are in place, and we will only become more of who we are, not less.
Hence, just as we have certain dominant talents, we also generally lack certain talents. I don’t know what talent is involved in enabling someone to sing, but I know for sure that I don’t have it. If I ever auditioned for American Idol, I’d be showcased as one of the terrible, clueless people that can’t sing on tune to save their life. And no matter how hard I tried, there is no way I could become an excellent singer. Not a chance. I could maybe become decent. But excellent? No way. And the reason is that our talents are innate and enduring.
Talents are a Multiplier
Here’s the important thing about talents: When you add knowledge and skill to an area of talent, the talent acts as a multiplier. Not an additive, but a multiplier. So if you add knowledge to an area where you have talent, you don’t become twice as good at it; you become ten times as good at it.
This is why it is best to focus on building your strengths, not areas of weakness. For the difference in effectiveness is immense. You won’t just be a bit more effective; you will be many times more effective.
We will talk more about this below, but you build strength by (1) identifying your talents (the Strengths Finder test is especially helpful here) and then (2) adding knowledge (understanding of the subject area) and skill (the practical “how-to” of an activity) to them.
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When Are You Most Productive?
I asked that question to two of my friends that work for leading evangelical ministries. Here’s what they had to say.
Ben Peays, executive director of The Gospel Coalition:
I’m most productive when I’ve found a task that I think is really important, and important to the point that I want to make sacrifices to make sure that I accomplish it.
So if someone wants to be effective, the most important tasks for the organization need to tie into their fundamental beliefs. For me, its very easy to work hard because we are about promoting the gospel, and I think that’s the most important thing in the whole world.
Justin Taylor, vice president of editorial at Crossway Books and author of the leading evangelical blog Between Two Worlds:
It’s hardest to be productive with the things that you have to do but don’t have a desire to do. I have a nice situation with my blog in that it’s something that I enjoy doing and find personally helpful. So it’s not like a task master from without that operates by external pressure. That makes the productivity easier.
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But Should Christians Care About Strengths?
Now, someone could say “all this talk about talents and knowledge and skills and strengths is just psychology. We shouldn’t give serious consideration to it as Christians.”
That would be an utterly, utterly mistaken conclusion. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, one of the leading evangelicals of the 20th century, confronted a similar objection at the beginning of his series of messages that became the book Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure. After stating that the first and foremost cause of spiritual depression is often temperament, he writes: “I wonder whether anyone is surprised that I put this first? I wonder whether anybody wants to say: When you are talking about Christians you must not introduce temperament or types. Surely Christianity does away with all that.”
He then goes on to point out that, while temperament and personality make no difference in the matter of salvation, they do make a real difference when it comes to how we live the Christian life. And, we must be aware of and reckon with those differences. In fact, “as I understand the biblical teaching about this matter, there is nothing which is quite so important as that we should without delay, and as quickly as possible, get to know ourselves.”
While he wasn’t talking about strengths there (his topic was depression), the same point stands: it is important to know ourselves and act in accordance with that knowledge. This knowledge of ourselves, since it comes from reflection and observation, is in the realm of common grace rather than special revelation, but that doesn’t mean we can neglect it.
And so, as is the case with many things, Buckingham’s points on strengths are simply good, common grace wisdom. As Christians, we are to learn from common grace; in fact, we could not live our lives without it. We should learn from and make good application of Buckingham’s points, as we do with all common grace wisdom. The Bible is not intended to be our only source of knowledge; Christians are supposed to take into account what we learn from natural revelation.
I’m not instilling Buckingham’s insights with biblical authority. The medical field’s understanding of how the heart works isn’t a matter of biblical authority, either—but that doesn’t mean we should reject it. In fact, a surgeon who did neglect it would rightly be considered derelict in his duty.
I would argue that, knowing what we do about strengths, it now falls into the category of knowledge that we have a responsibility to steward and utilize well. We now know more about how we operate as humans; we thus have a responsibility to utilize this knowledge for good .
But, beyond this, I think it is the case that some additional foundations can be given—both in church history and from the Bible.
Strengths in Church History
Wilberforce on Strengths
In his excellent book on the nature of true Christianity, Wilberforce writes that the Christian, living his entire life “looking unto Jesus,” is “diligently to cultivate the talents with which God has entrusted him, and assiduously to employ them in doing justice and showing mercy.”
Wilberforce sees maximizing our talents not simply a commendable thing or a “nice to do if you can” thing, but an obligation. For elsewhere he argues that when we have natural gifts, we are all the more obligated to improve upon them and use them for good in the service of the Lord:
Consider sweetness of temper and activity of mind, if they naturally belong to you, as talents of special worth and utility, for which you will have to give account. Carefully watch against whatever might impair them, cherish them with constant assiduity, keep them in continual exercise, and direct them to their noblest ends. The latter of these qualities renders it less difficult, and therefore more incumbent on you to be ever abounding in the work of the Lord.
Wilberforce then leaves us with a good question worth pondering: “Am I employing my time, my fortune my bodily and mental powers so as to be able to ‘render up my account with joy, and not with grief?’ (Hebrews 13:17).” That’s what focusing on our strengths is about: making the best use that we possibly can of the abilities and giftings God has given us, for his glory and others’ good.
Spurgeon on Strengths
Charles Spurgeon also believed that we all have talents and, in fact, a unique work to do which no one else can. The talents and giftings we have are a clue to what this unique work is.
You must none of you dream that you are in a position in which you can do nothing at all. That were such a mistake in providence as God cannot commit. You must have some talent entrusted to you, and something given you to do which no one else can do.
Find out, then, what your sphere is, and occupy it. Ask God to tell you what is your niche, and stand in it, occupying the place till Jesus Christ shall come and give you your reward. Use what ability you have, and use it at once.
Note, again, that he doesn’t regard using our talents as an optional nicety. Rather, he exhorts us to “find out” our sphere and “occupy it.” Amen! Spurgeon and Wilberforce are not lackadaisical about maximizing our gifts for the glory of God. This is not an arena where we can be justified in lacking life, spirit, and zest. Finding our niche, and standing in it for Christ’s glory, is an incredibly privilege and exciting thing that is not to be squandered for a second.
Luther on Strengths
Martin Luther, the greater Reformer of the 16th century, upholds the same theme that we are under obligation to use our gifts, and that our aim in them is the exciting privilege of serving others rather than ourselves:
But let Christians know they are under obligation to serve God with their gifts; and God is served when they employ them for the advantage and service of the people—reforming them, bringing them to a knowledge of God, and thus building up, strengthening and perpetuating the Church. Of such love the world knows nothing at all.
Don’t Prematurely Label People
Now, here’s a caution: sometimes we prematurely label and wrongly assess people. We conclude that a co-worker, or employee, or child is “just not good at” something, and write them off as never being able to improve because “they just aren’t that way” or, in the terminology of strengths, lack a talent.
But the reality may be not that they lack a talent in the area, but rather that they simply lack the knowledge or skills. If the knowledge or skill gap was filled, they would indeed develop a strength. This is illustrated in a recent interview I had with Francis Chan.
Q: How did you realize you were called to ministry?
A: Even during those jobs I was in ministry, and this was to supplement. But I realized it probably senior year in high school, and started serving in youth ministry
I realized that I think I had gift of teaching. Even though I was awful, awful at it at first, there was something in me that knew I could figure this out and I think I’m supposed to do it.
Q: That’s significant, because now people probably wouldn’t say you are awful at it. So, you grew.
A: It’s weird. In my head I was good, but then I would listen to the tape afterwards and it would be monotone. I would be like “wow, really?” It was a weird thing.
Q: How did you get better at it? Did someone tell you how or did you just think about it?
A: Maybe it was just being comfortable, because I’ve always enjoyed being with people, and making people laugh. It was just that when it came to church and teaching the word of God, there was a deadness.
Q: I think there is an important lesson here because sometimes we can label people prematurely. So we look at them do something and say “you’re not good at that, don’t go in that direction,” and it may simply be that they need more practice.
A: It is! Because I teach the preaching class at Eternity Bible College, and I remember one student specifically after his first sermon. I tried to be gracious and to probe a little after his first sermon, because it was so bad, and I asked “hey, have you ever considered writing?” And he said, “no, no not really.” But by the end of the semester he was really good. And I even told him at the end, “remember when I asked you about writing? It’s because you were so bad in that first sermon!”
So a lot of these things are learned, and we can work at them. Yes there is a natural propensity towards them, a natural gift for some people, or even supernatural one, but at the same time we can do a lot by just working hard at something.
Strengths in the Bible?
So there is a good case for focusing on our strengths from common grace and church history. But what about the Bible?
While there may not be an exact identity, I think that the concept of “strengths” falls under the biblical category of the gifts that God has given each of us. And the concept of focusing on our strengths—namely, on those things we are best at and are energized by—is in line with the biblical exhortations for us to exercise these unique gifts as good stewards of God’s grace.
There are lots of passages that could be brought out here, but 1 Peter 4:10 is one of the most helpful: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God’ whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”
Let me point out four things here. First, using our gifts is not just a good idea. It is not an optional bonus we can choose to do or not. Rather, God commands us to use our gifts: “As each has received a gift, use it.” This echoes what Paul says in Romans 12:6: “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.” Don’t let them sit idle. Use your gifts!
Second, using our gifts is a matter of good stewardship. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” Using our gifts—which, I am arguing, encompasses the concepts of “strengths”—is not just an optional bonus plan for our life. It is required. When we use our gifts, we are being good stewards. Conversely, if we don’t use our gifts—or, if we don’t use them very much—we are being bad stewards.
Third, we are to use our gifts for the good of others. “As each has received a special gift, use it to serve one another.” In other words, using your gifts is important, but that doesn’t mean it’s about you. We aren’t to mainly seek to serve ourselves. Rather, we are to seek to benefit and build up and do good for others—especially for “one another,” that is, the church.
Fourth and finally, the ultimate purpose in using our gifts is to glorify God. The end goal of using our gifts is not self-fulfillment, or even the good of others—as important as that is. It is to glorify God by showing his worth and excellency and value, and by serving his purposes in the world. We are to be others-centered as Christians, but not simply others-centered. We are to be ultimately God-centered in all that we do.
Work Within Your Strengths
Here’s the application of strengths to your productivity and effectiveness: you will be most effective when you are working in the areas of your strengths most of the time.
I know it’s not possible to work in our strengths 100% of the time. But most people are barely working in their strengths just 20% of the time. In fact, Gallup has found that only 20% of people are doing what they do best every day (one of the hallmarks that you are in your strengths most of the time).
We can push that needle further. We need to push that needle further if we are going to see more people satisfied with their work and our organizations become more effective.
This is why knowing and working within your strengths is a pre-condition to productivity. You can have all the tactics and systems down cold, but if you are largely working outside of your strengths, you will be much less effective.
Likewise, you could be pretty poor at implementing the systems and tactics of time management. But if you are working within your strengths, and know how to stay there, you can still be largely effective.
Understanding and working within your strengths is one of the most important things you can do to be effective, and enjoy being effective.
It’s also the most efficient way to be effective (how’s that for a concept—an efficient way to become effective!). Peter Drucker rightly notes:
It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence. And yet most people—especially most teachers and most organizations—concentrate on making incompetent performers into mediocre ones. Energy, resources, and time should go instead to making a competent person into a star performer.
So if you want to be effective, and if you want to become effective in an efficient way, learn what your strengths are, build on them, and craft your job (and most of your roles) so that they are called upon most of the time..
And Remember: It’s Not About You
Now, at this point someone might object: “All this stuff on working in your strengths and doing what energizes you and what you enjoy just sounds like typical American self-actualization stuff. It sounds selfish and like we should make our lives all about ourselves.”
I would never want to advocate doing something merely for self-actualization or self-fulfillment. These things are not bad in themselves, but we are to have higher goals—the good of others, the betterment of our organizations, the welfare of society, and ultimately the advancement of the kingdom of God.
The aim is to use our strengths in a way that truly benefits and serves others. You need to harness them for a greater purpose than yourself. Which means you know what others need and what will benefit them, and seek to direct your strengths towards those ends.
But there’s also one other reason, which should be obvious from what we’ve already seen: when we focus on using our gifts, we are actually being more effective for the good of others and are being better stewards. For enthusiasm drives performance. When we are doing what we enjoy doing and are energized by, we do it better, and we do more of it. And that radically serves others far better than doing things we hate in a mediocre, slow, apprehensive way.
So it is actually not selfish to focus on using our gifts; rather, if our motives are right, it is radically others-centered if it is driven by the question: “How can I best serve others and do them the most good?”
Strengths and Weaknesses
Sometimes people think that focusing on our strengths is not biblical since the Bible has much to say about God’s ability to work through weakness and suffering.
A focus on our strengths does not deny God’s power to work through weakness. The issue, rather, is one of stewardship. We are to use whatever God has given us for his sake to the max, for we are to love him with all our heart, with all our minds, with all our strengths (Matthew 20:37-38). If God has given us strengths, we are not to “play God” by refusing to use them for his sake. Just as God commanded those who have money not to ignore their money but use it for his kingdom to be rich in good works (1 Timothy 6:17-19), so also with any strengths and abilities we have—we are to maximize them for the advancement of God’s kingdom and the good of others.
This is actually an issue of stewardship. If we will be most effective when we focus on our strengths most of the time, then not to focus on our strengths is bad stewardship.
We see this in the parable of the talents, where the man who went on a journey called his servants and “to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability” (Matthew 25:15). Eventually the man returned, and praised those who had received the five talents and two talents because they had at once put them to use (made them productive!) and doubled what they had been given.
But the man who had received one talent was rebuked. Not because he only had less talents than the others, but because he didn’t invest, or put to use, what he had been given. Instead he buried it in the ground. That is, he played it “safe.” And he was rebuked for it—called, in fact faithless.
In other words, a faith-filled life lived for the glory of God will necessarily involve taking risks. Risks are not faithless, but faithful, because we take them relying on God to act. And a faith-filled life also involves taking everything God has given us and investing it to make it productive for his kingdom and the good of others. Though “talents” in this parable refers to a unit of money and not our abilities, the concept here certainly includes our abilities and, indeed, all we have, because that’s the point of the parable: use everything God has given you for his sake (see also Luke 19:12-27).
Don’t be like the guy that buried his talent in the ground. Rather, as we saw Spurgeon say above, “find out, then, what your sphere is, and occupy it….Use what ability you have, and use it at once.”
Build on the Strengths of Others and the Situation As Well
In talking about strengths, we need to remember that building on strengths means not just your own strengths, but your superiors, your colleagues, the situation.
Drucker makes this connection best:
The first secret of effectiveness is to understand the people you work with and depend on so that you can make use of their strengths, their ways of working, and their values. Working relationships are as much based on the people as they are on the work.
Related to this: when it comes to your organization and challenges you encounter, focus first on opportunities, not problems. On the bright spots, not the dark spots. By building on what is going well, rather than trying to fix what is going wrong, you often simply grow right out of the problems.
1. Push your daily activities to be more and more in accord with your strengths
Very often, we fall into the notion that once we get on top of things, then we’ll be able to do the things we really want and are best at.
But that’s a trap. It’s actually the other way: Doing the things you are best at and love most to do is not a “luxury” of becoming successful. Rather, it’s the way to become effective and successful.
To be effective, you must build on strength, not weaknesses. Your strengths are not simply what you are good at, but what make you feel strong. When you have determined the outcomes that are necessary, determine the specific activities that get you there by utilizing as much as possible the sorts of activities that strengthen you rather than weaken you.
Focusing on your strengths means carving out your role such that you are doing what you do best and what energizes you most of the time.
To know if you are operating in your strengths sufficiently, as yourself “do I have the opportunity to do what I am best at and which energizes me every day?” If not, you are not sufficiently in your strengths, and risking being a bad steward.
2. Don’t Tightly Manage Yourself
The need for detailed time management is often a sign that you are operating out of your strengths. When you are in your strengths, you don’t need to tightly control yourself to get things done.
That’s why working in your strengths is related to the “control perspective” versus the “release perspective” that Stephen Covey talks about. Those with the control perspective think they need to tightly manage themselves or they won’t get things done. Those with a “release perspective” believe that if they keep their goals and direction clear, they don’t need to tightly manage themselves.
Gospel-centered productivity frees us to take the release perspective. Often, the control-based perspective is motivated by fear: “I better attend to every detail or this won’t happen.” We should be diligent, but we shouldn’t be fearful or over-anxious. The gospel frees us from that.
Further, you don’t have to be tightly controlled, because God is at work and he has designed us as active people. My two-year old has no to-do lists, but he is always occupied. You don’t need to goad yourself into action. If you know your direction, it will be as natural as breathing to take action.
You shouldn’t micromanage others, and you shouldn’t micromanage yourself, either.
Here are some other implications of the release perspective:
- Don’t overload yourself with systems and structures. In most cases, seek for simple structures and systems, not intricate and detailed ones.
- Realize that the role of structures and systems is to guide, not empower.
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What Causes Burnout?
It’s not working long hours. It’s working on the wrong things — whether for long hour or, over time, normal hours. Here’s what Marcus Buckingham writes in Go Put Your Strengths to Work:
Burnout doesn’t happen when you are working long hours on invigorating activities. Long hours may tire you out, but they rarely burn you out. But fill your weeks with the wrong kinds of activities, activities that weaken you, and even regular activities will start to burn.
This means that burnout doesn’t even necessarily mean that you are in the wrong job. You can be in the right job, doing the wrong things.
So, what’s the solution? Work within your strengths, and cut out the activities that call upon your weaknesses — that is, the activities that weaken you:
Pick a week; capture, clarify, and confirm which activities strengthen and which weaken; then start the week-by-week process of pushing your time toward the former and away from the latter.
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3. Don’t change people to fit jobs; change jobs to fit people
We often have this odd notion that the job is what needs to be constant, and the person in the job therefore needs to change his manner of working and characteristics in order to do the job better.
That is truly, incredibly, change. For the people matter far more than the job and, more than that, jobs can easily be adjusted, whereas people cannot be easily adjusted.
It is far more effective—and efficient—to adjust the job to fit the person rather than the person to fit the job. We should not have some sacrosanct view of jobs, as though they always have to be done a certain way. Make sure the outcomes and values are clearly defined, and then let people develop their own approach to achieving those outcomes so that they are free to work most in the way that they are most effective.
Unleash Yourself and Use All Your Gifts
The bottom line?
You have something to offer. Use it, and use it to the max!
Use every gift, talent, and ability that you have for the good of others and glory of God. Be enthusiastic. Be energetic. Be audacious. Use every faculty for Jesus. Put all your irons in the fire so that when Jesus returns, you will have five more talents—or fifty more talents—to give back to him. As Spurgeon also said:
Be diligent in action. Put all your irons into the fire. Use every faculty for Jesus. Be wide-awake to watch for opportunities, and quick to seize upon them.
Core Point: You will be most effective in whatever you do not by trying to fix your weaknesses, but by building on your strengths. Your strengths are not simply those things you are good at, but rather are the activities that energize you. Your strengths are what makes you feel strong.
Taking Action: Ask yourself Wilberforce’s question: “Am I employing my time, my fortune my bodily and mental powers so as to be able to ‘render up my account with joy, and not with grief?’ (Hebrews 13:17).” If not, make adjustments! Adjust your job, the way your manage your life at home, get involved in your church (or change the way you are involved), and seek to “use what ability you have, and use it at once.”
Chapter 4 in Drucker’s The Effective Executive, “Making Strength Productive.”
Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently
Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton, Now, Discover Your Strengths
Marcus Buckingham, Go Put Your Strengths to Work
Tom Rath, StrengthsFinder 2.0
Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?, chapters 30-32.
 Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Life, p. 239.
 Charles Spurgeon, Counsel for Christian Workers, p. 10.
 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, p. 273.
 Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Now, Discover Your Strengths, p. 25.
 Marcus Buckingham, Go, Put Your Strengths to Work, p. 85.
 Marcus Buckingham, First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, p. 71.
 You can see descriptions of the other thirty-four in chapter 4 of Now, Discover Your Strengths, pp. 83-116, along with answers to some of the most common questions in applying them in chapter 5, tips on how to manage your people in light of their strengths in chapter 6, and counsel on how to build a strengths-based organization in chapter 7.
 Marcus Buckingham, First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, pp. 79-82.
 Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure, p. 14.
 Wilberforce, 188
 Wilberforce, 148
 Wilberforce 188
 Spurgeon, Counsel for Christian Workers, 10
 Luther’s Sermon on 1 Peter 4:7-11, http://www.orlutheran.com/html/mlse1p47.html
 Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Now, Discover Your Strengths, pp. 5-6. See also The One Thing You Need to Know, pp. 202-217, where he discusses what it looks like to be able to “do what you do best every day” in the lives of three different people from his interviews.
 Drucker, Managing Oneself.
 Spurgeon, Counsel for Christian Workers, 10
 Peter Drucker, “Managing Oneself,” in Harvard Business Review [get issue and etc.].
 Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive, p. 71.
 Wilberforce 188