What is Weakness?
Everyone has at least one or two weaknesses that afflict them. Even people you look up to and admire are still human inside, and they still have problems to deal with. My biggest weakness is sugar, and it’s why I slowly gained 50 pounds (25ish kilos) over the last decade without realizing it, leading me to now have to eat very carefully and workout 6 days a week with a trainer to get the weight off. But weaknesses can be more than just excess fat or atrophied muscles. It can also be a lack of knowledge or experience in an area of life/work, or a fear that prevents you from making a decision. What matters most is how you think about and handle weakness. Every entrepreneur has their own attitude towards their weaknesses, and that mindset will determine future failure or success.
Avoiding Weaknesses is the First Step Towards Failure
Some entrepreneurs avoid their weaknesses because for them, it’s easier to pretend they don’t exist, and ignoring them may feel like the fastest, safest bet to make them go away. While this may work in some instances, like being afraid of snakes, in other instances, it can be catastrophic, like not knowing how to manage your finances. In this situation, a weak financial foundation can be why she never grew a business beyond just herself working like a mad dog for years before burning out, since she didn’t take the time to arm herself with the knowledge to manage the accounting and correctly deploy capital to hire employees to offload tasks so she could focus on business development. Her company fell apart because she avoided making a crucial decision early on about getting rid of her fear of understanding her numbers. Another example of avoiding weakness could be when he tried to develop an application without a technical leader and didn’t spend time learning to fill that gap personally since he was afraid he was too dumb to develop technical skills, or he just felt inundated by the process, and instead outsourced the development of his baby to a team somewhere else in the world and the team completely screwed up the development and wasted all of his capital. His company fell apart because he avoided making a crucial decision early on to find someone he could trust and empowered them to help manage the technical development who would also be passionate about the company’s future. I think you get the point.
Acknowledging Weaknesses is the First Step Towards Success
Now let’s look at another personality type, the entrepreneur who acknowledges their weaknesses, and works intelligently to resolve them. Those who acknowledge their weakness are more self-aware than those who avoid them, which leads them to be more capable of understanding why they have this weakness, and then decide the best course of action. One example of an entrepreneur who acknowledged their weaknesses was a non-technical founder with no co-founder who hired an amazing technical employee to guide him through the process of becoming knowledgeable. Then, the founder was able to make better decisions about what languages to code with, how to hire the best developers, and give them the tools they need to develop the MVP smoothly. He could have tried to learn how to become a CTO on his own, and he may have found success, but he certainly would have spent a long time and the team would have suffered until he found his footing, so by trusting someone to give him advice, he found a way to learn over the long-term while minimizing the negative affect on the company at large. A second example of an entrepreneur who acknowledged their weaknesses was someone who was great at product and leading a team to develop it, but had no idea how to market it. Instead of spending the time to learn about marketing, she found someone who was an expert in marketing and empowered them to develop a marketing strategy, and the product launched successfully. If she had tried to learn and do it herself, she may have found success, but it would have taken time away from her larger responsibility of managing the product and developing the business. See the differences between these examples? Those who dealt with their weaknesses through learning or trusting others to handle them, they found success, but those who avoided their weaknesses failed miserably.
How to Turn Your Weakness into a Strength?
Is it really possible to deal with weakness though? The answer is of course, yes! But only YOU can take the first step on this long journey. So how do we do this? As mentioned above, there are essentially two paths you can follow to turn a weakness into a strength, and it depends on your personality which path you take. The first path is to learn the skills yourself and take on the responsibility and develop the systems so that when you inevitably hire someone to take over for those tasks, you know you can trust them because you understand deeply what you need to expect of them to perform at a high level. The second path is to find someone you can trust who already has the skills, and work with them to do what is necessary, and give them the tools they need to get it done, and empower and encourage them to develop the systems so they can automate and hire people to run them so they can manage those people.
Tackle Each Weakness Separately for the Best Results
Before you decide which path to take, remember that it’s dangerous to take one path for all of your weaknesses. This is because if you learn every skill for yourself, you may never have the time to develop the systems to then hire people, and your company could fail because you lack the energy to focus on the most important thing, which is getting and serving customers. If you find someone to handle every task without knowing anything about those parts of the business before you find them, you may be hiring the wrong people without realizing it, and they could damage your company long-term because it would take you a long time to figure out who is doing the damage, what the damage is, and how to fix it. So based on your current situation and your personality, take all of this to heart when deciding how to handle each of your weaknesses.
Your Brain is a Muscle
If you are afraid of the path where you learn a skill first, develop the systems, then hire someone to take over, consider that every part of your body is a muscle. When you do a push-up, you are targeting your chest, back, and shoulder muscles. Every time you do a push-up, your chest gets bigger and stronger. The more times you do it, the greater the results will be, but remember it will always take TIME to see those results because nothing is immediate. Learning a new skill is the same thing: the more you read about it, the more you apply what you’ve learned, the more likely you’ll be to get better at it and eventually be able to teach your team how to do it, why? Because your brain is a giant muscle. So, consider that any weakness in your mind is something that can be “exercised,” the more you exercise it, the higher chance is that it will become a strong muscle. Makes sense, right? But before you can exercise your weakness, you must first understand how to exercise it and why.
Foot in the Door theory
There is an idea in Psychology called “foot in the door.” What this means is if you want to do something big, you should first try something small. If you succeed, then you will feel more confident in trying something bigger. Instead of looking at how some people are masters at this new skill you are working towards learning, look at ways to just get started. Let’s use a fear of water as an example. Imagine you were thrown into the deep end of a pool as a kid, but because no one taught you how to swim and you almost drowned, you avoided going into the water again for fear of dying. Now as an adult, you have kids and want them to enjoy the water, so to be a good role model, you decide to deal with your fear. The first natural step you would take is to put your toe in the water. Doing that didn’t kill you, did it? If it did, please tell your family, I’m sorry. I’m going to assume you didn’t die, so let’s move on. The next step would be to put your ankle in the water and walk around, then your knee and continue to walk around. You are slowly becoming comfortable with the water, and realizing that you did not need to fear it. Before you know it, you’ll be learning how to swim, and possibly even scuba diving to see what’s underneath the water, causing your friends to be jealous of your confidence and strength!
Use the “Foot in the Door theory” to help you quickly break down the different parts needed to learn how to become skilled with whatever it is you are interested in. If you decide to go down the second path, you should ask for people you trust to recommend someone they trust with the skills you need. Interview them, get to know them, see if they will be a good fit for the culture you are establishing, and test their hard skills in a way that proves they know what they are talking about. From there, we can only hope they thrive! And remember, entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint.