More Questions than Answers

There is a psychological phenomenon called Baader-Meinhof, and I bet you twenty-bucks someone tells you about this same phenomenon within the week. Am I a weak psychic? Unfortunately, no. But I am backed by science: the phenomenon occurs when you learn about something new and interesting (either a person, place, or fact) and suddenly, out of the blue, you hear it again. It has something to do with synchronicity and the brain’s ability to selective attention, but honestly, all I’m feeling is that the universe wants me to understand I am graduating in the adult, career-driven world in less than four months— and it wants me to understand it VERY clearly.

When that time comes, the training wheels that have been knocking along steadily beside me are going to be thrown off and it’s time to ride or die. At that point, despite the overflow of emotional, physical, and mental sludge of the past year, I’ve really got only three questions to answer: What are my strengths? How do I preform? What do I value?

Thanks, Drucker.

The past couple of days it seems those are the only questions I’ve been presented with from the universe. When I think I’ve come to the answer of at least one of those questions, they all get tossed right back at me, my internal response clearly not the right one. So we turn to the internet for answers.

According to the Via Survey, my top five strengths are:

  1. Humor
  2. Love of Learning
  3. Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence
  4. Kindness
  5. Social Intelligence

While my top five lowest strengths are:

  1. Humility
  2. Bravery
  3. Forgiveness
  4. Prudence
  5. Spirituality

When I first read the results, my immediate, unconscious thought was, “wow, I’m a golden retriever.”

But too often, I think being a happy person is viewed as being ignorant, or being kind is some sort of weakness. In true Baader-Meinhof form, it’s been made apparently clear to me that for both myself and in relationships with others, I have high expectations. “Knowledge workers,” Drucker says,” do not have good human relations because they have a ‘talent for people’ [but because] they focus on contribution in their own work and in their relationships with others.”

What do I contribute to humanity?

Even the ones lower on the list, I still find true. I am an incredibly proud person and I’d like to think that when it comes down to it, I would make the right decision. But isn’t that what we all assume? (If you’ve ever doubted your label as a good person, read The Spire by William Golding. He’s got humanity figured out.)

Graduation is quickly approaching and desperately, as I’m sure we all are, trying to answer the question: who am I? And more over, am I outstanding?

“For knowing where one belongs makes ordinary people— hard-working, competent, but mediocre otherwise— into outstanding performers.”

In all due respect to the VIA survey, I believe one of my greatest strengths is curiosity, about this world and everyone in it. I perform best when I’ve got something to lose, especially if it’s the respect of others. I value loyalty, compassion, and honesty. I value happiness, and bravery in the face of adversity.

I fear mediocrity. And I fear living without a plan. Truth be told, a VIA survey about what you fear the most would be much more entertaining. Haunting, sure, but as professionals, we all must understand our limitations— and what’s more paralyzing than fear?

6 Comments, RSS

  1. eatonwilliam February 8, 2016 @ 7:21 am

    I agree that it is essential to know your strengths and weaknesses in order to be successful in the workforce. Throughout my past four years at Champlain, I feel as if I have a better understanding of my strengths and weaknesses through internships, books, and tests. Through internships, I was able to see where I truly thrived, and what made me the happiest at the end of the day. I realized that I pay close attention to detail, which was very valuable this summer for my accounting internship at Edgewood Tahoe. I was also introduced to the MBTI my freshman year, which showed me I was an ESFJ. I was also given a book my Operations and Management class called “Strength Finder 2.0”. This book outlines your five core strengths that you can apply to your wellbeing throughout life, like the VIA survey. I’m very fortunate that Champlain College truly does want their students to fully understand who they are before graduating in order to be the most successful leader as possible.

    • ogden2 February 9, 2016 @ 6:01 am

      Hey I’m a ESJF as well! But that was only a recent thing. When I started college, I was an INTJ– weird change, huh? Do you feel like an ESJF accurately describes you? I’m always toe-ing the line on either being an extrovert or an introvert, but since I really value my alone time, I’d say I’m way more of an introvert at heart. Great comment! Thanks!

  2. Sarah Demers February 8, 2016 @ 8:10 am

    Hi Taylor-
    This was really interesting to read in relation to the VIA survey. I definitely found the results of the survey to be pretty simplified, but as you point out it could be for an ease of use with interpretation. I like how you highlighted the notion of a knowledge worker in connection with our own contribution in work – there is something to be said for having a certain focus with what a person does in their job. It makes sense that a feeling of belonging to a team allows for stronger performances at work – this is something that Drucker seems to suggest with his encouragement of focusing on contribution. Examining how we each as individuals can contribute to our work not only encourages innovation to be brought to the table, it also increases our effectiveness as Drucker displays. It’s helpful to think about this on a personal level like you did with the VIA survey.

  3. taylorbibaud February 9, 2016 @ 2:51 am

    Another great post! I’m a huge fan of your writing style, and the personal touch made this an awesome reminder to go back and reflect on my own survey results. Even though VIA is just another one of those self-revelation determinators, at our stage in life any little clue to who we really are can help. Starting off with a reference to the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon was a great way to get readers more engaged with your content while allowing your whit to shine through across the piece. I think by fearing mediocrity you have already gone above the level of thinking that someone mediocre would have, now it’s about determining limitations and attempting to go beyond them with knowledge.

  4. Meghan Condon February 9, 2016 @ 4:04 am

    Your post, and commentary on the VIA Survey sparked a memory. So I went rummaging through youtube about found a video from 2012 of a speech given at a high school commencement by a teacher named David McCullough Jr. This speech was commonly referred to as the “You Are Not Special” Speech.
    What McCullough says, contradicts something I have done at least once a years since coming to Champlain College, which is take tests and surveys and “finders” to figure out what we’re good at, to figure out what makes us special. McCullough says that we search so eagerly for this because it allows us to “feel better about ourselves so we can bask in a little easy distinctions however vague and unverifiable and count ourselves among the elite, whoever they might be, and enjoy a perceived leg up on the perceived competition”. The speech its name because, in a few months, there will be thousands of people out in the world that are just like us, graduating into the world fresh, red faced, and screaming.
    In the end, McCullough’s moral is similar to yours. He says to learn and work not to have an edge but for the exhilaration on learning. He says, essentially, that it’s where you go from here that matters, whatever you end up doing, do it because you love it and believe in its importance. He says to resist complacency just because it’s comfortable. He says to “climb the mountain not to plant your flag but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air, behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you”. Lastly, he says, you’re not special, because everyone is.

  5. renaebouchard February 9, 2016 @ 11:32 am

    Taylor,
    HAHA! I love your posts! When I first looked at my VIA survey results, I also felt like some overly excited, friendly human who just wants to be everyone’s friend! But, I also found value and use in the VIA survey. It was interesting to see what our ranked strengths are. AND I would love to take an opposite VIA survey to find out what I’m afraid of and uncomfortable with so I could continue to challenge myself!

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