Some of Jim's strengths
From the book Now, Discover your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham & Donald Clifton

A new way of assessing one's self
A great book came out in 2001 by the Gallup Organization, Now, Discover Your Strengths. The book is based on the premise that supervisors should assess employees to discover their strengths, not their weaknesses (many companies and universities dwell on weaknesses in their assessments and evaluations). Strengths allow more efficient, more productive, and more enjoyable applications of talent to tasks. Its a fascinating idea. According to the authors, most organizations are built on two flawed assumptions about people:
1. Each person can learn to be competent in almost anything.
2. Each person's greatest room for growth is in his/her areas of greatest weakness.

Adhering to these assumptions results in, among other things, more money for training, promoting the wrong people, and legislating individual style. Great companies and great managers are guided by these two assumptions:
1. Each person's talents are enduring and unique.
2. Each person's greatest room for growth is in the areas of his/her greatest strength.

The authors have defined 34 different characteristics of performance and personality by which one can determine one's strengths. To make one's own determination, the reader takes a test online (the book includes a code for access to this StrengthsFinder test). The results of the test are then computed and provided for the reader.

According to the StrengthsFinder test, these are Jim Watson's strengths
I found these results to be very affirming to my identity - that of being a positive ideator, learner, relator, and activator. The explanations of each item are taken directly from the StrengthsFinder Report.
1. Ideation
You are fascinated by ideas. What is an idea? An idea is a concept, the best explanation of the most events. You are delighted when you discover beneath the complex surface an elegantly simple concept to explain why things are the way they are. An idea is a connection. Yours is the kind of mind that is always looking for connections, and so you are intrigued when seemingly disparate phenomena can be linked by an obscure connection. An idea is a new perspective on familiar challenges. You revel in taking the world we all know and turning it around so we can view it from a strange but strangely enlightening angle. You love all these ideas because they are profound, because they are novel, because they are clarifying, because they are contrary, because they are bizarre. For all these reasons you derive a jolt of energy whenever a new idea occurs to you. Others may label you creative or original or conceptual or even smart. Perhaps you are all of these. Who can be sure? What you are sure of is that ideas are thrilling. And on most days this is enough.
2. Learner
You love to learn. The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other themes and experiences, but whatever the subject, you will always be drawn to the process of learning. The process, more than the content or the result, is especially exciting for you. You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to incompetence. The thrill of the first few facts, the early efforts to recite or practice what you have learned, the growing confidence of a skill mastered - this is the process that entices you. Your excitement leads you to engage in adult learning experiences - yoga or piano lessons or graduate classes. It enables you to thrive in dynamic work environments where you are asked to take on short project assignments and are expected to learn a lot about the new subject matter in a short period of time and then move on to the next one. This Learner theme does not necessarily mean that you seek to become the subject matter expert or that you are striving for the respect that accompanies a professional or academic credential. The outcome of the learning is less significant than the 'getting there.'
3. Positivity
You are generous with praise, quick to smile, and always on the lookout for the positive in the situation. Some call you lighthearted. Others just wish that their glass were as full as yours seems to be. But either way, people want to be around you. Their world looks better around you because your enthusiasm is contagious. Lacking your energy and optimism, some find their world drab with repetition or, worse, heavy with pressure. You seem to find a way to lighten their spirit. You inject drama into every project. You celebrate every achievement. You find ways to make everything more exciting and more vital. Some cynics may reject your energy, but you are rarely dragged down. Your Positivity won't allow it. Somehow you can't quite escape your conviction that it is good to be alive, that work can be fun, and that no matter what the setbacks, one must never lose one's sense of humor.
4. Relator
Relator describes your attitude toward your relationships. In simple terms, the Relator theme pulls you toward people you already know. You do not necessarily shy away from meeting new people - in fact, you may have other themes that cause you to enjoy the thrill of turning strangers into friends - but you do derive a great deal of pleasure and strength from being around your close friends. You are comfortable with intimacy. Once the initial connection has been made, you deliberately encourage a deepening of the relationship. You want to understand their feelings, their goals, their fears, and their dreams; and you want them to understand yours. You know that this kind of closeness implies a certain amount of risk - you might be taken advantage of - but you are willing to accept that risk. For you a relationship has value only if it is genuine. And the only way to know that is to entrust yourself to the other person. The more you share with each other, the more you risk together. The more you risk together, the more each of you proves your caring is genuine. These are your steps toward real friendship, and you take them willingly.
5. Activator
"When can we start?" This is a recurring question in your life. You are impatient for action. You may concede that analysis has its uses or that debate and discussion can occasionally yield some valuable insights, but deep down you know that only action is real. Only action can make things happen. Only action leads to performance. Once a decision is made, you cannot not act. Others may worry that "there are still some things we don't know," but this doesn't seem to slow you. If the decision has been made to go across town, you know that the fastest way to get there is to go stoplight to stoplight. You are not going to sit around waiting until all the lights have turned green. Besides, in your view, action and thinking are not opposites. In fact, guided by your Activator theme, you believe that action is the best device for learning. You make a decision, you take action, you look at the result, and you learn. This learning informs your next action and your next. How can you grow if you have nothing to react to? Well, you believe you can't. You must put yourself out there. You must take the next step. It is the only way to keep your thinking fresh and informed. The bottom line is this: You know you will be judged not by what you say, not by what you think, but by what you get done. This does not frighten you. It pleases you.

Buy the book, take the test
Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton
About $20 at Barnes & Noble or about $15 at Amazon.com

www.jamesrobertwatson.com/strengths.html