Mary Sailors contacted me last year after getting a copy of The Freak Factor manifesto from her boss. Mary liked what she read so much that she decided to quit her job. That’s probably not the response her boss was hoping for.
Mary now works as a personal trainer and specialty fitness instructor in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is also a healthy lifestyle blogger, writing at www.fitthisgirl.com. When she’s not training clients, she volunteers with Bolder Options, a youth mentorship program in Minneapolis. She just ran her first marathon in Honolulu. You can find her on Twitter @FitThisGirl
Her story, below, is probably the best example of how applying the freak factor can transform your life. Get ready to be inspired!
“I have always colored outside the lines. As a child, I struggled with the confines of a classroom, with doing work and with having to fit into any kind of mold, except for the one I made myself.
But when I graduated from college, I fell into a job, at an office, in a cubicle. I felt important, adult, professional, like I was doing what I should do.
Years passed and I moved from one office to the next, from one set of gray walls to the next. I made slight advances, as much as an literature major in Corporate America can. I kept changing titles, but
always kept ‘assistant’ on the end, like a tag line.
I was excelling at being mediocre. I was barely getting by, lacking in joy and feeling inadequate. The problem wasn’t just the jobs I was working, but also my performance in them.
What was wrong with me? I was a smart, passionate and vibrant free-thinker and I could screw up an office supply order with the best of them.
Then I found something that I really could do well—working a front desk, greeting people, and being the face of a company! I excelled. I was given more responsibility and started to struggle with the expectations. I started to examine the things I fell short on, the projects that I procrastinated on, the tasks that I downright screwed up.
Did I have ADD? ADHD? Did I have a bad attitude?
But the woman I worked for saw my full potential. One time, when talking about a certain project, she asked me, ‘Who told you that you weren’t capable?’ Then she handed me a copy of The Freak Factor manifesto. What I read changed the way that I looked at myself and my work.
If you are anything like me then you probably have an idea of what your weakness are. As much as I wish I had fewer weaknesses, I don’t really intend to go through life sweeping them under the rug or making excuses for them like I had been up to that point. I learned to look at my weakness a little differently after reading the Freak Factor.
I needed to shift my focus. Weaknesses are not always bad thing. Instead of focusing on overcoming our weaknesses, we can harness the corresponding strength to achieve our potential in our life, work and relationships.
Most people focus on their weaknesses and work hard on turning them into strengths. I was working hard trying to improve where I fell short, trying to find fixes and shortcuts and ways to work better. For a while, it worked. Things got a little better, but I was hammering my weakness into submission only to end up with a slightly dented version of the original product.
The main key to succeeding by finding the strengths hiding inside your weaknesses is to seek out situations where you can use your strengths and excel there. If you are constantly in situations where you are required to use your weaknesses, you will not feel like you are succeeding. When you feel that, examine the situation and ask ‘why don’t I feel successful here?’ You will be able to pinpoint corresponding strengths more easily when you see your weaknesses for what they are.
I learned to choose situations that fit my natural strengths. That meant a career change. I researched becoming a personal trainer, did the work and leaped out into a world of the unknown. I moved from a well paying corporate job, which I was mediocre at, into unpaid internships and a world where I was able to tap into my strengths and step into situations where I could use my natural skills to excel.
I have been working as a personal trainer for only eight months and have already been praised by my boss as being a “professional highlight.’ I’ve been encouraged to never lose my natural love and enthusiasm for people and training. I’ve also received countless positive comments. I don’t say this to say ‘look at me and what I have done!’ What I’m trying to say is that when you are working from your true strengths, it will be apparent.”
I was so excited about Mary’s transformation that I wanted to learn more. Below are her answers to a few of my follow-up questions.
Tell me more about particular weaknesses and how you discovered the strengths that corresponded with them.
"I was never built to sit still. As a receptionist I was always confined to a front desk and copy room. I felt restless and agitated and that made me feel unproductive. I actually was unproductive too. I would start projects, get bored and leave them half done. It wasn't that I was bored with the project itself, I was bored with my inability to move around in my position and bored with the confinement of my job. I would have multiple projects half completed and no motivation to finish any of them.
Weaknesses that I discovered on that job were only weakness within that environment. In a different setting they could easily be strengths. For instance, when someone would request a project or special order from me, I would just dive right in and have to back pedal later. In hindsight, I can see the value in asking all the important questions up front, but my enthusiastic drive was never tapped in the way it is in some of my current ventures."
What weaknesses did you struggle with on the job? Were you disorganized, unfocused, hyperactive, etc?
"I had to work extra hard to be organized in the way that the rest of the team required. There was little room for individual style in my work. As a personal trainer, I still have to do paperwork, like tracking client progress, planning sessions, follow-up and notes. The difference is that I am free to do it on my own time and in my own way. It's a much more creative environment."
Did you find any of your weaknesses on the strength/weakness chart? YES!
- Positive-Unrealistic: My head is always in the clouds.
- Passionate-Impatient: Oh how I want things right now!
What is it about being a trainer that matches your unique strengths?
"One of my strengths is that I have a heart for serving and helping people. I’m also good at showing people how to do things the best way. I’m a natural leader and planner, but due to some situations in life, I adopted more of a follower approach.
Sitting behind a desk as a receptionist or in a cube kept me from being able to lead. I may have been the face of the organization, but I didn’t have the opportunity to lead or use the true power that I knew I had. My strength was never in administrative duties. I excelled much more in the personal and social aspects. Now, as a trainer, I have the opportunity to lead and direct individuals and groups."