My Strengths (According to Reader Feedback)

Earlier this week I invited my blog readers and customers to share what they considered to be my strengths, and now I’ll share the results with you.

First, I appreciate the feedback. There were many different answers and perspectives, so I looked for patterns to condense the key ideas into a meaningful list.

The subheadings show the main groupings that I was able to identify. In some cases this was a little tricky while in others it was easy to identify clusters because the words and phrases people used were often very similar.

The bullet lists include some short direct quotes from people’s emails, some slightly modified or condensed quotes (such as to make the grammar consistent or to simplify them), and common words or phrases that people shared. I tried to pick representative samples when possible, but this isn’t an exhaustive list. Some of the samples could be shifted to other lists because they match multiple patterns; I did my best to put them in reasonable spots.

The paragraphs after the bullet lists include some extra personal commentary from me.

Note that nothing on this list is based on strengths that I consider myself to have, and none is based on other forms of feedback. This list is only derived from reader and customer feedback that was specifically sent in response to Monday’s blog post, What Are My Strengths?

Here’s what I ended up with. These aren’t in any particular order.

Open-Mindedness / Growth Mindset / Curiosity

  • Radical open-mindedness
  • Openness to new concepts and ideas
  • Capacity to challenge old beliefs, even when it goes against social pressure or conventional lines of thinking
  • Growth mindset, applied to multiple areas of life
  • Giving ideas careful consideration before deciding if they’re right for you
  • Ability to grow and release beliefs that no longer serve you
  • Subjective reality
  • Being a very “unstuck” person (inspirational)
  • Open to trying new stuff and being vulnerable
  • Courageous in quitting what doesn’t work for you (diets, relationships, values, etc.)
  • Willing to try new things and explore new patterns of thought
  • Inquisitiveness
  • Curiosity
  • You have the ability to stay open where most people have been closed off for a very long time
  • To tip a situation on its side and make a different assessment
  • Your thirst for knowledge to evaluate and condense all this into powerful thoughts
  • I love your curiosity and the way you keep exploring new subjects

I was surprised by how many people mentioned open-mindedness as one of my strengths since that isn’t a term I’d usually apply to myself. I definitely see myself as curious though. This feedback helped me see how strongly connected curiosity and open-mindedness are. Obviously our minds have to be open enough to explore unfamiliar territory.

The fact that people would call out open-mindedness as a strength also makes me wonder about the contrast. Does this mean that some of my readers would like to further develop this quality for themselves? This makes me curious about open-mindedness and how to teach or encourage the development of that quality more deliberately. This is probably an area of self-development that I tend to take for granted.

Independence / Freedom / Unshackled by Social Norms

  • Led by your own reflections
  • Internal locus of control
  • Putting yourself out there (seemingly) fearlessly
  • Being fully yourself, genuine, living life by connecting deeper with yourself and your values
  • You practice what you preach, and you don’t make lame or cliché statements
  • Free to explore many different ideas without being tied down to selling a system
  • Willingness to go against prevailing social norms
  • Seeing you go against grain helped me see that the reason I was so unhappy was because I was listening to my social conditioning rather than my heart
  • To constantly reinvent yourself
  • Nonconformist
  • Foregoer

This one didn’t surprise me, but again it makes me think about the contrast. I’m well-aware that many readers feel shackled by social and family expectations and want to break free of that. Wednesday’s article on Misaligned Relationships addresses this issue to some extent – it was partly inspired by the early feedback from this exercise.

Internally I don’t tend to think of myself as having these strengths because I’ve lived this way long enough that they just seem normal to me. Instead I frame this as making choices that feel aligned. What other people may perceive outwardly as going against social norms, I perceive as sensitivity to alignment issues. I place more weight on my inner satisfaction with my decisions than I do on other people’s reactions. This has served me well for many years.

I also like to remind myself that people often regret what they didn’t do. They lament how they kept quiet and didn’t express themselves. People regret being too conformist. I’d prefer to avoid racking up regrets, so I take other people’s warnings about this seriously. I don’t seek to be a rebel, but what feels aligned can sometimes be unpopular.

Range / Breadth

  • Writing about topics others are ignoring
  • I love the frequent blog posts on all kinds of topics
  • The different topics that you talk about that cover all sorts of issues
  • Your willingness to explore ideas on the nature of reality and spirituality without rejecting human needs (money, success, sex, etc)
  • You have an abundance of experience, and it is interesting to see how you have overcome difficult situations: bankruptcy, divorce, stealing, etc.
  • It is interesting to see how you manage current events: Covid-19 for example
  • Prolificness
  • The huge amount of perspectives you offer, in a generous and non-pushing way

Some would see having too much range as a weakness, so it’s nice that others recognize it as a strength. I also see it as a strength to have a lot of different interests, much like Leonardo da Vinci did. A lot of my best insights come from transplanting ideas from one field to another, such as turning 30-day trials that I learned in the software field into 30-day personal growth challenges.

Range is essential for staying motivated and enthusiastic about my work. If I narrowed my range too much, I’d feel trapped and bored. I like being able to mix up what I learn, explore, and create. It’s good to know that there are people who appreciate that. Many experts recommend “niching down,” and the reason I don’t do that is because it wouldn’t satisfy me on the inside to limit myself so much. I’m curious about more than just one niche, and I don’t think that niching down would create the kind of life I want to live.

From my perspective though, this strength tends to emerge from following what stimulates me while avoiding boredom. But this only works when I balance variety with good self-discipline and consistency. Otherwise I could end up bouncing around from one project to the next and never finishing anything (i.e. shiny object syndrome). That was a real problem for me in the past, and fortunately I recognized that I had to build up my self-discipline to compensate. So note that sometimes you need the balance of two seemingly conflicting strengths to access the benefits of either.

Exploration & Experimentation

  • Presenting ideas from a perspective of exploration and testing
  • You encourage people to try things that might be different from what you choose
  • Willingness to explore and experiment
  • Reflecting on your own experience and extracting the universal truths and lessons that you can share with others
  • Connection between exploration and universal truths (grounded in experience)
  • Willingness to learn and experiment with new challenges
  • Balancing consistent structure with flexibility, especially when doing 30-day challenges
  • To thoroughly look at yourself and the world around you, both with your feelings and with your brain, reflect on it, take action, and tell us everything
  • Living a life that sends a message to us all that anything is possible
  • The ability to always find a new perspective on things, to not get stuck in a rut
  • Seeing you do different experiments
  • Risk taking experience (really important you push boundaries)
  • Willingness to explore
  • Exploring the world

This one feels pretty aligned with how I see myself. I do love to explore and experiment. People seem to appreciate that my lessons stem from experience and that I like to test ideas in the real world.

This may seem close to curiosity and open-mindedness, but I list this as a separate item because it’s the sharing of these experiments that provides value for people. Some people find that the explorations I share encourage them to explore more as well, even if they’re doing totally unrelated explorations. It’s good to see that this strength is contagious. The more we explore, the more we influence and encourage others to explore.

Depth & Immersion

  • Immersive coverage from many angles
  • Exploring a challenge from so many different angles that it forces a breakthrough for readers
  • Take a challenge that is common to your readers, and absolutely hammer the problem with endless different tools, perspectives, and actionable ideas
  • Blog series
  • Can always go back and review the basics in your blog – habits, discipline, 30-day trials, goal-setting, purpose, productivity, time-management, health, exercise, and diet
  • Daily nuggets of thought provoking ideas
  • So many good bits of information and wisdom
  • Sharing the insider’s perspective
  • Level of depth you cover in your topics is second to none
  • You clearly show a vast amount of knowledge and passion for personal development which solidifies your credibility
  • Your ability to provide fresh insights into well trodden self-help topics
  • The depth and detail you go into on the issue and lead on to how to tackle the problem
  • Thorough

Because I often write longer articles, I attract readers who like longer articles. Same goes for the in-depth courses – they attract people who like and appreciate in-depth courses. People who want quick sound bites probably won’t be attracted to my work.

Internally I don’t think of depth and immersion as direct strengths. I see these as side effects that derive from wanting to connect the dots between different ideas. Many of my blog posts are explorations of different angles on a topic to clarify my own thinking.

How can we explore open relationships in an ethically aligned way? Is there a non-sleazy way to do online marketing and have it be effective? What modes of generating income are the best for long-term character sculpting? These are the kinds of questions that my mind likes to explore and resolve. So I would identify my underlying strength here as a drive for real understanding and a dissatisfaction with shallow answers.

Some people said they made specific changes in their own lives that were inspired by what they read in my blog. Going vegan and going jobless were the most common changes mentioned. They liked that I covered certain lifestyle changes from multiple angles with an insider’s perspective.

Some people were actually grateful for making changes that they initially resisted. They noted that it was because I addressed a topic from so many different angles over a long period of time that convinced them to finally try it for themselves.

Challenging People to Change / Teaching People to See Reality Differently

  • Challenging people to think alternatively
  • You have an uncanny knack for blogging about issues that I am currently struggling with in a way that gives me a fresh perspective and a new way to think through a problem
  • Revealing blind spots
  • How you destroy my world (i.e. old collections of beliefs and attitudes that aren’t working) -> new world of better results
  • Your ability to get through to people and make them inspired to actually act upon your ideas
  • Encourage well rounded development (physical, intellectual, spiritual, social, etc.)
  • Effective at training me to see reality more accurately
  • The motivation that you inspire to try what you say to do
  • You continue to be a wonderful example
  • Your daily blog posts are good reminders to stay on track with my personal goals and values
  • You consistently give me something to think about/implement in my life, which I love
  • Giving people a fresh perspective on things in a very simple-to-understand and act-upon way
  • Sharing your views and experiments allows me to challenge my views
  • Make us think deeply about all aspects of our existence
  • Ability to see and communicate new perspectives, new ways of seeing reality
  • Disruptor
  • Giving me new perspectives

This one struck me as one of the most interesting items on the list. People actually like and appreciate that I challenge them to think differently. They like that I nudge them to destroy their old worlds, especially if those worlds aren’t giving them the results they want anyway.

Admittedly I didn’t really think of this as a personal strength, but multiple people noted that this is what really provides long-term value for them. Even though they may resist at first, they ultimately like having holes poked in their old models of reality. They like being challenged to raise their standards. They like learning alternative points of view to digest and think about. They like that I don’t play it safe by only writing about topics inside their comfort zones.

I think this strength comes from what I do for myself. I frequently challenge and question my own models, and much of what I write stems from that questioning. This in turn encourages others to ask similar questions.

I love this because it means that by investing in my own growth, I’m providing a good service to others, as long as I continue to share what I learn along the way. This was a big part of my original vision for starting this blog in 2004. I love personal growth and wanted to make it my full-time occupation. I trusted that if I kept learning and sharing that it would provide sufficient value to people. That turned out to be true.

Sometimes I still have to remind myself that this is a key part of my business and lifestyle. I have to keep exploring, experimenting, and questioning because that’s the engine that feeds everything else. Fortunately I’ve always loved doing that, so it doesn’t feel like a burden. I don’t see myself ever losing my deep curiosity about life.

Sincerity / Honesty / Transparency

  • Honesty
  • Transparency
  • Honest and transparent with your readers
  • Your firm inner strength that knows exactly what you believe and hold dear and is as solid as a rock
  • You are tremendously honest and direct
  • Establishing trust with your audience by means of your sincerity of expression
  • Your ability to gain my trust because of your honest, approachable, and intelligent style
  • By being honest and transparent, you bring authentic solutions and connections
  • You tell things as they are and as they seem to you; I have not found hidden agendas to try to get me to buy something

It didn’t surprise me that people mentioned this, but I also see it as more of a side effect rather than a primary strength.

This one is due to sensitivity to how I feel about my life and about the relationships with the people I serve and connect with regularly. I see relationships as a huge part of life, and I want my relationships to be strong, supportive, and growth-oriented. This includes relationships with people, with my work, with myself, and with reality itself.

I find it interesting that no one really named this inner sensitivity as a strength of mine, but it shows up as a key factor in multiple strengths that people experience externally. Perhaps it’s not too much of a stretch to see that being sensitive to your internal states and seeking inner harmony can actually create ripples of value for others. If you seek more alignment on the inside, you may express more of your strengths outwardly.

Sensitivity can be a powerful strength if you honor it as such.

Clear Communication

  • Writing and speaking
  • Your clarity of writing
  • Relaying spiritual or difficult-to-understand concepts in a relatable manner (for a computer-friendly audience)
  • Being able to take a thought and breaking it down and explaining it very well
  • Tying real world examples into your writing or courses are extremely helpful
  • You are concise, and all of your sentences are usually necessary and relevant
  • Very good at articulating and getting your point across
  • Even when you make appeals to emotions, you structure your points in ways that both the logical and emotional parts of my mind can agree with
  • Your ability to bring razor sharp analytical skills to topics that are often dismissed as “woo woo” – and thereby provide your readers with deeper understandings
  • Your ability to convey complex ideas in a simple and straightforward manner
  • Your writing skills. the way you can popularize complex ideas with simple examples
  • Your very clear and easy to follow explanations – I don’t have to read it twice to fathom out what you are saying
  • You have a way of reducing the fluff of personal development
  • Helps shorten the learning curve for me
  • I like how you communicate in clear manner; your writings are easy to follow and enjoyable to read
  • Articulation

This isn’t too surprising. If people didn’t like my communication style, they wouldn’t stick around. So it makes sense that I attract people who like it.

While I could write in a more flowery style, I actually dislike it when other writers do that in their books and articles. It just makes my brain work harder to extract the meaning. I value directness and plain language in other people’s writing, so I try to practice this myself. To me the purpose of writing is to communicate useful ideas, not to showcase clever writing skills.

I also had some high school teachers that pushed me to eliminate verbal flabbiness when possible. So this strength was largely trained through education and practice. Having a background in computer science and math helps too since clarity is essential in both fields.

Rationality & Practicality

  • Your ability to think things through
  • Real world examples
  • You waste none of the reader’s time, and you get immediately to the pragmatic and practical concerns
  • Focus on results, real-world problems and challenges
  • You are grounded and rational
  • Clear-sighted intelligence
  • You are always interesting, thought-provoking, and you provide advice that is applicable in the real world
  • You see reality (as it is and is not) more clearly than I do
  • Logical, intelligent, and honest viewpoint
  • You’re able to come up with models of reality that are actionable as well as effective
  • You do actually offer a potential solution and don’t just leave us thinking, “Well I knew that already, but what do I actually DO about it?”
  • In your hands, Subjective Reality has a structure and is seen as a kind of practical tool
  • Well-balanced mix of your well-developed mental and emotional intelligence
  • Logical

This one also links with a background in math and computer science. Try programming a computer with good intentions and positive thinking. You have to think rationally and logically to get results from coding.

I got into personal development as part of my recovery from self-destructive behavior, so learning to behave more sanely and rationally was a life-saver for me. Consequently, I have a healthy respect for rationality.

While I’ve explored lots of esoteric and woo-woo personal development ideas too, my journey began with an intense need to solve real problems in my life, so this practical grounding has been with me for a long time. I know how valuable an investment in personal development can be because of how beautifully it transformed my life.

I do see value in exploring pure thought experiments, but I still like to link them to real-world results when possible. Otherwise if an idea just hangs there in space and I can’t use it to improve my results in any area of life, I don’t see it as being of much long-term use other than for the entertainment value.

Open-mindedness and exploration help to balance this strength though. Rationality can become a weakness if you overplay it and let it lock you into a linear mode of thinking. I think it’s rational to realize that you always have more to learn, and that means exploring the unknown.

Creativity & Originality

  • Thinking, visualizing, and communicating outside the box, in fact in a different galaxy
  • The outside the box ways of communicating
  • The creativity in the courses I have taken, particularly Stature, communicates concepts in ways that simply don’t seem available elsewhere
  • I see creativity and a lot of clear thinking in you
  • Your freshness and originality
  • You can combine two very different mindsets: analytical and intuitive in a way which is quite symbiotic in nature, and gives rise to solutions that are unique and creative
  • Innovative thinking

This strength feels like one of contrast to me. If we didn’t have school systems and corporate jobs that pressure us to devalue inner harmony, I doubt that I would seem as creative or original.

While the world’s misalignments may create opportunities, part of me wishes this weren’t the case. I think it would be more pleasing and satisfying to live in a world where most people followed their paths with a heart and stayed sensitive to inner harmony.

In the past I valued being an out of the box thinker and deliberately leaned into that. These days I’d prefer to do away with the box altogether, so no one has to be stuck inside of it.

From my perspective, I’m basically trying to live the life I learned about from watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. Explore the galaxy. Keep learning and growing. Have interesting relationships with people from different planets. And always be aware that there’s an empath on board to keep you honest.

Caring / Empathy / Ethics / Generosity / Heart

  • A good heart
  • You come across not only as an expert in the field but also as a friend who cares for others and who genuinely wants to see them improve their lives; not just saying they do. That’s where I get my trust for you from.
  • Giving a lot away for free, including uncopyrighting
  • Accessibility – covering relevant issues readers care about, helping people feel they aren’t alone
  • You’ve transcended the common online business model (AdSense, affiliates, etc.) and have a moral dimension to your work
  • It’s been inspiring, from a distance, to watch your trust in Life pay off
  • Your genuine desire to help
  • You have strong imaginative power which makes you able to empathize more with people
  • You are friendly and warm in your interactions
  • The connection that you somehow convey through your writing, so it feels like you are targeting my own personal problem
  • You seek to cause as little harm as possible
  • You seek to help and heal through bringing knowledge and encouragement to people
  • Generosity and your service-orientation; to put out so much free content is a beautiful gift
  • Being able to offer a lot of quality content on your website without charge
  • Compassion
  • Heart of service
  • Shows that you care about people and surroundings
  • It is heart warming to see how you genuinely want people to grow and develop themselves

Awwww… I do indeed care about helping people. I think this could also be a quality flowing from sensitivity. I often feel like I pick up on energy, feelings, and intentions from the people I connect with, even at a distance.

When I was younger, I didn’t value such qualities, but now I see them as essential to being in tune with the flow of life. I think caring has a lot to do with listening, not just with our ears but with all parts of ourselves. I feel fortunate that some caring influences came into my life at the right time to help steer me in this direction. Going vegan played a significant part in this as well; that really opened up the heart-brain communication pathways.

Some people who mentioned these items also requested that I do more videos or podcasts, so more of the emotional connection comes through. I can understand that, although I still really like the experience of writing. I feel that writing helps me slow down, so I can go deeper into the exploration of ideas.

I still like video too though, especially live video. What some people may not see is that we do live video coaching calls in Conscious Growth Club 36 times per year. We just recently passed 100 of those calls, so from my perspective I’m already doing a significant amount of video.

Personality / Playfulness / Positivity

  • Many people have a growth mindset or focus and discipline, but they can’t bring the playful and unique approach to it
  • Humor
  • I love how you inject your personality into each post
  • It gives your posts that personal touch and authenticity which even the most sceptic of readers can respect
  • As readers we feel invited and brought to your side as individuals who are constantly exploring
  • To not get dragged down by others or bad energy
  • To always stay positive and believe that things will be better
  • To trust yourself and reality
  • Playfulness

In this area I think it also makes sense that people who dislike my personality or sense of humor wouldn’t stick with reading my blog for long.

I often have mixed reactions when other authors inject their personality into their work. Sometimes I really like it, and sometimes I find it cheesy or annoying if it feels like they’re trying too hard. I aim to strike a balance and not force it, preferring to keep the ideas front and center most of the time.

I also think that expressing some playfulness helps to create a stronger connection over time, and it makes the work more enjoyable too. It’s good to know that it’s possible to attract people who appreciate playfulness.

Focus / Discipline / Determination / Work Ethic / Consistency

  • I doubt there are many things in your life that don’t serve clear and well-thought-out goals
  • You aren’t stumbling through life blindly
  • Goals & character building
  • Time management
  • Discipline / self-discipline
  • Hard-working
  • Dedication
  • Determined and disciplined
  • Consistency
  • Balancing with open-mindedness: It seems like tightness and rigidity tend to appear in people who have a high level of self-discipline, but it’s quite the opposite with you
  • Your regular contact; I do like the daily connection

Self-discipline was a hard quality to build, but I did make gradual gains by continuing to invest in it. I feel this is important to balance other qualities that can potentially pull against focus and consistency, like the desire to go out and explore something new.

Self-discipline can also create traps of its own if you overplay it, potentially stifling creativity and spontaneity.

I like to see these different aspects like parts of a song, where each instrument gets its opportunity to shine, and they can all play harmoniously together.

I’m glad I did this little experiment. It gave me some interesting insights and helped me connect the dots between how I think about my strengths and what other people perceive. It’s interesting to realize that outward strengths may come from deeper places that aren’t easy to identify.

This makes me wonder if Leonardo da Vinci would identify the same strengths in himself that other people would credit him for. Did he see his incredible range as a strength? He might have even seen it as a weakness since so many of his works were unfinished when he died. I read the book How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, which was insightful, but that cannot reveal how he actually thought.

Consider that as you develop your own strengths, other people may credit you for how those strengths affect them, but they may not be able to identify the core strengths that give rise to those outward expressions. You may experience and frame your strengths differently. For instance, no one identified writing from inspiration and choosing topics based on inspiration as a strength of mine, even though that’s a huge deal to me and something I’ve invested in greatly for many years. That strength also stems from sensitivity to signals that carry ideas.

Consequently, if you spot a strength in someone else and then try to emulate if yourself, your results may fall flat if you miss the core strength that gives rise to the outer expression. If anyone wants to get good results emulating some of my strengths, they may get stuck if they don’t invest in increasing their sensitivity to inner and outer signals.

I’m grateful for everyone who chose to respond to these questions, so thank you for that. It was an eye-opening and reflective experience for me, and I hope you got some value from reading this post. I also encourage you to think about how inner qualities that you might not even think about as strengths could actually flow into providing value in ways you may not have considered yet.

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Read My Strengths (According to Reader Feedback) by Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina is an American self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He is the author of the web site and the book Personal Development for Smart People.

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