"Know thyself." The Greeks inscribed that message over the entryway to the temple of Apollo at Delphi, which they imagined to be the center of the earth. It's still a good idea.
If you know yourself well, you've got a better chance of understanding what opportunities to seize and which to avoid. If you know yourself well, you're more likely to understand others and get along with them better. In other words, if you know yourself, you're more likely to succeed.
Here are three sets of questions to help you "know yourself" and determine which career options and activities are the best fit for you. I've divided them into three groups: questions to help you figure out your strengths; questions to help you learn about how you do things; and questions to help you decide if management is for you.
Questions to Figure Out Your Strengths
You'll do best in your life and career if you do more of the things you're good at. Here's how to determine the best ones.
What am I good at? Everybody does some things really well. They're often things that we find easy, but other people have to work at.
What do I love to do? Some things just seem like fun. They give us energy.
What things are on both lists? This is a cruel question. The activities that you want to build your life and work around are the ones that you do well and that give you energy.
The best life strategy I know of is to spend time and effort developing skills and abilities based on your strengths. At the same time, make your weaknesses inferior.
You can make a weakness negligible by choosing jobs and projects where it does not matter. You can make a weakness irrelevant by "outsourcing it" or getting someone else to handle it or help you with it. You can make a weakness negligible by learning to do things you're not good at "well enough."
Questions to Help You Learn about How You Do Things
The following questions will help you discover how you do things. Understand how you do things and you can identify ways to get more done more effectively. Understand how you do things and you can watch for potential conflicts when others do things differently.
I'll use my friend, Bill as an example. Let's start with a question about pace.
Is your natural pace fast or slow? When it comes to making decisions or dealing with situations, some people are quick and direct. Others are slower and more deliberate.
Bill is one of those people who can make good, fast decisions. His boss, however, is a slow and methodical thinker. Bill's rapid fire style made the boss uncomfortable, even if Bill turned out to be right.
So Bill learned to hold off on sharing his quick decisions. When he got an assignment, he would tell the boss: "Thanks. I'll get back to you in a couple of days with the plan." …