StrengthsFinder 2.0: Test Your Might?

During my travels I ended up staying in California at an aunt’s house for a few days.  Much to my surprise, one of my cousins, M, happened to be staying there as well.  During one of our conversations, she brought up a book called StrengthsFinder 2.0.

I had never heard of this book.  Truthfully, I never would have even bothered with it had it not been for M.  She’s a natural charmer, highly energetic and spoke about the book with such fervent passion that I was pretty much helpless.  As the cliché goes, I fell hook, line, and sinker.  Curiosity eventually got the better of me and I decided to check this book out.  M, if you read this, I gotta say, you’d make one hell of a saleswoman!

StrengthsFinder 2.0 was published back in 2007 and written by Tom Rath.  Essentially, the book says that society spends an unhealthy amount of time trying to fix our deficiencies instead of fine-tuning and exploiting our natural abilities or strengths.  It stresses that the “you can be good at anything if you work hard enough” mentality is highly flawed and that we should instead embrace a “you cannot be anything you want to be, but you can be a lot more of who you already are” attitude.  Rath does bring up quite a few good points throughout the short read, but most of the first part of the book is spent explaining the 40+ years research process and how the assessment works, with the second half describing the 34 common strengths that humanity shares and how to best utilize them.

After reading the book, I got my one-time use code (emailed to me because I bought a Kindle version) and took the test, which takes roughly 30 minutes to complete. It asks two different questions and you must decide which one applies best to you.  In some cases, both questions can apply, but you’ll still have to choose one answer. You can either strongly agree, agree or you can choose neutral if you don’t care either way.  Most of the questions are pretty straight forward and are along the lines of the following:

Oh, and you only have 20 seconds to answer a question before it moves on.  According to Rath, this is because people are far more likely to give an honest answer on impulse than they would if given time to analyze each question.

I must admit that I was fairly disappointed with the assessment process.  After taking my test, I was given my top 5 strengths, and truthfully, I wasn’t surprised.  I wasn’t expecting some great revelation, but I thought I’d learn something new about myself.  As it turns out, I already knew my strengths quite well.  The results, despite being advertised as “personalized specifically for you” felt very generalized.  I showed ETL my results and she made a very excellent point: they have an uncanny resemblance to daily horoscopes! It also felt like an elaborate sales pitch for a service they offer.  For only $550.00, you can undergo a “Strengths Discovery Session” where you consult with an expert and further explore themes 6 thru 34 to better understand the order of your themes and to gain further insight into your strengths…I think I’ll be keeping my $550.00, thanks!

My biggest complaint with the whole process is that this test only gives a person their top five strengths and tells them nothing about their shortcomings.  I personally feel that it’s important to understand both talents and deficiencies.  By understanding your weaknesses you can have a greater appreciation for your strengths.  The book’s “you can do no wrong if you only do what you can do right” attitude certainly merits some truth, but I feel the impact of discovering one’s talents falls a little flat when you download a 20-page “personalized report” that reads more like something out of a fortune cookie.  It does, at the very least provide some good ideas for how to apply one’s talents in the work environment.

While my assessment might not have been all that great, I can’t say I completely disagree with this book.  If anything, I happen to agree with Rath in that the world does focus heavily on trying to make people excel at things they just can’t do.  No matter how many math books I read or how many equations I practice, I will never be a great mathematician, because I know I suck at math.  With practice, I can improve my math skills, but not to the level of excellence.  However, I have a natural ability to draw and to be creative.  If I stopped being lazy and started drawing again, there’s a high chance that I might be able to hone that skill to excellence, because it’s a natural ability.

StrengthFinder 2.0 might not be for everyone.  I find it hard to recommend on a personal level because I like to believe that, unless someone is just that unaware of their personality or has virtually no confidence, the average person should be able to determine his or her strengths without taking the test.  But I also understand that sometimes a person might need a reminder or might feel better having assurance of their natural talents.  It’s only $12 and Rath does make a lot of valid points.  The book itself actually has some useful information, but my impression is tarnished by what I felt was a lousy testing process.  I’m not bold enough to say that this test is useless; some people might actually benefit from it.  I will, however, invite you to form your own impression.  Maybe you’ll be amongst the millions it helped, or you’ll be the 1 in a million who was fine without it.

Hardcover: 183 pages
Publisher: Gallup Press; 1 edition (February 1, 2007)

Kindle version available

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