One of my top strengths is also one of my core weaknesses. I’ll elaborate in a moment, but consider whether this statement is generally true for you as well, whatever your strengths happen to be.

The personal strength I’m referring to is labeled as “Input” by the popular CliftonStrengths assessment, but I was cultivating this capability long before I took the Gallup instrument in late 2005 while reading Marcus Buckingham’s Now, Discover Your Strengths. I’ve been inclined, for as long as I can remember, to gather ideas and resources and organize them into some kind of taxonomy or filing system–at first, through hundreds of manila folders, and later through close to 1,000 Evernote folders that are available to me across all my devices.

My curiosity and natural bent toward seeing and making interdisciplinary connections gets me pumped up and helps me to produce some good work and engage in lively conversations. But it can also be hard to reel in or dial back. Any “overdone” strength, whether it’s ‘input” or strategy, analysis, storytelling, discipline, etc., has the capacity to undermine productivity and relationships, which makes self-awareness and openness to feedback from others so important.

Clarity Through Pausing

Despite the many resources I have at hand, I often feel that a little more is needed; that something is still “missing.” (An unhealthy aspect of how I express my Enneagram Type 4/3 hard-wiring comes into play here.) At some point the gathering has to shift to doing something with all the input, shaping it into a task, product, or service that’s helpful to me and others. As I type this I can hear Seth Godin asking, “When are you going to show up?”

I’ve never felt a greater urgency than right now to discern the proper blend of gathering and acting, because I’m inundated with content choices like never before. And I’m not alone in this predicament. What’s needed, Yuval Noah Harari writes, is not more content but more clarity.

Clarity can only come through reflection, which is only possible through pausing long enough to cease the gathering and becoming present with what’s been gathered, making sense of it and how to apply it. Any time I choose not to take another glance at my phone, visit a social media account, order a new book, or watch just one more episode of a Netflix show, I’m pausing into presence.

The pausing is a learned behavior, a hard-won habit that is counter-intuitive in today’s culture. It’s a habit worth fighting for, because overdone strengths are just as oft-putting as overdone hamburgers.

What top strength of yours can sometimes be “overdone?” What action steps are you considering?

Growing Your Strengths

I’m a Nashville-based writer, talent strategist, and certified executive coach. On this website, I primarily write stories featuring a diverse group of professionals whose examples of applying mindfulness, learning agility, and storytelling will help you love your career and enhance your quality of life.

These nine “protagonists” face familiar pain points: nonstop change, accelerating economic and technological disruption, and the collective “noise” that grows louder each day. The impact, for these professionals and for many of us, has been confusion, distraction, and stress.

Until they begin to apply the aforementioned strengths of mindfulness, learning agility, and storytelling. Strengths that you can develop as well.

The protagonists and supporting characters in these stories will teach you that you don’t have to settle for confusion, distraction, and stress. You’ll learn that you’re stronger than that, and capable of much more.

Want some context before jumping into the stories? Start with this post. And, as time permits, check out my books, and join our learning community to receive free, exclusive content via email each month with timely guidance on applying mindfulness, learning agility, and storytelling.


John M. DeMarco is a writer, strategist, and executive coach based in Nashville, Tennessee.