The Strengthsfinders books make the interesting point that we don’t have terms to describe strengths clearly and well. In many cases, they say, the words we have to describe strengths are actually insults. So we have someone who is brilliant at keeping track of details and organizing things and we call them “anal.” We have someone skilled at identifying strengths and we call them “egotistiscal.” This is why they’ve come up with their list of superpowers.

Not that they call them superpowers. I don’t remember where I got that term — maybe it’s on the Google profile form. I just remember filling something out and having it ask, “What are your superpowers?”

The Strengths books use the term “strengths,” distinguishing these natural talents and inclinations from skills and knowledge that you learn. Both my daughters and I have now taken the test, and we have one more secret code left, so I’m trying to get one of the boys to do it, too.

Both the girls got Achiever on their lists. I didn’t. At first I was surprised by this, because I though of it in terms of productivity. But when I look back on my year in business (or year or so, since last year at this time I was working full time and thinking of myself as unemployed), I can see that a true Achiever would have decided early on to be in business and set out to accomplish that, rather than sliding into it as I did. And in fact, both my daughters kept telling me to quit looking for jobs and focus on my business.

“I need more security than that,” I told daughter #1, point out the need to feed and educate my offspring.
“That’s entirely up to you,” she said, meaning that as a self-employed person I could make my own security.

And of course she was right.

#1 daughter is also Analytical. #2 and I both sort of figured we’d have that one, too, seeing as how we spend much of our work days in happy analysis. #2’s job title includes the word “analyst.” Nope. You have to be really, really analytical to get that as a superpower.

#2 daughter has Focus as one of hers. She has, from a child, had a Joan of Arc level of persistence and follow-through. No one is arguing with this one.

Ideation is one of mine. Twice this week I’ve had conversations with clients who were concerned that I wouldn’t really be able to come up with things to blog or tweet about on their behalf on a regular basis. I said, “That’s why you’re hiring me.” I could have said, “No, really, thinking up stuff is one of my superpowers.”

I don’t think we’re at that point yet in terms of adoption of a common language for discussing strengths.

Then, continuing through the alphabet, we reach the one thing that all of us have in common: Input. Which is to say collecting information.

I have Learner (learning stuff) and Maximizer (taking things from good to excellent). #1 daughter has Relator (working with other people) and Responsibility. I have Strategic, and #2 has WOO, or Winning Over Others.

I figure we’ll send those girls out to sell, if selling needs to be done.

The drawback to this system is that you have to buy one of the books in order to take the test. I’m not sure that we would have been able to identify our superpowers on our own as accurately as this little test did. At the very least, we would have been hindered by modesty in thinking of these things as our superpowers. When I was asked that on the form, wherever it was, I just left it blank.

And, as you know, I have no self-esteem issues.