Never Normal Newsletter

My Biggest Weakness and What I Learned from Pablo Picasso in Barcelona

Have you ever interviewed for a job and been asked “What’s your biggest weakness?”

Most people hate this question, because it puts them on the spot, but knowing your strengths and weaknesses is a super power in life.

Do you know yours? (my answer is below)

There are lots of books you can read and coaches you can hire to help you discover your strengths and weaknesses…

But here’s another approach you can try right now:

If you want to identify potential weaknesses, start by looking at your strengths. What are you naturally good at? Don’t be shy…

Now here’s the tricky bit – chances are that your weaknesses live on the other side of your strengths.

What do I mean? Here’s a personal example:

One of my strengths is the ability to find different routes and to forge my own path in life. I can’t help it.

If you tell me that the normal way to do something is “X” then my brain immediately starts wondering, “what if we tried Y?” 🤔

I want to find and compare all the options and then choose…

That kind of thinking is behind whatever successes I’ve had so far, and is the reason why clients hire me to create strategies for them.

So what’s the downside?

My weakness is that I try to figure everything out by myself, even when I don’t need to.

Do you do this too?

Figuring things out all by yourself can be rewarding, but it takes a long time. And if you’re doing that every time you try something new, you’re not going to make much progress.

Robert Greene explains why in his book Mastery:

In my case, I think this comes from a desire to be unique — perhaps there’s a fear that if I learn by following someone else, then I won’t be special. After all, I’m the one writing “never normal” and telling you to “break free from the default life plan.”

But there is a difference between mindlessly following the default life plan and learning from someone who has what we want.

Learn from Picasso

If you’re ever in Barcelona, make sure to visit the Pablo Picasso museum. Even if you don’t like art museums normally.

Here’s why…

The way the museum is organized, you can watch as Picasso’s style changes over the years of his life.

What do you picture when you think of Picasso?

Most people think of cubism and the very modern art he created, like this Weeping Woman painting:

But at the Picasso museum in Barcelona, you can also see his earlier works, like Science and Charity:

Totally different! What happened?

Picasso spent the first part of his career as an artist learning to paint like the great masters before him.

Once he mastered his craft, then he embraced his own unique style. A style that continued to evolve and change throughout his life.

Here are the lessons I take from this:

  • In the beginning, learn from people who have done it before
  • Keep doing that until you master the craft
  • Then you can develop your own unique style and perspective

This isn’t just advice for aspiring painters…

It works the same way with music too. You learn an instrument playing someone else’s music. Once you’ve mastered the ability to play, you put your own spin on it.

Aspiring chefs work “stages” (like internships) in the kitchens of the best chefs. They don’t start by writing new recipes. They start by learning techniques.

And it works the same way for you and me too.

How to apply this

Now, instead of trying to figure everything out for myself, I actively look for ways that I can learn from the people I admire.

A few years ago I decided to go all in and put my money where my mouth is. I spent tens of thousands of dollars and weeks of my life traveling to seminars and intensive training sessions all over the United States to learn from the best.

I tried it all.

I walked on fire with Tony Robbins screaming a few inches from my face. I got lessons in the creative process and writing from a NY Times best-selling author. I was hypnotized.

I did a public speaking intensive where I was put on stage in front of a panel of professional speakers and some of the organizers and judges from the TED conference.

I got trained and certified in neuro linguistic programming. I joined an elite mastermind group with business leaders, Hollywood insiders, and a recent Super Bowl Champion. I even tried holotropic breathwork in a room full of grown men screaming and chanting. It was intense…

But you don’t have to go that extreme.

Next time you want to learn or try something new, just ask yourself: who already knows how to do this? How can I learn from them?

That’s all for this week. More soon…

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite of Picasso’s works, The Camel:

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I write occasional emails to share what I’m thinking, learning, and doing. It’s all related to the idea of breaking free from the “default plan” in life.

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