After finishing reading The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, I was finally convinced to perform an exercise in outsight by sending out a short email to a handful of friends, asking them to respond with a couple simple things:
1. My top 2-3 strengths
2. My top 2-3 weaknesses (areas of improvement)

I had heard about this before, and that it’s a very helpful personal development exercise for a long time, but only finally took action on it. I got a bunch of insights from it, and I highly recommend you give this a try as well!

But what I thought was fascinating, was out of all the insights, the majority of the insights I got were “meta-insights”, or insights about insights, this test, friends, relationships etc. In fact I would say that the best insights were meta in nature and not original to the intent of the test.

Some of my favorite insights:

– Most of the best insights were meta insights
Yes, ironically this was an important insight haha

– I felt that a lot of the feedback was “too nice”
Don’t fear doing this exercise! I was, to be honest, slightly almost disappointed in that the majority of the feedback felt somewhat “mellow”. Now, I wasn’t looking for self-deprecation by any means! And I assume this stems from “Impostor Syndrome“. Thinking it through, there are only so many options:
1. I didn’t have many or any weaknesses (obviously not true, see: Human haha)
2. People noticed weaknesses and were too gentle in their feedback (maybe they didn’t want to risk offending me etc)
3. I was hiding my weaknesses from others (eg not being vulnerable enough)

And my best guess is that it’s a combination of a tiny amount of #2, and large amount of #3; if someone saw a weakness I’ve attempted to hide, they might not want to share it being that they’re not even sure if it’s true.

But this was still a huge undercurrent to my response to their feedback, so I wanted to be sure to mention it.

– It’s important to build an “implementation guide” to “install” the insights instead of just learning and not applying
I did this with a simple, ever-trusty, Google Doc. I started by listing all the feedback and condensing it to usable actions. For example if one of the pieces of feedback was to “be less reserved in business interactions”, I would write something like “Be more outgoing and use more humor in business interactions”. Or even better: “Make light of something at least once per business interaction”

Essentially the goal is to take an area of improvement (weakness), and improve it by clarifying an actionable step and then holding yourself accountable (and ideally include the friends you emailed to help you be accountable to growth in that area).

– People I sent this to respected me MORE after this, not less!
I didn’t think people would think less of me (or very little if any), but what I didn’t expect, is for people to gain respect for the courage and vulnerability it took to send the email!

– A lot of the feedback is likely tainted by projection
Since the exercise is asking people what they think your top weaknesses are, it’s easy for the feedback to be influenced by what they think are the greatest areas of weakness within themselves and project this onto the feedback..

This doesn’t mean the feedback is useless! But it is something to be aware of. However, also be careful to not fall down the Inception rabbit hole of projection haha. It’s pretty easy to think “well if they’re projecting XYZ weakness, what if I think it’s projecting because XYZ is a weakness of mine. It gets really deep really fast haha! I recommend keeping things on “ground level” and don’t over think it. If they thought it was a top area of weakness, their’s or your’s; it’s probably worth improving on (especially if it was a friend, spouse, or client etc who gave that feedback).

– I was at least somewhat aware of all the areas of weakness brought up
This kind of surprised me in how unsurprising the weaknesses were! I guess my expectation was to discover some surprise weakness. But again, the feedback was still extremely helpful because it turned into “Feedback Analysis” which Peter Drucker explains in Managing Oneself (get this book!). Basically it meant that I already had guesses as to what my primary weaknesses were, and this helped score myself on how ‘on target’ I was with my guesses.

I would also guess if you’re interested in the topic of personal development and you’re self aware to a degree, you also have a pretty good idea what your weaknesses are

– This is a two sided exercise!
The exercise that Elrod talks about in his book, is directed at exploring your weaknesses. And most of the insights that I shared here are about weaknesses. However, I highly recommend killing two birds with one stone and including the question of “what are my top strengths” for many reasons, but primarily because it’s much easier to build excellence on your strengths!

Conclusion: List a couple objective people you can reach out to, and ask them to help you see your top strengths and weaknesses more clearly!