The start of the academic year is a great time to reflect on strengths since it is my belief that knowing and developing your strengths is one of the basic elements of creating success.
Moreover, for musicians, knowing your strengths is key to creating your brand—the message that sets you apart from others—as well as a beacon of light when your confidence is flagging and you need a boost to remember what your talents really are.
How do you spot strengths?
It’s hard to identify your own strengths! When someone asks you to tell her what you are good at, it can be very challenging, if not embarrassing, to come up with your list of strengths. One way to identify strengths is to take a strengths assessment like the Strengths Finder 2.0 or the VIA Character Strengths Profile. But how about something more practical that you can use on the spot to help you figure out your strengths and the strengths of your friends, colleagues and students or teachers?
I have two suggestions.
The first is compliments:
What traits do other people compliment you for?
Pay attention to what people say about you when they are complimenting you on a job well done. Often, other people are better at noticing our strengths than we are. What do your teachers say about you? Your loved ones? Your colleagues?
In my classes, I often ask students to think about what their teachers say about them. For music students, the teacher is often a trusted mentor. You teacher’s comments and observations on the things that you are good at provide powerful insights on what you are naturally good at so that you can use the information to build on that and create your brand.
In my recent workshop with the music faculty at Stetson, I relayed this information to the professors to reinforce how important it is for them to comment on their students’ strengths. This is something that does not take any time away from a lesson and can help a student’s growth and development, while also helping students to build their technique and their stage presence and improving their skills.
The second way to spot strengths is to ask yourself the following question:
What am I excited about?
Often, we are excited about and proud of accomplishments that put us into flow and that involve using strengths that come naturally and that we want to develop even further. I use this question in my early coaching sessions with clients, as well as in my classes, in order to get people talking about their strengths.
Here is what some of my musician friends are excited about:
- “I’m excited about the new festival that I have created. “
- “I’m excited about taking the ensemble I created a few years ago to the next level.”
- “I’m excited about the upcoming orchestral performance of my new piece.”
In the first two examples, both of these individuals are entrepreneurial people who are highly motivated to get things done and are great at inspiring other people to join in their cause. They are strong in creating strong relationships and in collaborating with others.
The third example comes from a composer whose music in the past year has evolved. She deeply believes in her music and wants to share it on a much larger scale. She proactively went after opportunities to get an orchestral performance thanks to her focus, determination, belief in her unique voice—and her enormous talent and creativity.
How can you begin to spot your own strengths?
First, start paying attention to what other people are saying about you.
Second, notice what you are excited about. Then ask yourself what strengths are involved.
The more you can identify your strengths, the more you can begin to embrace those strengths and develop them. This is a critical step in motivating your success since it helps you to identify what makes you unique. That, in turn, will help you to create a brand, connect meaningfully with your target audience, market yourself effectively and network effortlessly–skills that are essential for the successful music entrepreneur.
And one last thing: start to notice the strengths of the people in your world. Listen to what they say. Pay attention to what makes them excited. And once you notice, comment on those strengths and compliment your colleagues, students, friends and loved ones. They will appreciate your comments and you can feel great knowing that you are helping others to get in touch with their own inner talents.