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In the last issue of Leadership Wired, I talked about the three types of jobholders. This issue and the next are devoted to those who know what they'd like to do, but don't do it.

Every once in a while I run into people who say, "Well, I just have a dream." Listen, having a dream and fulfilling a dream are two different things. Let me tell you something else - if your dream does not match your abilities, it'll be a nightmare.

I see people all the time who have unrealistic dreams. Please understand that I'm not trying to dash your hopes or suggest that you listen to naysayers who try to dissuade you from doing what seems impossible when you know deep down in your heart that you can do it.

I'm merely giving you a reality check because if you don't have the aptitude or the skill level to do it, you're going to have some real frustrations and you're going to have to change your mindset.

"So, What Do You Think?"
For example, I love music and I'd like to be a great singer; but there's a problem - some would say that it's minor, but I think it's major - I can't sing. Isn't it awful when you can hear music one way in your head, but when you open your mouth it doesn't come out right?

Fortunately for other people, I know I can't sing, so I don't torture them with my caterwauling. I've been places where there was a person singing who didn't know they couldn't sing. I don't know about you, but I wanted to look at the people around me and say, "You know, somebody ought to go up there and tell them."

Here's the problem: if I can't sing, but my dream is to be a great opera singer, I will either be very frustrated or I will torture audiences everywhere who don't have the heart to tell me to give it up. Can I tell you something? It isn't going to happen. Not because I lack desire or lack the dream. It isn't going to happen because I'm not any good in that area; I simply lack the ability.

Focus On Your Strengths
Too many times, people work on their weaknesses. Don't work on your weaknesses. On a scale from one to 10, if you're a two at something, don't spend a lot of time trying to improve in that area. If you work on it hard, you'll probably only become about a four. In other words, if I take music lessons, voice lessons, and bring all kinds of people around me to help me sing, after two or three years, I will have spent a lot of money and worked very hard, but I'm still not going to be able to sing.

If you're a two and you go up to a four, you're a little bit below average. I know many people trying to do average things wanting people to stand in line and buy it. Average will never get you anywhere. So quit working on your weaknesses because if you work on your weaknesses, at best you're going to be average.

You have to find your strengths; you have to find out what you're good at. If you're a six at something, you can get up to a seven or an eight. People pay for eights. So when you ask yourself whether or not you can do what you'd like to do, you need to be honest with yourself before you invest a lot of time and energy into it.

By the way, when I say don't work on your weaknesses, I'm talking about your skills and abilities. The personal illustration I gave was my singing. There are three weaknesses you need to work on at all times, but they have nothing to do with your skills.

The three weaknesses you have to work on are:

Attitude issues.
If you have a bad attitude, fix it because your attitude will disqualify you. I know several people who have great potential, but their attitude is the disqualifier of their life.

Discipline issues.
Work on your discipline issues if you're weak. If you can't get somewhere on time, if you lack initiative, if you're lazy, you won't make it.

Relationship issues.
You'd better work on your relationship issues because if people don't like you, you're not going to be successful with them. Remember, people won't go along with you if they can't get along with you.

Let me give you five quick questions to ask for yourself to determine your abilities:

1) Do I have experience in my desired area?

2) Do I have any success in my desired area?

3) Do I have any training in my desired area?

4) Do I know what is essential in my desired area?

5) Do I know someone who's successful in my desired area?

I love this quote: "Find something you like to do so much that you'd gladly do it for nothing. Then learn to do it so well the people are happy to pay you for it."

That's the way to live. Don't worry about what you're going to get paid and what kind of benefits there are; do something you love to do and do it so well that after a while you'll be paid to do it. If it's something you are capable of doing, and if you seek answers to the five questions I have given, you'll be on your way to doing just that.

This article is used by permission from
Dr. John C. Maxwell's free monthly e-newsletter,
Leadership Wired available at

Author Biography

John C. Maxwell
Web site: Injoy Group
John Maxwell grew up in the 1950s in the small Midwestern city of Circleville, Ohio. John's earliest childhood memory is of knowing that he would someday be a pastor. He professed faith in Christ at the age of three, and reaffirmed that commitment when he was 13. At age 17, John began preparing for the ministry. He attended Circleville Bible College, earning his bachelor's degree in 1969. In June of that same year, he married his sweetheart, Margaret, and moved to tiny Hillham, Indiana, where he began his first pastorate.

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