Temple Grandin is a doctor of animal science, a professor at Colorado State Universty, a best-selling author, an animal-behavior consultant to the livestock industry, and an autism activist.
And she’s autistic herself.
Because of her neurodevelopmental “difference” (different from whose definition of normal, I’m not sure – although I certainly refuse to call it a disorder), Grandin surprised many when she obtained her PhD, revolutionized the handling of cattle in processing plants, and began opening minds with her teachings on the realities of living with autism.
In short, she’s an inspiring, living example of one of the truths I discuss with clients most every day: We don’t succeed in life by trying to overcome the things that challenge us. We succeed by focusing on our strengths. By leveraging our power-alley attributes. By improving in the unique ways we’re each designed to excel.
That’s where greatness lies.
The Power of Attributes, in Temple’s Terms
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that autism is a great thing and all people with autism should just sit down and celebrate our strengths,” Temple Grandin explains in a Time magazine article. “I’m suggesting that if we can recognize, realistically and on a case-by-case basis, what an individual’s strengths are, we can better determine the future of the individual.”
I couldn’t agree more. And not just because it’s a nice thought. But because for more than 22 years, I’ve been coaching individuals and corporate teams on why and how to optimize natural strengths. And as a result, I’ve witnessed powerful positive change in countless teams, companies, individuals, relationships, and families.
It’s all about the power of attributes.
Forget about “Weakness”
Personal attributes are the intrinsic characteristics that define a human being. They aren’t skills or talents, but natural gifts and challenges that we’ve probably been exhibiting since childhood.
Why are these attributes important? Because they’re a key secret to success.
By focusing our energy on augmenting natural strengths, we see far greater returns on our time & effort investment than we’ll ever achieve by trying to “overcome” so-called weaknesses.
Ms. Grandin’s perspective on autism is a powerful reminder of this truth. No one doubts that autism qualifies as a challenge in life. But instead of focusing on these challenges, Grandin looks to 3 key power-alley attributes that are common in most autistic people:
- Bottom-up thinking: “People with autism are really good at seeing details”
- Associative thinking: “I’ve often said that my brain works like a search engine”
- Creative thinking: “I don’t know if being autistic makes you fundamentally more creative, but I do think that being autistic makes a certain kind of creativity more likely to arise”
What a clear and powerful list of strengths.
Clearly, a huge part of Grandin’s success has come from understanding her own attribute profile and then leaning into her strongest traits wholeheartedly.
Our “focus on deficits is so intense and so automatic that people lose sight of the strengths,” Grandin explains. So let’s take a cue from her inspiring example. Let’s believe that focusing on power-alley attributes can lead to great things. Let’s leverage our strengths and quit (yes, I said it) bothering with deficiencies.
Want to dig deeper? I’m writing a book about attributes right now, so please stay tuned for more on this subject.