Exploring the StrengthsFinder Theme of Significance

Continuing on in my mini series about my own strengths and how they play out in my day to day life, today I focus on the strength of “Significance.”  From Gallup, the definition of Significance:

“You want to be very significant in the eyes of other people. In the truest sense of the word you want to be recognized. You want to be heard. You want to stand out. You want to be known. In particular, you want to be known and appreciated for the unique strengths you bring. You feel a need to be admired as credible, professional, and successful. Likewise, you want to associate with others who are credible, professional, and successful. And if they aren’t, you will push them to achieve until they are. Or you will move on. An independent spirit, you want your work to be a way of life rather than a job, and in that work you want to be given free rein, the leeway to do things your way. Your yearnings feel intense to you, and you honor those yearnings. And so your life is filled with goals, achievements, or qualifications that you crave. Whatever your focus — and each person is distinct — your Significance theme will keep pulling you upward, away from the mediocre toward the exceptional.”

The very first time I read this definition, my reaction was, “How is this good?”  I have spent the last 13 years living into this strength and my opinion could not be more different now.

Significance in Real Life

When I was just out of college I decided to try a career in politics.  I had always enjoyed politics, studied it a bit in college and loved Washington, DC.  I went to find an internship on Capitol Hill with a Senator or Congressman.  I ended up applying for 50+ internships and was turned down straight away by most of them.

From there I was top four for an internship with former Senator Fred Thompson, but did not make the final cut.  That left me with two chances:

  1. With my Senator from Minnesota, Rod Grams, which was a paid internship ($1,000 a month).
  2. With a Congressman from Illinois, William Lipinski, which was an unpaid internship for the summer.

In the spring of 1998 I flew out to Washington, DC to interview. I was in awe – the buildings, the people, everything – I had to be a part of this. By the time I arrived on Capitol Hill, I had to run from Union Station to one of the office buildings in my suit. By the time I made it there I was drenched in sweat.  I composed myself and went into the interview with the staff of Congressman Lipinski.  They, somehow, offerred me the internship on the spot.  I told them I would think about it and headed off to my second interview.  That interview with the Senator’s staff went well and they offerred me the paid internship, which I jumped at.

From there I moved to Washington, DC and worked my way up the chain there for the next few years before I left to go to graduate school.

How Significance was a Strength

Significance kept pushing me forward to achieve my goal.  I wanted to change the world, it seemed like Washington, DC was a place you could do that.  All of that gave me energy and kept the dream alive.  One thing that has morphed for me about this strength is that in my younger days, it was very ‘me’ focused.  What would I accomplish?  What would I achieve?

Now, it gives me more joy to help other people accomplish their hopes and dreams and help them to change the world in the way that they are wired.  I want to be someone who helps raise the bar for everyone I am around.  People who are not interested in improving?  I typically do not spend a lot of time with those folks.

What pushes you to change the world?