I recently finished a short story that I wrote as a final paper for an early medieval art and architecture art history class. It’s about a veteran who continually travels to avoid nightmares from a traumatic event in the Iraq War. On a red-eye flight, a fellow passenger gives him an ancient pilgrimage flask and tells him that, if he can fill it with what it’s designed to hold, his nightmares will go away.

I’m taking an art history class for the same reason that I decided to submit a short story rather than an essay for the final. That reason is strengths development.

As the business operator, you’re in a place of leverage that impacts the arc of the entire business. Because of this, developing your natural advantages has an outsized impact.

One of my recommendations from Strengths Finder is to take a university level class at least once each year (Learner.) And creative writing is an application of several of my strengths (Focus, Strategic, Intellection.)

I don’t know that I’ll ever pull some insight about Dicoletian’s Palace into a business deal or if I’ll write a clever allegory that serves as a lead magnet. That would be great, however I see it more like lifting weights. It’s the exercise of gifts that has a broad effect outside of the gym. At a minimum, it makes me happier and that is a worthwhile end in itself.

This time each year I reflect on my strengths. Here are five good resources that I’ve used over the past many years:

Applying the information from any of these will make you more productive and happy.

Another ritual I do each year that follows strengths exploration is an annual reflection. Last December, I ran it as a group activity with other business owners on a Zoom call. Reflection is a powerful tool to learn and adapt and last year’s group reflection changed my entire year for the better.

This year I’m partnering with Patrick Pitman from the Easier Business Podcast to roll it back. If you’re interested in participating, give me a shout out over email and I’ll keep you in the loop as we firm up the dates and times.

Featured image is “View of the Peristyle” in 1764, engraving by Robert Adam of Diocletian’s palace in Split, Croatia. If you’re ever in Croatia, it’s a fascinating place with restaurants and shops nestled in an ancient retirement home / fortress for an emperor. Used under public domain.