How to Build a World-Class Strength

A strength is the ability to provide consistent near-perfect performance in a specific activity which becomes world-class.

Building your strength in any activity requires talent and the investment of hard work. Talents are naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied.

Your first step to building your strengths is to find your dominant talents. Once those talents have been discovered, you then go about acquiring the knowledge and skills appropriate to the activities you need to build your skills.

I’m a tennis player and have been for much of my life. I picked up my first tennis racquet at thirteen, and intuitively knew the sport fit my body and personality. I secretly felt I had the natural talent, and now I knew the specific activity I wanted to apply my talents. Now I needed to acquire the tennis knowledge and appropriate skills to build on.

The next day, I quit football—no easy task for a kid from East Texas where football rules—and committed my efforts solely to tennis. Looking back, that was my Focus talent. 

I took lessons and practiced hard. In fact, long before I was allowed behind the wheel of my father’s truck, I drove our old tractor to town to the high school courts where I hit balls against a wall for hours. Hitting balls against that wall was the activity I had available to me to refine my tennis skill. This was my Achiever talent at play. 

The problem was few people in my small town of Grand Saline played tennis, and even fewer were any good at it.

My break came when our high school hired a new tennis coach, Jerry Slayton.

Thereafter, Coach Slayton became my coach and mentor.

He quickly saw something in me I didn’t see in myself. Above all, he saw a mix of raw talent and drive that, if focused, might mature into greatness.

In his own way, Coach Slayton was a pioneer in strengths philosophy. Coach Slayton, without knowing it engaged my Individualization talent. 

First, he thought long term, a challenge for any high school coach pressured to get results now, this match, this tournament, this season. In spite of the pressures, he suggested small changes to my game that, if repeated over and over, would reap massive benefits months or even years in the future.

Second, within days of working together, it seemed Coach Slayton had identified my core strengths—quickness, sharp reflexes, aggressive play at the net—all the skills of an exceptional doubles player. He pushed me hard to improve the things I was already good at, and in doing so, gave me the confidence to make shots I had previously given up on.

I recall how he didn’t spend a second fixing my weaknesses and instead drilled me on ways to enhance my natural talents until they overpowered any shortcomings in my game.

In the end, Coach Slayton’s strategy paid huge dividends.

My junior year in high school, he selected me and a partner to play first-team doubles. My Relator talent flourished, working with a complimentary doubles partner. By year-end, we had advanced to the Texas Tennis State Championship tournament. 

Throughout the tournament, my partner and I played our game—quick, aggressive play at the net—and we didn’t lose a single match. That year, 1981, we won the Texas AAA Doubles Tennis State Championship, a dream come true. My Competition talent intensely desired to win for Coach Slayton, who at that time had never had a state winning protege. 

I share this story not as an example of tennis prowess, or even the magic of dreaming big, but instead as an illustration of how an effective and consistent focus on individual strengths can lead to tangible, almost miraculous outcomes.

You need the combination of hard work and talent applied to an activity, one without the other is never enough. When you are considering where to invest your time, or are working with another to help them know where to invest their time, make sure you know and understand the talents you are working with. 

Want to have a conversation with me about applying your talents to an activity? To become world-class in the activity of your choice.

Then schedule you free Ask Brent Anything call. Check out my website at for more ideas and classes that will help you on that path. Click here if you need to purchase a CliftonStrengths assessment code for you or anyone else. I am looking forward to walking with you through this exciting time of building your strengths.

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