In Part 1, I gave an overview of the three strong suits as Landmark theorizes. Strong suits help us succeed in life and are our primary ways of being. Part 2 was a description of when and how our strong suits develop. They occur at three specific time periods as the result of a traumatic life event.
In the family birth order, I’m the third of five. I have an older brother and sister and a younger sister and brother.
When my first strong suit occurred, there were only four of us. My older siblings were 7 and 5 years older than me. They were smart. They were good students who got good grades in school. My parents – and specifically my mother – told me they were smart.
As a child of 3 or 4 or 5-years old, I rationalized that competing with them in the smart arena was futile. They were already smart and they were 5 and 7 years older than me. How could I ever catch up? I decided that I wouldn’t compete with them on an intellectual level, I’d develop my own unique strategy to survive and make my way in the family (and world). My strategy was to be social – and with a specific emphasis on being charming.
And so my first strong suit began.
Looking back on my life, I’ve used my social skills over and over and over again to succeed in life. My 15-year career as Forrest Gump for Bubba Gump is a classic example of me using my social skills – over and over and over again.
I enjoy meeting people and I like making new friends. My first instinct is to trust a person and give them the benefit of the doubt. I’ll flatter and cajole and use my social skills to get along. My social skills are clearly one of my strong suits.
When I did this work of self-discovery from 2009-13 with Landmark, I wasn’t able to identify a single traumatic event that triggered my decision to be social. I don’t remember a specific instance where a parent or sibling yelled, “You’re stupid!” It was more of a drip, drip, drip than a single instance. In contrast, my strong suits #2 & #3 were triggered by two very memorable traumatic events – stay tuned.
Is it possible that I was just born a social person and that I’d be social even if my brother and sister weren’t smart? And that Landmark’s theory is just a bunch of hooey? Sure. But even if that is so, being aware that social is a primary way I behave then I can also choose to temper that behavior at certain times. I realize that my social strength can backfire when I come on too strong. Or I can appear superficial to those weary of us social folks. It’s simply an awareness and choice of when and how to use my social strength.
Finally, when I made the decision as a 4 or 5 year old not to compete in terms of smartness, it did not mean I wasn’t smart or that I’m unintelligent. It is easy to see today – it was not something I saw back then. Uncovering this story has given me freedom from having to prove myself intellectually. Retrospectively, I see many times when I felt it necessary to prove my smarts. Those instances were blind spot. Today, I view similar situations as unnecessary.
Our strong suits serve us well. Most of our success comes from them. But they don’t always work in all situations.
Social serves me well. It works a lot of the time. In fact, it works most of the time. It just doesn’t work 100% of the time.
Note: This series is a description of what I learned and how I benefited from attend attending the Landmark Forum. It is not meant to precisely replicate what Landmark teaches – it’s what I learned. The strong suit concept is one of several unique theories that participants learn during the 3-day seminar. I encourage all to attend and benefit in your own special way.
In Parts 4 & 5, I’ll describe the two very traumatic stories I created that enabled me to develop my strong suits #2 & #3. Part 6 will be a mind map that describes this entire series in a single diagram.
Here are the links to the rest of this series: