"Success came easy," said no one, ever.

A young man stands on a mountain peak with arms outstretched, overlooking a mountain range. Photo by Jason Hogan on Unsplash

Many successful people overcame great challenges. The personal growth they experienced by overcoming an obstacle led to their success.

How I overcame my limitations

As a teenager, I was kind of shy and unpopular. I was bullied. Things got a bit better after high school but I still struggled with my self-image. I wanted to feel strong and confident, so I joined a martial arts club.

I soon discovered that, with practice, I was pretty good at it. I became more fit, assertive, and outgoing. I started teaching and competing. I went on to earn black belts in several disciplines!

A woman in silhouette on a beach doing a high kick. Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash

Turn your weakness into a tool for success with these 4 tips!

1. Shift your mindset

Rather than viewing your weaknesses as fixed traits, rebrand them as growth opportunities.

You have the power to change! Let that knowledge motivate you.

You are not the person you were yesterday, last month, or a year ago. Change is a fundamental aspect of life.

Transform a weakness into a strength by:

  • Giving it your attention

  • Envisioning yourself doing it well

  • Being patient with yourself

  • Practice, practice, practice

Flowering cacti in the desert. Photo by Morgan Newnham on Unsplash

How I shifted my mindset

I was nervous before my first martial arts tournament.The process was formal with lots of rules and etiquette. I'd practiced for weeks and was as ready as possible.

To counter my worry, I visualized myself doing well. I decided to do my best. I won three bronze medals and a gold!

2. Decide what to focus on

You probably have an idea of what areas you can improve. Even so, it can help to get feedback from people who know you well.

Ask a teacher, coworker, family member, or close friend what ways they think you could improve. Be open and willing to listen. Think of it as data you can use.

Ask probing questions like, "Which of my qualities are holding me back?"

Then ask a follow-up question like, "What can I do to improve that?"

Kermit the Frog says,

Make a list of the traits you can work on. Don't try to tackle them all at once! Which attribute will have the biggest impact if you improve it? Start there.

Bart Simpson looks at list and says,

True story

I started my career in call centers. I didn't often interact with people face-to-face. My friends commented whenever I didn't notice things happening around me. I was usually focused on my thoughts.

I talked about it with my friend Sandra, who suggested I apply to the security firm where she worked. The training was free and my customer service skills would be useful. I applied, thinking I'd work there for a few months.

Then I realized I was getting paid to improve my situational awareness and interpersonal skills. I advanced in the company and eventually became a manager!


Daniel asks his friend Caleb what qualities he could improve. Caleb says that he sometimes feels like Daniel isn't listening when he talks about things that happened at school. What can Daniel do to improve his listening skills? Select all that apply:

3. Make a plan

Start by setting small goals for yourself. Taking things one step at a time will help you see your progress.

For example, it takes most martial arts students 4 or 5 years of consistent practice to achieve a black belt. That's why most clubs award colored belts as students progress — it motivates them to keep going to the next level.

A girl and boy in karate uniforms wearing green and blue belts. Photo by Ashima Pargal on Unsplash

Next, find out where to get help. Where can you get experience and practice to improve the skill or attribute you want to improve?

  • Attend a course or workshop

  • Take a part-time job that will train you

  • Find a teacher or mentor

  • Practice with a friend

  • Join a club or community center

  • Become a volunteer

  • Look up videos, blogs, articles, books, podcasts

  • Find mobile apps or online games

Get outside your comfort zone. Start by practicing the skill in more comfortable situations where making mistakes won't be catastrophic. Challenge yourself from there.

True story

One day, my martial arts teacher asked for help with a children’s class. I was reluctant because I had little experience with kids. Observing the other coaches, I started leading a small group. It was fun! I started coaching more often.

I discovered that I liked teaching. Applying my coaching skills at work led to a career in corporate training. A new path opened because I stepped outside my comfort zone!


Amesha is an inexperienced, nervous driver. In a week, she starts a new job in an unfamiliar area. She's worried about being late or getting lost. What can Amesha do to feel more confident about getting to her job? Select all that apply:

4. Track your progress

Learn from your mistakes. Many successful people failed a lot before they succeeded. Look at your failures as lessons. Watch the video below for inspiration.

A mistake I learned from

I love animals and always had pets. Even though I take pet care seriously, I’ve made mistakes with my furry friends.

When I moved to a new house with my cat Joy, she stopped eating properly. I was busy and took a while to notice she was sick. She stayed in the animal hospital for weeks, which was expensive and stressful. Thankfully, Joy recovered and lived to age 23! Since then, I have paid closer attention to my pets’ health.

Flaticon Icon. A cellphone on a holder with a happy face.

Document your experience. Use a notebook, take photos, or record a short audio or video clip to document your progress. List one thing that went well and something you'll keep working on.

Gamify the process. Set up small rewards for yourself when you reach each goal.

Flaticon Icon. A trophy.

Celebrate small wins! Congratulate yourself for making improvements, even small ones. Every step forward gets you closer to your vision.

Tom Cruise as Maverick in Top Gun hugs his pilot friends.

What winning means to me

While getting a black belt in a martial art was worth celebrating, the most rewarding part of my experience was witnessing my friends and students overcome their unique challenges to reach their goals. Seeing them take pride in their achievements means more to me than any rank or title ever could.

Take Action

A man stands on top of a stone wall overlooking hills. Photo by Ameer Basheer on Unsplash

Start turning your weakness into a strength!


Your feedback matters to us.

This Byte helped me better understand the topic.

Get support to take action on this Byte