Hack-a-Shaq & a Strengths Focus Fallacy

“Focus on your strengths,” right? There’s a whole business consultancy, airport-book-store racket out there encouraging people to learn their strengths and to double down on them. It’s sells, too, because who wouldn’t want to be relieved of having to pay attention to one’s less flattering attributes, right? 

There are plenty of holes in this logic, however. The fact that few of us are self-aware enough to actually know what we’re good at is a solid place to start our concern about this kind of strengths-based strategy. What’s also included in this consideration is that we aren’t that good at our strengths. After all, how good of a communicator are you, for example? The best in the state? Or, just the best at this particular table? Are you such a good communicator that it overpowers your inability to execute projects on time? Hell, maybe you’re such a good communicator, in part, because you’ve got to eloquently explain your way out of your weaknesses showing, like the fact that you’ve missed another deadline (SEE: weaknesses trumping strengths). Follow me?


Consider that in 1999, there might not have been a more dominant physical force in the NBA than Shaquille O’Neal. At 7’1” and 325 pounds, “Shaq” was almost indefensible. His position (center) put him near the basket and his strength of scoring from the key was the best on the planet. Since we can all agree that almost no one reading this sentence has a standout strength as asymmetrically valuable as Shaq’s ability to score points in the paint, we ought to heed the next truth.

Shaq had a glaring weakness. We all do. 

It should be noted that Shaq’s future Hall-of-Fame-level strength wasn’t even enough to negate the liability of his weakness: free-throw shooting. Opponents in the NBA exploited this to no end with the advent of a strategy named after O’Neal called “Hack-a-Shaq”. Intentionally fouling Shaq late in the game would force him to the free throw line, where he averaged just 52%. This weakness, when exposed, turned one of the best players in history into a liability when the consequences were highest. 

If you were a teammate with Shaq, would you rather he spend his extra practice time dunking or shooting free throws? I know my answer.

While you’re likely not toeing the hardwood in the NBA, this example speaks truth into how you can maximize your performance. Sure, have and develop strengths, but be most curious about your weaknesses. If you can’t think of your equivalent to Shaq’s free throws, you’ve likely done a lot of work to pretend it’s not there. On behalf of your family, friends, and co-workers, we desperately need you to practice your free throws.. whatever they are for you.


Logan Gelbrich 


2/3/20 WOD

Find a 5RM Front Squat



Minute 1: 5 Box Jumps (AHAP)

Minute 2: 5 Single Leg RDLs (each)

Minute 3: 50′ Sled Push (AHAP)