The New Year, a Fresh Start: How to Tap into Your Strengths For Real Change

For many Jews, the High Holidays are a time of introspection followed by a desire to improve. It’s our time for introspection as well as a new year, so sentiments are similar to anyone’s “new beginnings.” We’ve acknowledged our human frailties, the many times we went astray: now what? Where do we start? It can seem overwhelming. It can also leave us anxious: what if I commit to some change, and fail (like I did last year)? Better not to try at all?

Don’t despair. There’s a strategy for change and improvement that may give you confidence:

Use a strength to address a shortcoming.
Here’s an example:

Charlie Gilchrist was a competent, bright, driven man. First in his Harvard Law School class, he got into politics and became County Executive for Montgomery County, MD. He came across as totally work oriented, direct, in a hurry, a no-nonsense guy. Political observers expected him to become Maryland’s governor.

One day he called his Director of Human Resources, Chuck Short. Chuck’s wife had just given birth to a child who was born blind, with life threatening conditions. He asked Chuck how his baby was doing. Chuck replied, “OK, his blood work looked good today, we’re praying for him … What can I do for you, Charlie?”

“Nothing,” Charlie said. “You can’t do anything for me Chuck. I was really concerned about your little boy and just wanted to know how he was doing.”

That call had a powerful impact on Chuck Short, one that lasted for decades. When Gilchrist asked about his struggling infant, he was sincere. They talked a while; Charlie, wasn’t in his usual fast-paced business mode. Gilchrist was using one of his strengths – he was a good listener—to deal with one of his weaknesses, that he didn’t seem concerned about his staff.

Chuck Short learned from that interaction. He started calling or sending a short note to a staff member every day, asking about a work or personal matter. Decades later, Short recalled, “it’s amazing how many people mentioned that note or call I’d made. It really impacted them.”

What strengths do you have that can help you improve on a weakness?


2 comments on “The New Year, a Fresh Start: How to Tap into Your Strengths For Real Change

  1. Susan Werbe says:

    Hi. Thanks for this. 

    Did Josh, Jillian and Zoe move to DC yet?  How’s Zoe doing?


    div dir=”ltr”>


    blockquote type=”cite”>

  2. Chuck Short says:

    Dear Russ, Thanks so much for sending me this and other columns.  Your ideas and values have been inspiring me for years.  In this case, I am reminded of my many transformative experiences with former boss, Charlie Gilchrist.  I was blessed by his presence in my life, as I am blessed by your presence as well. After my first of two retirements, several more to follow, i went to work ” half time and for about a year” as Special Assistant to MC County Executive Ike Leggett.  The power of his commitment to good kept me around for 50 hours a week for three terms (12 years!). How blessed can one person be during a working career!  I’ll share briefly one of the blessings of working with Ike. Very soon after we took office in 2006, Ike came to my office and told me he was planning an economic development trip to Israel.  He asked me to join him.  Wow!  My travel during my first 30 years with MOCO government usually involved trips to Baltimore or Gaithersburg.  Occasionally to a major US city.  Now Israel. Ike, his wife and arrived in Tel Aviv and then Jerusalem in October of 2007.  As a devout Christian, I was inspired to walk literally in the footsteps of Jesus. But the greatest blessing of my trip was our Jewish guide, Dov.  And this is the most important part of this story.  I was raised for 60 years with a very western Christian perception of the Holy Land.  A totally Christian slant on what I learned is a area espoused by Christian, Jews and Muslims. Unlike most Christian tours of the Holy Land which focused exclusively of the Christian perspective, our days with Dov opened an entirely new vision of this important area of the world.  Dov discussed the usual Christian sites, but always added the role of Jews and Muslims at these sites. I was deeply inspired to learn so much.  For example, in entering the the Last Supper room filled with Christian pilgrims, we passed though the lower room filled with Rabbis honoring an historic location associated with David. Most holy places in the Holy Land are contested by Christians, Jews and Muslims. My takeaway from this international trip was a new and profound understanding of aspects of human confliect.  These are basic barriers to collaboration at every level of human endeavor.  Overcoming these barriers requires a long journey with a wise guide.  I’m blessed to have had a boss who was wise enough to see this and a tour guide who understood it. Blessings to you in your continuing good work.

    Warmest regards,

    Chuck Kindness Today


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s