Welcome to the College Prep Confidential Podcast
Nov. 4, 2019

CPC Episode #27 - What a Gunslinging Shrimp Can Teach You About Turning Weaknesses Into Strengths

Can you really turn liabilities and shortcomings into advantages? Yes, and you'll discover how with tidbits like: The 3-step checklist to turn weaknesses into strengths The 3-part inventory to measure strengths, weaknesses, and transformations...

Can you really turn liabilities and shortcomings into advantages? Yes, and you'll discover how with tidbits like:

  • The 3-step checklist to turn weaknesses into strengths
  • The 3-part inventory to measure strengths, weaknesses, and transformations
  • Why failure is not the end, but rather a new beginning
  • Why adversity helps you get stronger

Many people stress out about shortcomings and perceived weaknesses. This week, I’ll show you how to transform these weaknesses into strengths in an episode entitled: What a Gunslinging Shrimp Can Teach You About Turning Weaknesses Into Strengths...

Deep in the Tropics, if you swim around, you'll hear a distinct snapping sound. For the swimmers, they say it sounds like the crackling of burning twigs. Except, this sound is no fire. Instead, it's brought to you by a tiny little creature, 4 cm long, weighing 25 grams. And this creature can teach you the key to turning your disadvantages into advantages. And the lessons you'll learn will improve test scores, reduce stress, and get you more financial aid.

Now most creatures with this tiny size are at a severe disadvantage. But this little pint-sized creature laughs at adversity. You see, while this little creature is small, it carries a "gun". And it's all part of evolution turning the small size into an advantage.

This tiny little crustacean has a super-power...

On the end of it's claw, you won't find pincers. In its place, you'll find a hammer-like extension called a dactyl.

The dactyl has 2 muscles, one pulls it back from the edge of it's claw, and one pulls it towards. This pulling creates tension, which gives this tiny shrimp their superpower.

When it's time, one side of the tension lets go, creating a firing mechanism, which spits out bubble bullets. The potential energy when the bubble bullet is fired causes a jet stream, which clocks in speed at over 100 km/h or 62 miles per hour.

The jet stream creates a low pressure area. Within this low pressure system, the little bubbles left behind start to expand rapidly in a process called cavitation.

The big bubble is surrounded by regular pressure water which compresses and makes the bubble implode. This implosion causes the popping sound the pistol shrimp are famous for.

Now here's what's fascinating...

When the bubble implodes, it creates a huge amount of energy, producing temperatures of hotter than 4,000 degrees celsius. For reference, the temperature of the sun is 5,500 Celsius.

The bubble gets louder than a jet engine, louder than a bullet fired out of a gun.

The shockwave from the implosion is string enough to make burrows in rocks, where some of the pistol fish hide out.

Ahhh... it gets better. It’s so loud and widespread that interferes with sonars. They create something called “acoustic screens”. The US used them to enter Japanese waters undetected during WW2.

All of this power...from a little shrimp just 4 centimeters long, and 25 grams in weight. To provide context, a paperclip is 3 centimeters long. And 25 grams is about 4 quarters. 

All by turning a disadvantage into an advantage...

And the same principle works with college prep. You see, college prep can seem overwhelming. Tests, grades, financial aid, campus visits, classes, careers, it's a lot of work. And you may feel like it's just too much, or you aren't good enough. 

Well just like the pistol shrimp, you can turn whatever disadvantage you think you have into an advantage. and I heard a great story the other day which paints a picture of turning a disadvantage into an advantage...

Once upon a time in a village in China, there was a young boy who wanted to learn wrestling. He searched for a good master who could train him to be the best. In an unfortunate accident, the boy lost his right arm. Yet, the boy was determined. He had infinite faith in his master who had been teaching the boy for about six months.

The boy’s master thought of various moves he could teach to a boy with only one hand. He finally decided on one move. The master taught the boy the same move everyday for one year. The boy was curious as to why his master was not teaching him any other moves. The master was patient and replied, ’Son, it is practice that makes a man great and it is practice that makes a man perfect. It is the duration of practice that determines your ability succeed.” The boy still was not convinced, but did not ask his master the question again.

Years later the boy signed up for a wrestling a competition. While he waited on the sidelines, he saw others practice other moves before their matches. Seeing these other wrestlers practice these special moves upset the boy. When his match came he practiced the one and only move he had learnt in the past couple of years. He fought the match with courage and to his surprise won the match with one move! Shortly thereafter, the boy won all the other matches of the tournament.

After his victory the boy asked his master why he won. The master said, ”When I saw you with only one arm, I was confused and doubtful of whether you could still continue with wrestling. It is after I saw your courage and determination that I thought of a suitable move for a boy with one arm. The move I taught you has only one reversal: to catch the right arm. This is why you won.”

Now, what does this story teach us...

We learnt from the master that:

  • We must first acknowledge that we are at a disadvantage.
  • We must NEVER give up. It is very important to list your options and list down the pros and cons
  • Remember that every disadvantage has been burdened on you for a reason , and that EVERY DISADVANTAGE HAS AN ADVANTAGE HIDDEN IN IT. It is your task to explore it.

and I'd like to extend on this list with a 3-step process I've used with students in the past..

3 steps to turn disadvantages into advantages

  1. Own your shortcomings - If you treat anything as a disadvantage or a problem, you'll subconsciously act as though it's a limiting factor. Instead, own it. As I got older, my hair started to gray. I dyed it a few times, but then one day, I got tired of doing it, so I stopped. And after a while, it gave me a few advantages. For instance, people in business trust you more with gray hair. They assume you know more. And when I changed my profile picture to gray hair with a suit, more people connected with me, even cold connections. 
  2. Reframe the problem - Sometimes, not being where everyone else is puts you right in the middle of where the action is. For instance being small for the pistol fish puts them out of harm's way at times, since they are smaller and harder to see.
    Think of the benefits your situation gives you and next time you’re confronted with your disadvantage, put a positive spin on it. Here's a few examples:
    1. Disorganized ---> Creative
    2. Inflexible ---> Organized
    3. Stubborn ---> Dedicated
    4. Unrealistic ---> Positive
    5. Indecisive ---> Patient
    6. Impatient ---> Passionate
  3. Find a way to make your liabilities your assets. - The pistol shrimp uses small size to hide in sponges and rocks and behind other fish. it uses the bubble bullets to take down larger prey and defend itself. And we can turn liabilities into assets. If we take step 2, and turn disorganized into creative, then we say, "Yes, my study papers are all over the place because that's how I think. I jump from one subject to another. Or instead of being unrealistic, you reframe it as a positive. Which means, I'm positive I can pass this test, even if I don't follow a traditional study schedule. I don't let big expectations get me down.

Or, Let's use this checklist for somebody who considers themself lazy for studying:

  1. Start by saying, "Instead of lazy, I'm efficient." Because laziness is just lack of motivation or approach
  2. I'm efficient, therefore, I'll find ways which are simple, fast, or both.
  3. Because I'm efficient, I'll find ways to study quickly. Or, I'll find a mechanism like flash cards to get me started.

Much of anything in life, business, exams, college prep, relies heavily on your mental game. It's the stories you tell in your mind, and the way you see yourself which makes the difference. And it all starts with accepting yourself. Until you accept yourself, you'll always be beating yourself up about shortcomings and faults. 

Instead, start with an inventory. What you're good at. What you struggle with. And perceived shortcomings. Then take the shortcomings, and run them through the 3 step process of own it, reframe it, make it work. And see if this helps you change your mindset and your self-image.

And remember, if you reframe a disadvantage as motivation, you can use it to your advantage. We've talked in prior episodes about failure is not the end. It's feedback, and future performance can be adjusted based on the feedback you get when you make mistakes.

There’s a great part in the movie Gattaca where Vincent (a genetic invalid) and his brother Anton (a genetic valid) set out to prove to each other who is superior by seeing who has enough energy to swim farthest out to the sea. Vincent not only beats out his genetically-superior brother, but also saves Anton from drowning. When Anton asks him how he did it, Vincent replies, “I never saved anything for the swim back.”

There's another method for turning your weaknesses into strengths... Getting an expert coach or advisor. They help you see the things in you which you can't always see. and many times, they can figure out how to remedy your weakness or make it a strength.

Whether it's exams, financial aid, or general college prep help, we have resources to help you out. Check out cpcshow.com to learn more. That's c-p-c-show.com. Thanks for listening, and I'll see you next week.