The results are uniformly intriguing. They tend to reinforce what people already know about themselves, while revealing here to foremisperceived talents. For instance, I wasn't surprised to find Analytical, Intellection, and Learner on my list. Being able to sort through masses of data, think about things, and learn new topics quickly are essential skills for a freelance writer. But Input, the theme of curiosity, was a revelation.

Unlike, say, astrological signs or Jung's either-or types, strengths don't have opposites. The Gallup strengths are described in terms that are broad enough to encompass a large number of people, but fine enough that you will be able to recognize when one applies to you and when it doesn't. As an aside, there are 32 million possible combinations of the themes, enough to make it a virtual certainty that you will never meet anyone with your same combination.

Making It Work

So what do you do with the Strengths Finder survey findings? First, you talk about them. Any discussion of strengths is likely to include a request to reveal your own, followed by a discussion of what this could mean in the context of the strengths of the person you are talking with.

But be careful. People can be finicky or even protective about their themes. When Buckingham said, after learning about my five, "Those are all mind candy," I was taken aback. Mind candy? That means you think a lot about things, was Buckingham's essential explanation.

So should I give up weightlifting and basketball to concentrate on chess and philosophy, two things for which I have little taste? Not at all, Professor Stone would argue. One of the issues of the strengths philosophy, in his view, is that it seems to recommend that you opt for all-out excellence in any activity for which you show a talent. Stone advises striving instead for a level at which you are comfortable, but challenged and engaged in your areas of strength.

Besides, turning a talent into a strength is not easy. Each one can require years of study, work, and behavior modification to become a strength. Maxing out all five of your signature themes could require a lifetime.