This is Marcus Buckingham's third foray into the key characteristics of great managers and great leaders. Based on research conducted during the 17 years he was with The Gallup Organization, Buckingham includes insights gleaned from hundreds of in-depth interviews with individuals at every level of a business organization, from shelf-stockers at Walgreen's to the CEOs of major corporations. The book has three main sections: Part One examines great managing; Part Two, great leading. This excerpt is from Part Three: The One Thing You Need to Know About Sustained Personal Success. (Additional reference materials related to the book's subject matter are available at www.marcus

“Discover What You Don't Like Doing and Stop Doing It.” Your strengths … are not only activities for which you have some natural talent; they are also activities that strengthen you … they are self-reinforcing. Left to their own devices, they will, they must, be expressed.

What makes sustained success so elusive is that, unfortunately, your strengths are rarely left to their own devices. After you have employed your strengths and achieved some initial success, other people — often well-meaning people … who are unaware of your strengths — insist on offering you new opportunities, new assignments, new roles. Some of these may call upon your strengths, but many will not. The secret to sustained success lies in knowing which [opportunities] engage your strengths and which do not and in having the self-discipline to reject the latter.

If your strengths are those activities that strengthen you, your weaknesses are the opposite. They are activities that weaken you … To sustain success in life, you must recognize these weaknesses for what they are and ruthlessly eradicate them from your life. In this sense, success is less about accumulating and more about editing. The metaphor here is not building, but sculpting, in that sustained success is caused not by what you add on, but by what you have the discipline to cut away.”