Sometimes – in fact, often – people come into my therapy practice, plop themselves down, and announce that they are a failure. What do you think my response is?

If you guessed that I do not agree with them, you are correct. But what actually changes their perspective – backed up by a lot of recent literature – is something that I also believe will transform the success of both your life and your business. Here it is:

Own your slice of the pie

Here is an example: I know someone who is severely disabled. She cannot do many things that you and I take for granted. Her slice of the pie is smaller than most people’s – her issues certainly limit some of the jobs, relationships and opportunities that other people enjoy. But she still fell in love, got married, had children, built a career, and ultimately carved out what seems like a very nice life within that zone of opportunity that is all hers.

We all have a slice of the pie of life. There are things we do well, and things that will always be a struggle for us. People who like us and people we tick off. Groups that welcome us, and groups we will probably never rate with. Etcetera. My prescription for success is to take all of this – your slice of the pie – and completely OWN it. Good and bad, strengths and weaknesses, ups and downs. Stop trying to “fix” things and just focus on building your strengths. Then, and only then, will you be successful and happy.

Let’s go back to my clients who say they are failures. I don’t say, “Oh pshaw, you are probably pretty successful.” Instead I have them take out a sheet of paper and write out the following:

I am pretty good at ______________.

I am horrible at ____________________, and probably always will be.

I could get better at ____________________ if I learned the following skills: ________________.

So given all of this, here is what I will choose_________________________.

Let’s take my own consulting practice where I speak, write, and train for people. Teaching people how to handle difficult situations? I am all over that – several books and hundreds of speaking gigs. Teaching people how to be good senior executives? I did in fact write a leadership book once (2002’s The Soul of an Organization), but I am probably only OK at that. Writing a speech or standup comedy for someone? You’d be much better off looking elsewhere.

So I focus on what I do really, really well: create a-ha moments for people on how to deal with each other, or help them create publishable writing.

Now let’s look at your business. Stop trying to change insurmountable weaknesses. Inventory the things you are really good at and build on them. And begin to chart a realistic path for learning and growth. Start channeling all your energies into the things you do best or can easily learn, and watch what happens.

I didn’t make this strategy up, by the way. Nowadays it often goes by the name of positive or strength-based psychology, a field that has grown to include several bestselling books and an Ivy League research center at the University of Pennsylvania. It has quickly become the bedrock of modern psychotherapy, and someday I feel it will also become the way we all do business.

In the meantime, make it your own personal competitive advantage.

Does this change how you feel about yourself in any way? What will you “own”? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.