How can you find your genius? How can you find the one thing that you do better than other people and exploit it?
This is a common theme in the personal development world. It’s the concept that everyone has innate talents that lie at the core of their being. Once you determine those talents it’s your obligation to let them grow to their fullest potential.
The first time I was confronted with this idea was when I was listening to the Power of Clarity tapes by Brian Tracy. He instructed me to make a list of core strengths and find situations where I could develop them to their fullest extent. Dutifully, I got out a notepad and came up with the following list:
- Public Speaking
- Learning Languages
Although I believe Brian Tracy is one of the best voices in the field of personal development, especially when it comes to developing skills as a salesperson, I felt there was something lacking when listening to his tapes. These were all things that I felt pretty confident I was good at, but writing them down didn’t provide me with any clarity. They did nothing to excite me or spark my imagination. Nothing incited me to take any real action.
Several months later, I stumbled upon the remarkable book “Is your Genius at Work?” by Dick Richards. In his book, Richards argues that everyone not only has unique talents, but there’s a core talent, a “Genius” that’s unique to every individual. According to Richards, Our “Genius” is the one thing that we do better than anyone else on the planet. It was a bold statement, but in reading the many testimonials about how people had found their Genius and how it had helped them, I felt that I should give this book a try.
The book led me through a series of exercises which forced me to reflect deeply upon those moments in my life where I excelled. It also made me take a hard look at the areas in my life where I had failed. About halfway through the book I got a very real sense that there was an underlying “theme” that pervaded my life. There was a reason I was attracted to some things, and not attracted to others. There was a reason I got into writing, and not gardening. There was a reason why I left my job in Tokyo and decided to return back to the States.
The reason for leaving was simple: there was a deep seated feeling somewhere inside me that told me my Genius was not being exploited to its full potential, and every exercise I finished, every page I turned in this remarkable book, I got closer to understanding that feeling, to understanding my Genius.
Richards helps us focus our thinking about Genius by defining it as a gerund followed by a noun. Examples of other people’s Geniuses used in the book include “Engaging the Heart,” “Charting the Course,” and “Maximizing Opportunities.” These Geniuses weren’t predefined. They weren’t determined by choosing the best Genius among a list of options but rather they were to be named by the person doing the searching. In this way, the name for each Genius is as unique as each individual. Among the hundreds of people whom he had personally helped find the names for their Geniuses, Richards says that no two were exactly alike.
As I went through the exercises, the first name for my Genius that I felt good about was “Finding Significance.” I could see the thread of Finding Significance throughout my life. Finding Significance was the main reason I felt compelled to write certain stories and not others. It explained why I was sometimes not motivated to finish a writing a story even though on the surface it seemed funny, witty or engaging. If there was no meaning, no significance, then what was the point?
Finding Significance also explained why I was probably the best researcher at our headhunting firm. I loved coming up with new methods to find business professionals and their contact information. To me, finding people who had never met a headhunter before and exposing them to the opportunities of the job market was more meaningful to me than convincing candidates to take a job which I wasn’t sure was right for them.
Finding Significance stuck with me for about five days. It felt pretty good, but there was a nagging feeling that it wasn’t quite right. Eventually, I realized that it wasn’t enough to just find significance, I had to convey significance to other people. After some reflection, I was able to revise the name for my genius as “Delivering Significance.”
Finding my Genius: Four Months Later
The name stuck, and ever since then I’ve made sure that whatever opportunity I pursued, Delivering Significance was a core part of it. Because my Genius was “delivering” and not “creating” significance, I realized that I didn’t have to come up with the mind shattering insights by myself. All I had to do was find that which was significant, and deliver that same significance to those who most needed it. If, for example, I came across an interesting idea from a science or business blog, I could see how the significant ideas in those fields could be applied to other fields (like personal development and career creation, for example). Furthermore, I’d be able to find the best way to communicate those ideas in a way that they could be understood clearly.
No More Labels
After a while, I realized that I didn’t even have to be a writer to deliver significance. Even though I had always thought of myself as a writer and was a creative writing major in university, I didn’t necessarily need to write in order to deliver significance. The medium was not as important as the message. I could be a psychiatrist, salesman, teacher, public speaker, career coach, computer programmer–I could even teach zumba classes. I could do all these things and still deliver significance.
When got an idea for a web application, I decided to learn how to create it because it seemed an effective way to deliver significance. Because I no longer imposed a label upon myself as a writer or a blogger, but as a “deliverer of significance,” I felt more open to opportunities I might have never considered before, web application development being one of them. In university, I had no interest in programming because it seemed to be the the polar opposite of writing short stories and novels. Now, because I no longer think of myself as just a writer, I decided to start learning programming to see if I liked it or not. To my surprise, I found programming to be a very rewarding experience.
Finding my genius was partly the reason why I shut down my old website full-time-writer.com. To market myself as a knowledgeable freelance writer, I wrote articles on the nuts and bolts of writing like: “How to write an outline” and, “Examples of tone in writing.” These were articles that I wrote simply to increase traffic to my website and were hardly focused on delivering significance. As a result, I didn’t enjoy writing them very much. Now, because the articles I write are 100% focused on delivering significance, I find myself enjoying writing more. Not only that, but I find myself in the flow of writing much more often.
My work these days have been a balance between writing the articles for this blog and working on the web application. Because the web application has the highest potential to make money, I’ve been spending more time programming than writing. In a way, since both of these pursuits are linked to “delivering significance,” you could say that they’re but different aspects of the same job. I’m confident that my effort in both areas will complement each other down the line.
I’ve read many personal development books that had exciting ideas that I eventually forgot about or failed to implement. As you can see, “Is Your Genius at Work?” is a rare exception. I highly recommend Dick Richard’s book for anyone who feels a need for direction in their life. It certainly has helped me. Richard’s own Genius, by the way, is “Creating Clarity,” and considering how good of a job he did to create clarity for me, I firmly believe that to be the case.