Taking the Big Leap: How to Execute Life in Your Genius Zone
What is your genius?
You see, I believe there is genius in every person.
Sometimes when I make that statement, people nod absentmindedly, seeming to wonder, What kind of woo-woo idea is she espousing? There’s only one Einstein!
But even Einstein shared this view. He said,
I believe the key its discovery is to leave margin for the genius within to be excavated.
This “idea” didn’t just sound good or come to me out of the blue. I’ve been cultivating this principle for more than two decades.
When I began my career as an educator, my first teaching position was in a small private school in Brooklyn. The Director was a dynamic, risk-taker from Oregon, who raised and kept the bar high on student achievement. I experienced levels of teaching and learning that at that time was unheard of at a boutique school.
The Director gave us a curricular framework but encouraged us to be creative, to push former limits, and to try new things. She gave me room to explore my natural proclivities and to incorporate them into my teaching practice. I, in turn, did the same for my students, adjusting my practice to their interests and giftings. The results were staggering, judging by traditional testing standards and by the depth of knowledge presented by the students. Graduates went on to attend the best independent schools in New York City.
I recall learning more about my professional practice in my seven years in that environment than I did in my graduate school classrooms. In that place, my philosophy of education and of the genius within each of us took root.
It is with this backdrop that I introduce this month’s book review.
Now, this book was not even on my book list. I heard about it in passing and had to pick it up. It is The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks, a Stanford psychologist. And as I read the text, I felt like Hendricks, with his genius talk, was in my head…literally!
First, let me admit something to y’all right up front...While I love to encourage and support others, help them push passed their fears to experience their personal and professional breakthroughs, I’m confronted with fears that try to stifle my growth like everyone else. One of the strategies that I use to combat these fears is by having a daily practice of prayer, stillness, and gratitude. I’m intentional about weeding out the voices and thoughts of discouragement that plague me when I’m overwhelmed. And you know how it goes with weeding; it must be done DAILY.
Can you say, WEARY? That’s what it feels like sometimes…
While I have my daily practice going (most days), the “big leaps” into my genius flow sometimes still evade me. Hendricks addresses this phenomenon. He calls it an Upper Limit Problem. ULP, for short, is the tendency to settle for status quo. I’m not talking about mediocrity. It’s easy to recognize when we’re functioning beneath ourselves. However, It is excellence that Hendricks identifies as the enemy to genius.
As long as I am operating in my “zone of excellence” then I won’t pursue my “zone of genius.” It is in the latter zone that I can experience exponential growth and transformation in my relationships, work, etc., according to the author.
I define genius as the intersection of passion and purpose. Hendricks refers to it as the set of activities that are uniquely suited for you, that bring deep satisfaction to your soul.
Before you can take a leap into your genius zone, you must first identify what is your unique gifting. This is not something that a StrengthsFinder or DISC profile can pinpoint. Genius discovery requires patience and perseverance. Self-reflection is key. Given our overburdened lives, it’s easy to see why many don’t commit the time to consistently pursue this.
Hendricks offers a concise approach to self-discovery that you may find helpful. Like a set of Russian dolls, the author teaches that our genius is hidden within skills we already have in play. As we peel back the layers of a skill set, genius is revealed at the core.
For me, I’ve always loved solving problems. As a child, I loved math and computer programming. (The by-product of being a child of a computer programmer...you learn it early.) I also enjoyed unraveling the intricacies of relational issues, which I explored through books and movies. The more involved the issue, the better.
How does that play out in my world? I’m great at planning and executing projects with multiple moving parts. When I peel back that skill layer, I recognize that I tend to respond to chaos with stillness. I take a few moments to ruminate on aspects of the problem before deducing and suggesting solutions.
Peel back again.
I listen intentionally and tend to hear the unspoken words. (Sort of like reading between the lines but with the heart. LOL) But I’ve always been that way. As a child, I picked up on nuances and could weave answers from the threads of conversation that were spoken around me. Bingo…that’s part of my genius, my natural gifting. A hard gift to have as a child in the era of "children should be seen, not heard." 😏
So, I ask you again…what’s your genius?
Becoming clear on your genius will inspire you to take the leap to operate at another level, in the genius zone. That is what happened to me. I loved being an educator but I felt there was less of my genius being exercised in the classroom. For a multi-passionate person with a heart to see others succeed, remaining in that place felt like a prison sentence.
The mind expanded by a new idea cannot return to its former dimensions. That is what happens when your genius is unearthed. It stretches and expands you; you can no longer fit in the box of excellence that worked well for you in the past.
So, what are you waiting for? Pick up Hendricks’ book. It provides a framework for achieving your true potential, both professionally and personally. Then, really live your BEST life, expressing your unique gifting in the world.
Until next time…