Practical genius is your jillion-dollar personal portfolio of brilliance. It’s the secret code within you that only you can crack. But once you do, the possibilities are endless.
Contrary to the traditional beliefs around genius, practical genius is based on the truth that each of us possesses genius deep inside, and it’s just waiting to be activated and set in motion. You are capable of exceptional accomplishments in your work, in your community, and with your family and friends. That means you are the genius, not operating in the lofty, exclusive heights of science or culture, but right here, right now.
That’s what practical genius is all about: identifying and leveraging both the soft and hard unique personal assets each of us possesses. Of course, it’s also about using those assets to open doors, attract opportunity, leverage personal power, and succeed beyond your wildest dreams.
Here’s how it works:
Identify your genius. This means consciously acknowledging and taking active responsibility for your unique strengths, skills, expertise, passions, creativity and values. (Hint: the intersection of both these quantitative and qualitative characteristics is where your practical genius lies.) It requires a particular kind of self-assessment, a series of reflective exercises that enable you to identify the genius ingredients that you possess. This extraction phase of work represents your very own genius full-body scan. I promise it won’t hurt.
Express your genius. The greatest challenge for most people—which is rarely addressed in leadership models—is visibility. If you are not actively, purposefully sharing your unique narrative with the world, you’re compromising your personal and professional impact. This is all about your story and how you share it. Think of this as a long-overdue opportunity to the real story.
Expressing your genius is about turning that sweet spot where your hard and soft assets meet into the story you tell others. A person without a story is invisible. It’s in this context that I ask you to consider a range of aspects of your expression including your narrative, your themes, your vocabulary, and your visuals. Expressing genius is about not leaving any side of yourself out of the game. It all matters. Enough with the same narratives; here we push the boundaries and begin to tell new provocative, daring, inspiring stories about who you are and why you matter.
Surround yourself with genius. You are who you walk with. Raise the bar and build your network with others who are living purposeful, inspired lives. This is about reaching out in a non-transactional way and cultivating meaningful, deeply valuable relationships. Raise your expectations, elevate your standards and surround yourself with those who are a positive reflection of your genius.
We have many kinds of relationships in our lives, and who we spend our time with is critical to improving and building upon our goals and experiences. From a genius perspective, there are the kinds of relationships we should be cultivating every day—our Yodas (mentors), our Ambassadors (the cheerleaders), our “fat brains” (smart young people), and a Tribe (our crew). Once you have identified who is on your wish list for each of these types of relationships, I walk you through a simple process that has opened many a door in my own life. These are the rules of engagement and a blueprint for building the genius relationships you want to have.
Sustain your genius. Living your practical genius requires rededicating yourself every day to its mastery. This means cultivating a constant focus on committing to a practice that naturally suits your genius. And as with any successful behavioral model, it requires applying measurements and personal accountability. Broken down into practical terms, this step offers you new daily routines that will keep you healthy, productive and prosperous. It’s one thing to decide to reach for greatness but it’s something else entirely to sustain it. What it boils down to is resilience, staying focused on growth, and holding yourself accountable to your own genius. This means making the right choices for your body and mind, keeping your professional and personal lives deeply connected in order to enjoy and reap the benefits of a life lived within a genius zone.
In some ways, this work is the most important; without constant sustenance, we fall back upon bad habits. Sustaining genius involves a range of factors, from incorporating brain food into your diet, to exercises that work your creative muscles, to establishing rituals that stimulate your intuition. You’ll even create a mantra to help hold you accountable to your daily genius life. Sustaining real smarts takes discipline and commitment. I never said it would be easy.
Market your genius. This is where the game really changes. When you project and broadcast your genius consistently, with clear purpose and passion, your personal and professional dynamic shifts into crazy growth mode. This phase of work is dedicated to leveraging what is distinct and original about your genius to attract, engage, and grow your natural audience. When you are living and working at the intersection of all your assets, you’re marketing your genius on all frequencies.
It’s rare when someone can promise you that what they are going to teach you will make you a better person. But that is what I am promising you. I am turning on all the lights, opening the doors and windows, and clearing out the closets to set you on the path to the transformation of your life. When I decided to live my practical genius, I remember feeling guilty about how much fun I was having. “Work is never fun, Gina. There’s probably something wrong with this,” I told myself. This was just the de-genius devil on my shoulder, trying to throw me off my destiny. Instead of internalizing these devilishly false truths, I learned to shut them up and embrace a more natural, exciting, and truly pleasurable approach towards life. My mother used to say, “Everything that is natural is good for you.” Working from a place of obligation and routine for a paycheck is not natural. Working for joy, innovation and autonomy is.
That’s it for the practical genius foreplay. It’s time to get your genius on.
Gina is the President of Genuine Insights Inc. — a contemporary professional development and training practice whose mission is to leverage the genius within every individual and organization. Gina spoke on the subject of genius at the 2010 TED Global conference at Oxford University and is the author of PRACTICAL GENIUS: The Real Smarts You Need to Get Your Passions and Talents Working for You which is published by Touchstone/Simon & Schuster and IN STORES October 11, 2011. For more information visit www.PracticalGenius.com.