DVM, BCC, PCC
Go With the Flow co-columnist Dr. Jeff Thoren is the founder of Gifted Leaders and an expert coach specializing in leadership and team development. He is one of only five veterinarians in the world to hold a credential from the International Coaching Federation.Read Articles Written by Jeff Thoren
Go With the Flow co-columnist Trey Cutler has a law practice focused exclusively on veterinary transactions and veterinary business law matters.Read Articles Written by Trey Cutler
What is the unique spark, energy or spirit that you naturally bring to your work, relationships and life when you’re at your best? If you can answer the question easily, great, you’re in tune with your genius. Your genius is your secret sauce, the unique gift or talent that sets you apart from others and makes you who you are.
What’s your secret sauce? If you’re unsure, don’t worry. Discovering it can be tricky. In this article, we’ll attempt to make a case for the importance of genius and provide you with a road map for the discovery process.
For starters, don’t confuse genius with your accomplishments or achievements. It’s not about the results you achieve but rather your approach to getting there.
So, what is genius, and why is it important? Dick Richards, a coach and consultant who led the movement of bringing spirit to the work environment, says:
- The key to feeling satisfied in your daily work and making your best possible contribution lies with your genius, the energy and spirit you alone can bring to your work.
- Each of us has a unique genius. Yours can be thought of in a practical way: as the exceptional power that comes most naturally to you, as the process in which you engage so spontaneously and easily that you do not notice it, and as the business you are in as a person.
- Your genius is your divine spark, the essence of how you best express yourself. It’s a gift to you and your gift to others. You are responsible for it and to it. It shows up, seeking expression, in everything you do. It is not your calling but a power given to you to fulfill your calling.
Reflecting on those words, we offer these thoughts:
- Jeff: “After reading Dick Richard’s article years ago, I realized that while I had a pretty clear picture of my calling, I hadn’t given as much thought to the unique spark or energy that I alone bring to my work and life in general. It became clear that my genius centers around the lightheartedness, playfulness and fun I interject into any situation or interaction when I’m at my best. In keeping with Richard’s recommendation to name my genius, I arrived at ‘Lightening Things Up.’”
- Trey: “I wish I were as fun as Jeff, but alas, I have a different fate. My genius is in ‘Calming the Waters,’ to put a name on it. Helping family, friends, colleagues and myself find a centered, more positive place, particularly in the face of a challenging situation, has always come naturally to me.”
Our Natural Genius
Unfortunately, expressing our genius is often an innocent casualty of society’s tendency — and often our workplace’s tendency — to train us away from our natural-born creativity.
In Chapter 1 of his classic book “Orbiting the Giant Hairball,” Gordon MacKenzie contended that:
- From cradle to grave, the pressure is on to be normal (conforming to an accepted model, pattern or standard).
- Creativity and genius have not so much to do with being normal as being original.
- Our creative genius is the fountainhead of originality.
- We must override our herd longing for security through sameness and seek the help of our natural genius.”
If you are anxious or dissatisfied and wish for a change in your personal or professional life, you might not be in a place where your genius, with its intrinsic capacity that makes work easy, is active. When you feel overwhelmed or under intense external pressure, expressing your genius will be difficult. However, when your inner genius aligns with your actions, you’ll feel more joyful and energetic.
A Discovery Road Map
A constant theme in our column (thus the name “Go With the Flow”) is the benefits of being in “flow,” a term coined by the late Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, though you might refer to it as being “in the zone.” When you are in the zone, you are absorbed in an activity for its own sake, and you focus your energy and use your skills to the utmost. There is a freedom to express, to just “be,” without the fear of any external or internal pressure or judgment. In this space, you are likely expressing genius, the natural talents or gifts you possess.
With that in mind, here’s a four-step process to help you uncover your inner genius:
1. Recall your “in the zone” experiences.
- Think about the times you were in the zone, when you were intellectually fired up and immersed in what you were doing.
- Consider each decade of your life and write down as many “zones” as possible.
2. Analyze those moments.
- For each experience, consider these questions: “What specifically were you doing?” and, more importantly, “Who were you being in that moment?” and “What unique spark, energy or spirit do you see showing up?”
- Then, considering all the experiences, answer these questions: “What do you see as the common thread between all of them?” and, more specifically, “What is the genius being expressed?”
3. Name It.
- Once you’ve identified your genius, naming it is important. Try coming up with a two- to three-word label.
- Sit with it for a while and see if it resonates with you and sticks. It needs to feel true for you and be fun to share. You want it to perfectly describe who you are at your best.
4. Use It.
- Use your genius proactively. According to author Laura Garnett, it’s an invaluable tool for reminding you of what you’re amazing at and, more importantly, for educating others. It comes in handy when working in teams, looking for a new job, networking and telling people what you do and how you naturally contribute when you’re at your best.
Apple’s late co-founder, Steve Jobs, once said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” We agree and suggest that one crucial way to be yourself fully is to discover your genius and put it to good use.
So, once again, what’s your “secret sauce”?