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What Is This Notion Of Genius?

In February, after a very successful 11-year career with a Financial Services firm, I made the decision to leave the corporate world as Vice-President, Learning and Development to take time-off to pursue some of my personal interests.

Over the last while, I’ve had lots of time to think, and I’ve been contemplating this notion of “genius”.  That is, within each and everyone of us lies a unique set of skills, abilities and talents that if put to good use can not only serve yourself and any organization you are associated with, but also the world at large.

So how do you find out what your genius is?  There are lots of exercises out there that can make it a fun and interesting exercise.  Here are three sources and steps that I particularly like:

1) Identify your life’s mission

In his book “The Soul of Leadership: Unlocking Your Potential for Greatness”, Deepak Chopra, world-renowned alternative medicine guru, talks about defining your lifetime vision and mission.  While having a vision and mission is not a new concept, what resonated with me was taking vision and mission beyond career, and more into the realm of vocation.  What I like about this is the idea that your mission lies behind everything you do in life, and thus in essence, your mission relates to your ultimate life’s purpose.  Also, I like the recommendation to encapsulate your mission into only a few words, and then go even one step further to crystallize it into just one word.

To share a concrete example, my lifetime mission is “to illuminate minds and engage hearts through learning”.  For me, thinking about it this way goes beyond work into a way of being.  In one word mine is ILLUMINATION.  As long as I’m doing this, I feel that my days are fulfilled with a valuable purpose.

2) Define your “Zone of Genius”

Gay Hendricks, one of the major contributors to the fields of relationship and body mind transformation puts forward four thought provoking questions to help define your genius in his book “The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level”:

What do I most love to do?  (I love it so much I can do it for long stretches of time without getting bored.)

  • What work do I do that doesn’t seem like work?  (I can do it all day long without ever feeling tired or bored.)
  • What work do I do that produces the highest ratio of abundance and satisfaction to amount of time spent?  (Even if I do ten seconds or a few minutes of it, an idea or a deeper connection may spring forth that leads to huge value.)
  • What is my unique ability?  (There’s a specialized skill I’m gifted with.  This unique ability, fully realized and put to work, can provide enormous benefits to me and any organization I serve.)

3) Describe what you are like when you are at your best

In his book “Do More Great Work: Stop the Busywork. Start the Work that Matters”, Michael Bungay Stainer, 2006 Canadian Coach of the Year and Senior Partner of Box of Crayons shares a strategy to help you define what you are like when you are at your best.  This approach leverages marketing branding concepts to describe who you are – and who you are not by using metaphors to describe your behaviours and attitudes.  For example, if you know you are at your best when you are seeking to make things better, versus accepting them as they are, you’ll have a better idea of the type work that puts you in your areas of strength.

I am increasingly intrigued by this notion of genius and what it could mean for the world of HR.  Just imagine if resumes started to show each candidate’s Zone of Genius, and the potential to match roles with people’s genius.  It certainly would have implications for organizational development and workforce planning.

I also wonder if some of the concepts I’ve shared may be indicators of future HR trends?  For example, Chopra’s book on soul leadership is based on a course he teaches at the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University and was named “One of the Best Business Books of 2011” by the Wall Street Journal.  Interestingly, he is also speaking at the Society for Human Resource Management 2012 Strategy Conference in early October on the subject of his book.

I am also excited by the prospects that the future brings in the area of defining your genius as it could be a new way to re-ignite passion, increase productivity, and inspire employees to be at their best.  I look forward to seeing how things take shape over the next few years.


  1. Hi Leena,

    A very good blog to read.

    As part of my life long learning and on-going development (both personal and professional), I keep doing a bit of soul searching every now and then to find my true mission in life. I am definitely going to use the resources mentioned in your blog. Thank you for sharing those resources.

    Also, when I look at the development, I not only look at my own development, but the development of my family and more importantly the community I live in.

    Regards, Dinesh

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