Genius is nothing more nor less than childhood recaptured at will.
When it comes to the idea of the Young Genius, it can be easy to dismiss as an ethereal, intangible idea. But the most influential and the most fulfilled people somehow do, ultimately, let this force of character, this young genius as it were, lead them—whether they’re aware of it or not.
So what if instead of dismissing the idea, we use the idea of the Young Genius as a tool that can help you to show up, and bring your best efforts to bear.
“Genius” is the best word I can find to describe your unique creative DNA, your signature business artist identity. Your best self.
It’s the way you distinctly create, captivate, relate, and make people’s lives better.
This is not navel-gazing. This is fundamental self-aware smarts for the founder of any venture, solo or collective, non-profit or for-profit.
Remember a time when your nine-year-old boy or girl self created. How did they create distinctly? How did they relate distinctly? The patterns are there.
After a decade or two of being an adult, you garner enough experience, data, and reflection to recognize patterns in how you distinctly operate in the world.
Self-knowledge informs craft knowledge. You have talents, andin this one life, you’re tasked to own them and hone them through skill-building and making. Your message can take shape and be dispensed through different media.
Know Yourself & Knowing Yourself In The World
Finding yourself and yourself within the world is something which can be a challenge, regardless of your experience or expertise. Take, for example, Temple Grandin.
After Grandin’s memoir Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism came out, her public profile was on the ascendancy, and she was asked to speak on autism and then on animal behavior. She made elaborate, logical slides and prepared her notes. She followed those notes and explained her logically laid out slides.
The evaluations of her talks shocked her.
Audience members commented that she appeared aloof. She made no eye contact. She seemed mechanical as if she were delivering the same talk from rote.
Bear in mind that all this happened after she had been declared one of TIME magazine’s 100 influential people of 2010.
That feedback might crush some of us and confirm some notion that we’re just not good speakers. Or if you’re reading this and you’ve spoken before audiences, you might nod and say, “Yep. Temple just needed to be herself.”
But both responses – “I’m just not a good speaker” or “Just be yourself” – miss the mark.
Instead, it might be more helpful to see how the world sees you.
With increased self-knowledge (“I am perceived as aloof and mechanical”) and craft knowledge (“Effective presentations are delivered by people who engage their audience and appear more spontaneous”), Grandin could let her genius perceptions of animal behavior and her unique way of seeing the world be better received.
Think like a scientist and create like an artist.
Your genius might need many media.
Everything we create, whether on a canvas or product, a book or business, a service or design becomes a vehicle for us to hone and refine that genius. Craft knowledge is your increased knowledge of the different forms through which your genius can emerge.
But don’t get too attached to the media.
Rather, lead with your genius. That’s a different proposition than “Just be yourself.” Instead, know how your audiences – customers, fans, readers, clients, concert goers – are drawn to you and distinctly you. Know how your genius distinctly triggers them.
Cognitive linguist George Lakoff surmised that most of us human beings are not aware of our mind’s operations. In fact, most cognitive scientists estimate that what we know as rational conscious awareness accounts for only about 5% of the mind’s operations.
The other 95% comprises the adaptive unconscious. The adaptive unconscious includes a pool of unconscious memories, image-shards from last night’s dreams, physiological operations. All of these influence our brain functioning and conscious awareness.
Your unique imprint in this life has given you a distinct character. It’s part of your role to keep remembering that imprint.
If you’re going to lead a group, influence your audience with integrity, speak out your point of view, build an influential brand, it’s useful to remember a few things and to try out a few ways to remember who you are.
1. Remember we’re all testing the waters
All of our assertions about what’s true are not only our own point of view – they are only a part of our point of view, which might change tomorrow. But approaching questions with your nine year old wonder allows you to enjoy questions you really don’t know the answers to. Invite people into your questions.
Your unique imprint has a young genius. That young genius was alive and kicking at her or his best in some moments. It’s your job to remember the best of that young genius and bring them to work for you in the present.
2. Bring your genius to bear on your business.
If you’re operating your business solely from a rational, conscious mind, guess what? You might be missing a whole 95% of potential to be effective.
Read fiction or poetry to trigger other parts of your personality and mind to bring to your daily challenges. Look at art that challenges your default way of seeing.
3. Let your mind wander into other territory.
Pay attention to when you feel alive and true. When you’re at your best, your body aches and mental blocks dissolve. For a moment. Those moments are rare for most of us, but when you do feel alive during the day, pay attention.
- What are you doing?
- What challenges are you meeting and how?
- How are you doing it?
- Who are you relating to?
- Is there a pattern here of how you’ve been at your best in the past several years – even going back to those young genius days?
Who you are is not an answer. It’s a question that propels you to do your best work for the greater good. In that work, you discover more.
4. Cultivate Your Young Genius, Cultivating Wonder
For more inspiration, and a deep dive into cultivating your Young Genius at work, don’t forget to listen to Episode 6 of the Tracking Wonder Podcast.
The halfway point of our first season, I talk to our previous guests about how their Young Genius has impacted the course of their professional lives – in ways that are full of wonder and surprise.
Wonder isn’t child’s play. This is radical, grown-up stuff.