I am not a genius, per say. But in a way, I am. So are you. Genius has been defined as one who has a level of talent or intelligence that is very rare or remarkable. And without knowing you, here’s what I know about you.
You are rare and you are remarkable.
Your particular story and experiences make you rare and remarkable. You are a genius. You are the only expert the world has ever known when it comes to your ideas, world views, and concepts of life, love, faith, God, etc. because no one has ever lived your life. Only you.
And so, you have a gift to share with the rest of us. It is the rare and remarkable gift of your one-of-a-kind genius. We often get bogged down by our unrelenting tendency to compare. But comparisons are built on the genius of others and they stifle the genius inside of us. If Van Gogh tried to paint a better version of what others were painting, he would never have become Van Gogh. If Einstein had tried to simply improve on what others had already theorized, he would never have become Einstein. If The Edge had tried playing guitar just like everyone he’d heard before, he would never have become The Edge [and U2 might've ended up sounding like REO Speedwagon. Or not.]
So here are four practices that have helped me tap into my unique genius and unleash it on the world. This isn’t to say that I actually have anything profound to say or that I’m smarter or better or more talented than anyone else. Quite the contrary. What I mean is that these practices have helped me find my one-of-a-kind voice. And steadily over time, they’ve helped me build confidence in that voice; to believe that it means something, that it’s necessary, that it is my gift to contribute to the larger human narrative unfolding all around us. These will not all be helpful to you. Take what’s useful, throw away the rest.
Ask more questions & question more answers. Einstein was fond of saying, “It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.” Questions are like the waters that carved out the Grand Canyon – they take time but if we let them flow long enough, strong, steady, and un-rushed, they carve out layers and help us reach depths untouched by convenient answers. If an answer seems worth exploring, don’t settle. Continue questioning the answer and see if there are more layers to be uncovered. You will often uncover things within you that you didn’t know were there – the stuff that makes up your particular genius.
Look for stories everywhere. Everything and everyone has a story. Your barista has a story. The coffee he poured over for you has a story. Why is he a barista? Where did these coffee beans come from? What exactly is the economic story behind a $4.50 cup of coffee? Stories are the universal language of human beings. We learn primarily from stories. This has been true since the beginning and will be true until the end. And since everything and everyone has a story, everything and everyone are opportunities for their stories and your story to collide. This often makes for exciting things in terms of unleashing your particular, genius story on the world.
Keep a log of your thoughts, ideas, questions. This is a practical one. I have a word doc on my computer called “Ideas Catalog”. Anytime I see, hear, or think of something I find even remotely interesting, I type it out and save it. I regularly go back and categorize these ideas by key words or phrases. If I’m not at my computer, I use the voice recorder on my phone and type it out later. If I see something interesting that I can’t describe, I take a picture. Make this a discipline and you will be shocked at how many interesting things you encounter throughout the day that get your heart and mind going in all sorts of directions, which in turn will often lead to some wonderfully genius things you can share with the world.
Befriend the stranger within. This one is not so practical. I find it extremely helpful to practice centering exercises. As a Christian, I pray to God. But I don’t use very many words. In fact, I usually don’t use any words at all. I sit comfortably in a quiet space, feet firmly planted on the floor, eyes closed. I breathe deeply, paying careful attention to each inhale and exhale. When a thought comes to mind, I imagine it as a helium filled ballon on a string that I am holding loosely with my thumb and index finger and I release it. The goal is to clear my head and my heart to the point that I am truly alone with only God and myself. And often, I find that my self feels like a stranger. But the more I practice centering prayer, the more I’m beginning to develop a friendship with my self, in the safe presence of a God who is watching over me. I usually start my days this way. Any time I am writing or creating any sort of content, I start this way. It relocates and positions me in the appropriate place for tapping into the deepest part of my soul where my most creative and genius self resides.