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April 18, 2017

Following Your Genius: How Easy Can It Be?

Your zone of genius: it’s that thing you do better than almost anyone; it seems almost effortless and yet you are creating value for yourself and others; above all, you feel fulfilled and joyful while you’re doing it.

For years as I fought and clawed my way through yet another day, this seemed like a nice but unrealistic goal at best, and New Age hokum at worst. Don’t get me wrong, I was very successful: I won prizes, earned promotions, and made a ton of money for myself and my company. I was operating squarely in my zone of excellence, and it was unsustainable.

So when I started to get serious about genius — turns out it wasn’t in my job description — it was clear some changes were in order.

The eighth commitment of conscious leaders is to live in their zone of genius and support others to do the same (versus holding ourselves and others back and not allowing full potential to blossom.)

Welcome to My Self-Made Prison

Once I saw that I was the one holding myself back from some bigger expression in the world — that it wasn’t the job or the (allegedly) short-sighted boss or the industry I worked in — I chose to drop the blaming and look at all the ways I was limiting myself. It was a long list; here are some highlights:

  • my attachment to money and prestige kept me holding onto a job I no longer loved
  • my fear of change kept me in stale and uninteresting relationships (including with my wife)
  • my belief that working hard was a necessity for success
  • my life-long pattern of feeling like an unworthy imposter
  • my addiction to adrenalin that freighted every decision, problem and possibility with drama and discord
  • My sadness accompanying my belief that I would abandon or even betray my colleagues if I left to do something more fulfilling

You’re probably thinking “Why in the world would anyone want to live like that?” That would be like asking “Why would a fish want to live in the water?” It was the only world I knew. I lived my limitation every day because it was comfortable and safe.

A Slow Unwinding

Fortunately my long-time employer laid me off. With that excuse removed, I had to face the fact that I was the source of my own limitation and ask whether I was ready to move toward my genius. My answer was a tentative and halting “Yes.”

That began a years-long process of unwinding those self-limiting stories. The toughest challenge I’ve had to face is allowing things to be easy and pleasurable. (One of the ways we know we are working in our genius is that we are creating value with ease and joy; we are in a state of flow.)

The Discomfort of Ease

So rather than doing things the hard way – setting big goals, aiming for a big payoff, stressing about money, doing it by myself—(all the ways I used to do things)—I’ve looked for the open doors, asked myself what I really want to do in each moment, allowed myself to try things and fail, and generally followed the easy, pleasurable route. It’s been wonderful and excruciating at the same time to break out of ingrained habits and open up to ease and flow.

That's how I find myself writing this in a beautiful home a few blocks from the ocean, sitting across from my beloved wife of 30 years, with joyful aliveness pulsing through my body. It’s not at all how I imagined I would be living – I have less income, less prestige and fewer possessions — and it’s also far richer than the way I used to live.

Want to Get Started?

Here are a few questions to begin exploring your own path to genius:

  • What are you willing to let go of doing, being, or thinking about in order to spend more time in your zone of genius?
  • What does easy look like for you?
  • What is that first small but daring step toward your genius?
  • Are you willing to take that step? If not now, then when?

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