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February 20, 2019

Living in Your Genius: The First Question You Need to Ask


It’s possible that of all we’ve  written and said about the 15 commitments, no commitment gets more interest than commitment #8, living in your zone of genius.. When people hear that they (and everyone else) may have a zone of genius—beyond the zones of excellence, competence and incompetence— and that they can live and work from this place, they want to know more. More to the point, they want to know what their zone of genius is.

If you’re asking yourself this question, the good news is that we’ve got resources for you. We feature two practices in our book and in the resources section of our website—Genius Campaign and Best Stuff Exercise—to support you to explore your zone of genius. We also recommend going to source of the zone of genius body of work: Gay Hendrick’s books The Big Leap and The Joy of Genius.

That’s the good news. Now, here’s the bad news:


Unless you’re willing to live in your genius you’ll never fully discover your genius.


Willingness is almost always the issue from our perspective. We often say, “You don’t get to see the movie until you buy the ticket.” You might get a glimpse, a preview, but not the whole movie. Buying the ticket is committing.

Committing looks like this: Start by saying to yourself out loud, “I commit to live in my genius, doing what I most love to do and expanding in joy and creativity.” Say it aloud over and over and after you say the sentence, get still and notice what comes up for you. What thoughts, images, words, sounds, feelings and body sensations arise? You’re using the simple sentence and the word “commit” to prime the pump, to bring up any resistance, conscious or unconscious, that you have to living in your genius.

If you’re like most people you’ll discover that underneath your desire to know your genius is some unwillingness to live in your genius. This unwillingness will manifest in several ways. First, you’ll notice some beliefs. You’ll say the sentence out loud and you’ll notice a belief like:

  • Seriously?! No one can really do this …. do what they most love to do and expand in joy and creativity.
  • If I lived like this I’d starve. I need to make a living. No thanks.
  • I’d set myself up for criticism and rejection. People would mock me, “Who do you think you are up there on your high horse?”
  • If I lived in my genius doing what I love I’d have so much success that I’d be overwhelmed with responsibility. Again, no thanks.

Or you’ll say the sentence out loud and an image, picture, video will play in your mind:

  • You’ll see your mother or father telling you not to be too big for your britches after you were filled with joy when you accomplished something as a child.
  • You’ll hear your grandmother saying, “Your grandfather worked hard every day of his life, going to a job he hated to support his family. That’s what real men do.”
  • You’ll imagine the scene where you tell your boss you're going to work part time in order to have more time for teaching and you’ll terrify yourself when you think of her response.

All this is perfect. The process allows your unwillingness to surface. The thought of living in your genius is usually attractive. The act of committing to live in your genius, expand in joy and express creativity is an act of courage. It involves fully facing your beliefs and stories and the people in your life with whom you codependently collude to live sub-optimized lives. If you winced while reading that last sentence, you’re  likely face to face with an unconscious commitment. Good to know.

We suggest that you let yourself feel the discomfort and pain of not living in your full aliveness. Feel it fully. Don’t run from it or anesthetize it. Sit in it. This pain— along with a vision of a future possibility—is the engine that will drive you to a willingness to commit.  

Once you fully commit, you’ve bought the ticket and the movie of your magnificence is waiting to be seen.


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