Life is about playing the right string

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Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid” - A. Einstein

Story

I spent most of my childhood swinging between being a complete loser and a part-time hero. Depending on the mood, I was heavily enthusiastic and positive about the future and myself or at the other extreme letting events confirm I was a total loser and that life will be tough and boring. With hindsight I observed this trend repeatedly during the course of my life at: school, university and work…

I’ve also had the opportunity to interact with geniuses that behaved dumb in some situations. And as you may imagine I met people with limited brain power that looked great in a specific context. Those 2 situations were totally unexpected to me. I didn’t really know what to think.

So… I spent some time observing persons that looked particularly intelligent or dumb… and I came to a simple conclusion:

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid” — A. Einstein

What to do about it?

All of us have a specific combination of CONTEXT, ACTION and TALENT that makes us heroes. The idea is to find out in which CONTEXT we are most valued, while doing what (ACTION) and what specific TALENT we seem to have monopoly over.

Seeking the answer is like looking for a tiny string in a large desert!

And here is what it means:

  1. The desert being disproportionately larger than the string, statistically you have more chances of spending your life in the desert (i.e. outside of your “shine zone”).
  2. To find each string (what makes you shine) you need to go through the desert (what makes look bad). Going through the desert means trying new things.
  3. You need to develop the ability to find strings in the middle of nowhere i.e. observe yourself to detect the things you’re best at.
  4. Finding one string makes you shine, two strings makes you a star and three (context, action, talent) makes you a super star!

So the key question becomes how do I observe myself? Here is a quick survival guide:

  1. Find out what you are (a fish?) but also what kind of fish; able to dive deep, long distance traveller, sprinter or watercourse climber? Finding who you are requires acuity and sharpness. A fish is not any fish. The key question is “what are my talents and strengths?
  2. Try new stuff, record how it went and decide whether to carry on or not based on “positive experiences”. Positive experiences do not always mean success. It may also mean one of the below:
  • Vertical learning curve
  • Positive emotional state despite failure
  • Feeling of thrive
  • Willingness to give another try when everybody else leaves
  • Accurate creativity / problem solving
  • Inventing things that already exist. This happened to me times and times again. It’s a very positive sign! It means you are in the right business/field. If you invent stuff only to discover later that it already exists it means that someday you will invent stuff that doesn’t exist yet. So carry on!

3. Now that you found the WHAT you need to look for the HOW? WHAT being the business/field and HOW being the executional details of it.

To understand how this quest works let me share my experience on that one. Being younger I had friends attesting how good a teacher I could be. According to them I was good at simplifying things and passing on the message. Although I quite agreed with them, there was a doubt somewhere in the back of my mind. So I kept observing (myself). When I joined the corporate world, “teaching” became “training” and I said to myself “that’s what I was looking for!”. Thereafter I discovered a penchant for coaching. Later I thought it wasn’t really coaching but rather “motivational speaking” to finally end up with “personal development”. My thing is to see the spark in the eyes of people when they discover new stuff about themselves.

See how this looks like a discovery process driven by new experiences and comparing them to criteria stated above (point 2). Here are few more tips from an expert: How to Read the 3 Signs Telling You Your Purpose in Life.

So give it a try, find your Chord (3 strings). If you think you are doing just fine share this perspective with others. Because there are many fishes out there trying to climb trees and thinking they are stupid.

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