How to See Beyond Your Strengths and Uncover Your Deep Genius
Working from your strengths is a proven way to be more productive, focused, and successful at work. When you’re producing from a place of ease and flow, work doesn’t feel like work. You feel energized rather than drained and, according to Gallup Inc, will be more engaged in your job.
Assessments and personality inventories help see into strengths that help us do our jobs well and be more productive. Having a clear view of what traits a person holds- such as the ability to execute, keen interpersonal skills, ease at influencing others, and strategic thinking- makes sure that talent is utilized. However, after several years of working with people’s strengths in a variety of settings, businesses, and workplaces, I’ve discovered another element that gives even more understanding of the value we each hold.
I call it your Deep Genius™ and the power it has to shape your thinking, leadership, and creativity is life changing.
Rocks, Sand, Water, and Your Deep Genius
The parable of the rocks in the jar is often taught as a metaphor for time management.
A teacher met her class on the first day of school. She brought out a large, wide mouthed jar and proceeded to fill it with stones.
“Is the jar full?” she asked.
The students nodded “Yes” in agreement.
She then added small pebbles that slid into the gaps between the bigger rocks.
“Is the jar full?” she asked again.
And again, the students nodded in agreement.
The teacher then poured sand into the jar, filling the tiny crevices between pebbles and rocks. She filled the jar to the very top.
“Is the jar full?” she asked.
Convinced that this would be the final display, her students agreed that yes, the jar was full.
The teacher grabbed a pitcher of water and poured water into the jar. The invisible spaces between tiny grains of sand, pebbles, and rocks were now completely taken up. The jar was full.
As a time management lesson, the message is to always do the big things first. The sand and pebbles are interpreted as unimportant tasks, the little things.
Appreciating that lesson but also curious to interpret it in other ways, I decided to look at it from a new perspective. Instead of equating rocks with importance and sand and water as distractions, let’s flip things around.
Another Perspective of the Rocks in the Jar
Here’s an alternative way to look at this story.
Suppose the big rocks are the large, obvious things people know about you and your work from first glance. The degree, the job title, the “niche”, the company you work for, your position; all the external window dressing. “Engineer” is going to communicate a different view of you than “Fashion Designer”.
Now let’s think of the pebbles as your specific strengths. These could be things you’d find on a personality inventory or an assessment. You may find traits such ability to execute, strategic thinking, being relationship based, or being a big picture thinker. Those help determine areas where you’ll do well and will apply to whatever industry you’re in.
But what about the sand and the water? In the time management analogy, those are the things that aren’t important, the little things.
Imagine that the sand and water are not little things at all, but valuable matter. This valuable matter speaks to the uniqueness of who you are and how you do things. It fills the tiny gaps with nuances and distinctiveness. It settles in and around the big rocks to show the one-of-a-kind way you bring the essence of who you are into the work you do. Think of it like a life-force that touches every aspect of you, your work, your decision making, your creativity, your focus, your productivity and the value you bring to all you do. It’s not always detectable by the big rocks of your degrees and job titles, not always caught by the strengths assessments or personality tests. But these little things touch every aspect of you, like the blood running through your veins.
The more you understand the uniqueness pulsing through you, the better you’ll be able to harness your energy, genius, and innate skills to do your best work and create at your highest level.
This is your Deep Genius™, the inner power you hold that delineates your strengths to an even finer level. It’s not only about things you demonstrate in your work, although that’s a handy place to start. Your Deep Genius™ influences how you show up in all that you do.
How Do You Find It?
The first step to understanding your Deep Genius™ is to understand yourself better. What are some of your innate strengths? What are the things you’re great at without needing to try? Think of things like the ability to show empathy, listen, take things apart, or put things in order. It can be a natural inclination to be intuitive or a keen sense of healthy skepticism. These aren’t things you learned formally, they’re things you know without knowing how you know.
What’s great about exploring innate strengths is that surprises abound at each turn. Things you take for granted can look magical through the eyes of someone else. Aspects of you that seem ordinary come across as extraordinary by another person.
One more way to look for this is to see how life defining events have shaped you. We hold dormant strengths inside us that awaken upon impact. The seeds of a redwood tree are only released from the cone after intense heat, like a forest fire. For many of us, strengths come to the surface after a challenging experience, loss, or crisis. We find out what we’re made of and what we’re capable of.
But dormant strengths aren’t always tied to pain. Strengths can come from immense joy. Events like falling in love, holding a newborn child, or accomplishing an impossible task can cause new strengths to surface. We learn things about ourselves we didn’t know we had: the ability to love deeply, to focus intensely, to endure. These lessons and revealed gifts fold into the essence of your genius and shape who you are. You carry these hidden forces in you and they come out in your interactions with others, when you’re creating, when inventing, and even your decision making.
No matter what sector or industry you’re in, the need to be in your Deep Genius™ is greater than ever. It shows the precision of your strengths and gives new insights into your own capabilities. The contributions you hold inside could be the starting points for technological breakthroughs, entrepreneurial ventures, career advancement, or leadership development.
Your untapped potential is the next great frontier
It’s time to dive into your Deep Genius™ and bring a new, updated version of your strengths into the world. Bring all of you to the surface, and own your gifts proudly. We’re waiting for your greatness to shine.