Finding Your Genius Work

What can you do well, truly well?

I ask because, if you focus on that forté, you can discover the endeavor or vocation in life that will shower you with more benefits the more you pursue it. Your “genius work,” I call it.

We all possess individual talents and strengths. Because they enable us to do some things remarkably easily or well, we can fail to see these distinctions for the great gifts that they are.

What is it that you do so well that it strikes you as ridiculously easy, so much so, that “anyone could do it?” Chances are, not just “anyone” actually could match your performance—some qualities of yours (or some combination of them) make you uniquely empowered. These are natural signposts to your genius work, and by focusing on them, you can bring that work into being.

This is so because anything that you focus on gets bigger, whether it’s negative or positive, a weakness or a strength.

Who hasn’t seen a manager or a parent, for example, who focuses witheringly on one shortcoming of an employee or a child and goes on to find more and more to criticize? And who hasn’t noticed that the best bosses and parents resemble coaches rather than judges? They carefully observe the people in their charge not for deficiencies, but for signs of natural talent that can be cultivated and built on for future success and personal happiness.

Luckily, we can all act as our own coaches on the road to finding our genius work.

Case in point: My friend Victoria can concoct a gourmet’s delight without consulting a recipe. Then, with a single taste, she determines exactly what else to add to make the meal sublime. For example, she offers me a spoonful of her Béarnaise sauce and commands, “Taste this and tell me what’s missing.” Oh, sure and after that, I’ll teach E=mc2 at MIT! But she offhandedly says, “Oh, I know. It needs a pinch more tarragon.”

Victoria has a gift, and by focusing on it and nurturing it, she has found her genius work.

What is her great strength but the ability to analyze something, determine what’s missing and add the necessary ingredient to get the result that she wants? Victoria uses this talent to assess situations, modify them slightly and benefit tremendously as a consequence. No, she’s not an executive chef—she’s a high-earning whiz at selling office appliances, who infallibly senses and adds just the “sweetener” needed to turn a hesitant prospect into an eager buyer. And she loves making the sale.

A quick way to find your own genius work is to ask someone you respect what project they would entrust to you because it had to be done exactly right and you were “the” person to do it. In other words, for what tasks do your gifts make you the “go to” person?

Another clue to your genius work lies in the activities in which you seem to “lose” yourself, whole hours passing like mere minutes.

If you can become completely absorbed in an activity, you must have some talent for it. Single out and focus on the elements of that “knack,” and you are on your way to identifying work that you will love. Can you plan a party from concept to cleanup? You may be a natural project planner. Do you head up the church choir? You may be a terrific sales team leader.

You get what you focus on. Take time to focus on your genius work and how to apply it to make every aspect of your life easier and more productive.

It doesn’t take a genius to see the advantages in that!

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