What Was Your Mind Designed to Do?

Originally posted on April 19, 2005

Over the past several years, I’ve had a wonderful opportunity to provide presentation coaching to a group of psychiatrists who regularly speak to colleagues about new treatments available for patients.

One of these talented doctor spent some time with me to discuss how he works with his patients. Rather than trying to get a patient to fit into some definition of what “normal” is, he works with the patient to leverage his individual strengths. Instead of having a useless conversation about what the patient’s mind should do, instead they explore the all important question, “What was your mind designed to do?”

Since I’m much more interested in good questions than coming up with “the right answer,” this question intrigues me, especially when I consider its ramifications for each of us.

Over the years, I’ve had to come face-to-face with the fact that I do not approach work in a systematic way. I completely understand that it’s a whole lot more sensible to do so but it’s a hardship for me. It feels almost like being on an assembly line – B-O-R-I-N-G.

Fortunately, there are many people in life who don’t share these same feelings and who do the types of work that require a systematic strategy. And they love it, because that’s what their minds were designed to do.

My mind is designed to connect disparate things to come up with new and unique approaches to solve problems such as communication, handling stress, etc. When I am doing that type of work, I am as close to being in heaven as I’ll ever be while still alive.

So what was your mind designed to do? What comes easily to you and feels like play? Whatever the answer, it is important that you understand the following: this is your genius work. Every one of us has genius within.

Yesterday I played kickball with the kids from the local Boys & Girls Club here in Phoenix. I watched the young man who is the club’s Activity Director as he interacted with these kids. Some were pouting, others were being too aggressive, and some wanted to be the star at the expense of the rest of the team. He was able to correct behavior while keeping the child’s dignity intact. That is his genius.

At the end of the game, we had pizza for dinner and an ice cream cake donated by the local Carvel’s. As I ate my slice of cake, I was blissfully aware and sincerely appreciative of the genius of those who had created the recipe. MMMMMmmmmmmm.

Genius doesn’t have to be about something that will save or change the world. It’s not about distinguishing yourself in a way that lands you on the cover of Time magazine. Genius is about using your natural gift – what your mind was designed to do – as much and as often as possible.

Here are just a few examples of genius work:

• Parents who successfully raise kids to be happy, healthy and self-sufficient
• Managers with team members who are thriving and doing work well-suited for them
• People who put on wonderful parties, dinners and other social gatherings
• Those who keep financial records accurately
• Janitors and housekeepers who keep buildings immaculately clean
• Police Officers who can negotiate conflicts and calm all parties down

That is just a very small list of the types of genius there are. The point is that there are many varieties and all contribute to their corner of the world.
What is your genius? Are you a great organizer? A problem-solver? A butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker?

Here is a clue: it’s that one thing (a) all your friends know they can completely trust you to accomplish because you’re so good at it; and (b) that baffles you as to why they think it’s such a big deal because it’s so easy for you.

When you use your mind for what it was designed to do, it is easy and it is your genius. Let the genius out of the bottle.