A recent story on Inc.com laid out Seattle-based cartoonist Jessica Hagey’s 10 characteristics of interesting people. During a presentation at the recent South by Southwest conference based on her new illustrated guide How to Be Interesting, Hagey cut to the core of what it means to be a memorable person. The question that she didn’t answer, however, was how you get there. You can’t just follow someone else’s rule book, you have to be your own authentic version of interesting.
How do you cultivate your own interesting aura? This is where my work comes in. Your own version of interesting lies within you. It’s your Zone of Genius. Your Zone of Genius is the combination of your innate talent and your greatest passion. Innate talent, for this purpose, is how--not what--you do what you do. Your greatest passion is the activity that you could do for countless hours with unending fulfillment. This is not always straightforward, but can be embedded in your psychology and linked to a core challenge you have conquered in your personal journey. If you apply your innate talent to your greatest passion, you are operating in your Zone of Genius.
Finding your zone of genius can be tricky. We're all blind to many of our own true strengths and weaknesses, so it often helps to find an objective, supportive person to help. Most of my clients have shelves of books and folders full of test results dutifully reporting what they are best at, however they still struggle to quickly articulate what makes them interesting. I was once in the same predicament. I took every test that exists to figure out what I did that was so special. What I discovered is that in order to really capture and enhance what makes you special, you have to feel it to the core of yourself.
Most people get distracted by the flurry of feedback we receive on our work, both casual and structured. We all are complex and do a variety of things, and most of us can excel at many of them. This ability to do a lot well, to be multifaceted is the thing that defines us. But the one thing we do best is what sets us apart and makes us truly interesting. It's the thing that we bring forth to others, it’s the beginning of the conversation about yourself. You can bring in other aspects of yourself as you broaden the picture, but you have to start with the one thing that others can connect with and associate you with. This is the key to being memorable and interesting. Remember, you have to leave someone with one thing, not ten, when they think of you.
In addition to capturing what makes you interesting, knowing your Zone of Genius also makes you caring, humble, and brave. All of a sudden, all the energy that has been swirling around you trying to find “your thing” is re-focused towards your work and your mission. This shift from not knowing, to knowing, produces a sense of calm, confidence, and clarity that others notice. You aren’t unduly competitive or desperate, because you know what you bring to the table. You can appreciate others’ gifts more because you aren’t trying to imitate them. You are spending your time being a better version of yourself. Getting to know yourself and sharing that with others is the key to being interesting. Nobody else is you, so uncover that and you won’t have any problems being remembered for exactly who you are and what you are offering the world.