My belief is that everyone is born with an exceptional talent--and it's those people who see it, value it, and have the confidence to exercise it, that are able to curate this unique "genius" and experience great success.
In Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers, he draws the same conclusion, building the case that greatness is not about luck, but rather effort. He highlights the "10,000-Hour Rule," which says that if you focus on one thing for 10,000 hours, you will become an expert at it. His point is that focus and determination play a greater role in genius than pure luck (like, say, being born with an exceptional IQ).
The first challenge is seeing your talent. The reality is that many of us are good at a lot of things. As such, we sometimes devalue the things we're exceptional at because they come easy to us. If you hone in on your talent and refine it over time, it becomes genius. What comes easy to you? What is your unique approach to your craft? What is the most natural way that you problem solve? Answer those questions and you can begin to hone in on what your innate talent is.
The second is valuing it. "The grass is always greener" often comes into play when understanding one's talent. We always want what we don't have. Part of having real success is accepting and honoring what you bring to the table. In addition, work traditionally has been viewed as an arena for struggle. Work should feel hard, not easy, we're taught. But the reality is that work should be engaging, not hard--it's a small but important distinction. When we are engaged we are energized, when it's hard it feels draining.
Cultivating your genius requires confidence. In The Confidence Code, TV journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman define confidence as "the belief that you can succeed at something, that you can make something happen. Confidence turns thoughts into action." You need confidence to cultivate your talent into genius. You need to be able to see how you can use it as a driver of action.
Once you are able to see your unique talent, value it, and exercise it, you will know if you are tapping into your genius because you can expect the following:
1. You are in an environment where your talent is needed and revered. You are able to be actively engaged and challenged in a good way, doing what you're best at.
2. You are not driven by competition. Competition means that someone has to lose in order for you to win. If you are clear about your genius, there is never a loser. You are driven to be a better version of yourself rather than beating others. In fact, you are inspired by others doing great work because it makes the world a better place to be.
3. You have a different kind of stress. Stress comes from not being able to accomplish fast enough, not from feeling like you are doing the wrong thing. The stress you feel is a positive stress, not depleting.
4. You have a unique approach. When you are tapped into your genius, you are able to express your individuality, which always creates something unique, niche, and different.
5. You have a positive impact in the world. Whether that is with your services, your product, or by inspiring others, your work matters. You are so aligned with your genius that your energy and is infectious and magnetic.
If you find you're not tapping into your genius, rethink how you are approaching work. The world needs your talent--can you imagine our lives without the benefit of genius ideas? The key is discovering yours.