There is no doubt that environment influences how you think, believe, and live. In the field of psychology, there is an ongoing battle between the power of nature versus nurture, both regarded as powerful influencers on our confidence and ability to succeed. But how do these factors shape you as an entrepreneur? I would argue that while our past plays a significant role in who we become, our choice in the environments in which we choose to work-- especially as we're working our way up --is another important part of the success equation.

Buckminster Fuller, an American neo-futuristic architect, said it perfectly: "Everyone is born a genius, but the process of living de-geniuses them."

Whatever work environment you are in, there is always a certain intelligence or talent that is valued. If you happen to have an intelligence that is aligned with the company's, then you will rise to the top quickly. The problem with this is that it's a losing battle for those that don't have the valued intelligence--and that kills their confidence in the process.

One's environment--whether that is your home, your community, your company, or your city--subtly dictates core values and intelligence. For example, I once worked at a bank where analytical marketing was the "genius" of the company. Therefore, the most-coveted skill was analytical ability. If you were a quantitative wiz, you felt as though you were the best. Project management however while was seen as important was not the most critical skill needed for the company's success. If you were a project manager then you would have to think hard about your ability to maximize your performance in that specific environment.

The same thing happens in organizations, schools, and households--pretty much anywhere you operate.

For this reason, in order to truly cultivate your genius, you have to see yourself with non-judgmental eyes and then translate that picture into value separately. You then need to find the environment in which your genius is valued and cultivate it within that environment and to the right audience.

More often than not, we unconsciously put ourselves in environments that don't fit because of expectations from others. We then question why we aren't successful. While most tend to easily avoid the obvious misfits, more often we end up choosing environments that may be a partial fit. For example, you may have the makings of a successful CTO, but you may not be clear on what type of technology environment is the most optimal for you to cultivate your genius. Money and prestige can lead us astray from the right genius fit.

In order to prevent winding up in the wrong place for your particular strengths, here are three ways to identify whether you are in the right environment to maximize your success:

1. You see lots of opportunity beyond the work you are focused on in the present moment. You can clearly see how your talent can be used in multiple ways for the company that you are in. Others see it too--and communicate the fact that your perspective and contribution is invaluable.

2. You feel confident about expressing your unique thoughts and perspective. When you are in the right environment, you feel good about being yourself and being who you really are without any fear of rejection. You have the confidence to speak your mind and share your authentic and potentially innovative or controversial perspective.

3. You are making an impact that feels right. The impact you are creating for your organization or your audience is motivating and drives you to do more.

If you find you are not in the right environment, based on the above, it may be that you are in the wrong company or field, or a sign that you need to be more vocal about how your strength and genius can add value. The bottom line is that the environment you are in dictates the expectations and measures of success--and if it's not a good fit, it can keep us from paying attention to the unique gifts that exist within us.

Published on: Aug 1, 2014