|Dick Richards’ new book Is Your Genius at Work? is designed for people contemplating a career change. Its focus is on helping people find their genius — the one thing they are especially and uniquely good at, and then finding application for that genius in the work world. Its audience is anyone who believes they are currently doing less than they could or should, both for their own fulfillment and to make a contribution to the betterment of the world. It’s especially valuable for those who are in need of an ego-boost — those who don’t believe they have genius, and don’t believe they are especially good at anything.
There is no rocket science to Richards’ process. It is essentially a workbook, in the vein of Bolles’ What Colour Is Your Parachute? but less focused on researching jobs at the intersection of What you love, What you’re good at, and What’s needed, and more on identifying and naming What you’re good at, and Why you’re here.
Like Parachute, Genius is full of exercises, and I worked through them to see whether they provided insights different from Parachute‘s. Richards seems to take it on faith that What you’re good at is congruent with What you love. I think that’s debatable, but perhaps it doesn’t matter — since the exercises get you to identify both, and then find ‘common denominators’, the result is one genius, one talent, that lies at the intersection between them (spaces 2 & 3 in my diagram above).
I particularly liked the ‘sales pitch’ at the start of the book for working through it. Many people give up too easily on self-discovery exercises like this because they’re not sufficiently convinced that the outcome is worth the effort. The arguments Richards makes for discovering and applying your genius are: (a) stronger sense of identity, (b) clearer sense of direction, (c) increased self-confidence, (d) language to communicate the value you can add, and (e) greater satisfaction and productivity in your work.
The four stage process outlined in the book is (1) discover (recognize) your genius, (2) ask yourself whether your current job/career makes good use of it, (3) discover your purpose, and (4) ask yourself whether your genius is being (or can be) applied to fulfill your purpose. Your purpose is your self-acknowledged reason for living, what you feel you were born to do.
Richards posits several ‘restrictions’ or ‘conditions’ to force you to narrow your (many) talents and passions to your one true genius:
When you’ve recognized your genius, Richards says, you’ll know it. Alternatives won’t improve the name you’ve given it. It will be specific enough to be truly unique (already directing your mind towards how that uniqueness could distinguish and fulfill you if it were properly applied). It will be powerful. And, while it may take some time to reveal itself and may evolve over time, it will prove durable.
If identifying your genius proves elusive, Richards recommends looking at the following:
The process for recognizing your genius is less rational and more intuitive and emotional than Bolles’ Parachute discovery process, more a process of self-realization than research and self-analysis. This works for me, since I enjoy that kind of exercise and am reasonably good at it. But I’m not sure it can work for everyone. If you really don’t know yourself, I can imagine you would find this book frustrating.
Richards spends only two pages on the second stage of the process: Asking yourself whether your current job/career makes good use of it, or could be changed to make good use of it. He knows, I think, that the people who will be attracted to this book will probably answer this question in the negative, and trusts each reader to decide for herself what to do about that.
For the third stage, discovering your purpose, Richards again suggests a set of ‘restrictions’ or ‘conditions’ to narrow the candidates and help you hone in on your one true purpose:
And, again, if identifying your purpose proves elusive, Richards suggests looking at the following:
And finally, redirecting your genius so it is focused on achieving your purpose requires, in addition to a lot of thought and energy and passion, a sense of personal responsibility, a sense of knowing your own heart, a sense of deep self-awareness, and personal courage. These personal qualities and capacities both emerge and find expression through the realization of your purpose by applying your genius.
The book is well-written, concise, un-preachy, illuminating, and down-to-earth, and I would recommend it not only because it can help you with your next career move, but more profoundly because it can help you to realize yourself, be happier and more fulfilled in all aspects of your life, and, in the process, make the world a better place.
What is your genius? What is your purpose? And is the former helping you achieve the latter?
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