There’s a lot of anxiety in the air, as so many of us deal with job uncertainty, either fearful of being let go or already among the ranks of those who’ve lost their jobs. This prolonged economic slump is a rough one, and it’s hard not to get paralyzed by fear. The ancient Roman poet Horace offered this great observation about tough times: “Adversity reveals genius, prosperity conceals it.”
The fact is, no matter how dicey your situation or desperate your concerns, there isn’t a better time than right now to remind yourself of what you’re made of and to focus on realizing your potential. Don’t sit on your hands, waiting for these difficult times to pass; instead, get out there and invest yourself in yourself—and reveal to the world your unique and valuable genius. Here is some genius development homework you can tackle right now:
Return to your values. During prosperous times, it’s easy to drift away from living your values in the day-to-day. You compromise your values to keep the good times coming or you forget what you cared about in the first place. More than any aspect of your makeup, though, your values are the truest reflection of who you are—what others would see if everything else was stripped away and all that was left was what you stand for. When you lose touch with your values, your sense of purpose gets blurry and you can’t quite say what you believe in. And I guarantee the quality and satisfaction in your work shows it.
VIDEO: Gina Rudan shares 6 rules for finding your other “G-Spot”:
Albert Einstein often insisted that he had no special gifts, except perhaps his curiosity, focus, and persistence. In other words, the all-time poster child for genius pointed to his personal values as the source of his accomplishment! Take this chance to remind yourself of who you really are—what you believe, what most deeply motivates and moves you, and what you’d fight for if you had to. Put words on your values—big, specific, actionable words that will bring heart and meaning and accountability to everything you do.
A CPA I know was recently laid off. After some soul-searching, he had to admit that he’d spent the last 12 years killing himself with long hours, travel, and too much time away from his family and besides no longer having his job, he realized that all of those years of hard work had little to do with his core values and beliefs. So he decided to take his layoff as an opportunity to hit the reset button, returning to his early desire to be a teacher. Now he’s a math instructor in his son’s elementary school and deeply engaged in the day-to-day lives of his family in a way he never was before. He makes less money than he did as an accountant, but somehow now he’s rich! Every door that closes is an opportunity to walk through the next one in a brand new way—especially when you lead with your values.
Downsize to supersize your life.
One of the ways we smother our genius is under the weight of all of the crap we accumulate over a lifetime—a big house, lots of cars, clothes, electronic gadgets, and countless other things that may demonstrate the size of our paycheck but say nothing about who we are. Take a cue from all those organizations that are downsizing and lean down yourself. Do an honest audit of your lifestyle and pick three things to cut or change. Lose the SUV and ride your bike to work. Quit going to that expensive gym and get reacquainted with your neighborhood by walking or running outdoors. Forego the $5 lattes and start making your own coffee with one of those old-school stove-top espresso makers.
When you replace the stuff you buy with stuff you do, you reconnect with the world around you in an extraordinary way. While your material assets shrink, your personal assets expand, clearing the decks for growth, new experiences, and true prosperity. Try this—it works.
Become a people collector.
Challenging times are the best times for building and growing your tribe. Instead of hibernating or wallowing in fear and self-pity in isolation, now is the time to surround yourself with genius. Identify people who inspire you, who are examples of what you believe in, or who you want to be more like and seek them out. Crowd your life with people who feed your own curiosity and thirst for learning. Warm your hands by the energy and spirit of people who make you feel full—and show the people who leave you feeling empty or depleted straight to the door.
Cultivate your crew of Yodas (your mentors) and ambassadors (your cheerleaders). And take this opportunity to fold a few Fat Brains into your life. These are the innovative, entrepreneurial, globally minded and digitally fluent under-30 types who can change the way you look at the world. Curating your life to surround yourself with genius costs you nothing but time and positive intention—an investment that will pay you back many times now and in the future.
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