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ExperienceZone

Learn and grow through experiences

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March 2016

Bring your genius to work!

One of our favorite ambiguities. First find the genius within you and then share the gift with the world. Why and how? Let’s dive into it the ExperienceZone way.

What is your genius?

Some things, which go without saying need to be said loud. Among these the fact that you’re unique. Yeah, your mum might have told you already. And you even might believe it. But do you know why? Do you embrace the concept? Do you further live and breathe it? This is not your kumbayah inspirational blog but a career management gem. To this end, uniqueness means your individual set of passions and thus strengths. It’s tied to you as a person and only exists once on this planet (duh, that’s why it’s…unique).

Follow me here. Your individual way to see the world, to approach challenges and to find solutions is called genius. Its potential is as large as the ones of Mozart, Einstein and Steve Jobs (funny that latter still requires the first name) but also the one of the beggar asking you for a dime on your way to work. Bottom line, we all come equally equipped to this world. Yet, potential is raw material and useless until unfold.

How do you evoke your genius?

Talent is overrated. Mozart’s father made him play the piano as a baby. Well, I hear you argue that only children learn new complex things fast and if you’ve miss the train, you’re doomed to a mediocre life just because your evil parents didn’t stretch you enough. Neuroscience doesn’t let us off the hook though. Your brain changes all the time. Your life-style, incl. your diet, social network and mind-food, determines your brainpower.

Assuming you want to become smarter or happier, you first have to find out what you like to do. Passions are the things you’re naturally interested in and the fun activities, which don’t require external reward. Those you love to sink your teeth in, work extra hours and feel connected to yourself without feeling stress or even loss of energy along the way. So, grab a pen and write down your passions. Finally, boil them down to 3-5 core passions.

How do you contribute your genius?

Once you’ve identified your passions, you want to think about related strengths. If you like to talk, you might communicate effectively. If you swallow one book each week, you might be a fast reader. If you find joy in art, you might be good in drawing. After you jotted down your strengths, creatively find jobs, which are based on these. Communication skills are important in politics, consulting and healthcare (just to name a few). Reading is necessary for the education sector, journalists and authors. Drawing is a key skill of visual artists.

You’ve got a job already? Then reflect upon whether you’re able to bring your genius to work each day. If money were no object, would you still go to work? If you’re forced to take a sabbatical of one year, what would you do? If you picture yourself on your deathbed, would you regret your career? Be honest but don’t stress: I’m bad in navigation and names. Einstein had problems memorizing texts. Where there’s light, there’s shadow.

Why choosing stressful meaning is better than avoiding discomfort

The corporate world is being haunted by a specter called “stress”. No matter if we’re working 9am to 5pm in an apparently laid-back job or in a 24/7 sleeping under the desk start-up environment. Stress seems to be an ubiquitous yet highly subjective phenomenon. Hence, let’s take a closer look in an ExperienceZone manner.

When lives turn into rocket chairs

Many of us spin our wheels but never go anywhere. I witness this when I step into the social network trap. Trying to stay in touch with everyone usually results in loosing connection with myself. Superficiality is the price for the desire to not miss out on anything. Modern technology seduces us to do it all at the same time. Multitasking leads to inefficiencies, stress and eventually dissatisfaction. If we take a shot-gun rather than sniper-rifle approach to our lives, we experience a lot. But: If we lack focus on the things that really matter, life leads us astray into distraction and ultimately depression.

What does really matter?

Those activities, which make you happy and you invest most time in. Assuming you’re neither an aristocratic heir nor a downshifter, society requires you to work at least eight hours of your day. Imagine you spend a third of your day and half of your wake time in your job. This very fact justifies to think twice about your profession. For many decades the social axiom was “Get good grades, study something meaningful and you’ll be just fine being employed to take care of your family”. Those days are over. Asia, automation and abundance made job security a myth as Daniel Pink states in “A whole new mind – why right brainers will rule the future”.

So, what’s the bottom-line?

Let me come full circle here: I argue that people are stressed since they avoid discomfort by working in a job, which doesn’t build up on their passions and thus strengths but gives them the illusion of job security. They think they can take the way of least resistance. Yet, if you neither define your raison d’etre nor think and act big, you’ll never get a healthy stretch and experience the feeling of remarkable accomplishments. Instead, you’ll feel severely underutilized, bored and thus stressed. Reason being, you don’t find meaning or purpose in getting up in the morning.

What is your game plan?

  1. Stay in bed: I’m not kidding! Keep on lying in bed if you feel that your job doesn’t provide any meaning to your life or the ones of others. This is the best use of your time. Call sick or request a PTO. Go on a trip or at least a day hike. Fresh aur and physical exercise will get your mind in motion.
  2. Define your mission: Either in bed, on a walk or at your desk: Contemplate why you’re here and what you really want to do with your life. You’re only a few decades on this planet and it’s your damn duty to bring the best of you to the world. If you don’t, you’ll waste your life by finding creative excuses why you shouldn’t make a move (e.g. your financial obligations, the job security myth, you name it).
  3. Follow through: Once you know what you want to do, you’ve got to do it. This might sound like stating the obvious. Yet, many never bridge the knowing-doing-gap. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. At most, they put the best foot forward and then drag the other one behind. Bear in mind: The safest way to success  and contentment is to play on your passions and thus strengths.

Evolve your knowledge to wisdom

Recently, I saw a TED talk about acquiring wisdom instead of knowledge only. Why should you care and how do you make the leap? Let’s dive into this one the ExperienceZone way.

Putting things into context

Everyday our senses are being swamped by piles of data. Our brain does a remarkable job to contextualize and thus transforms data points into information. A price tag paired with a bottle of water triggers our decision about whether to buy it or not. Actually marketing is a corporate function designed for the very purpose to make data relevant and thus generate explicit purchasing decisions in our minds. Best case, it speaks to our hearts instead to our brain only, since especially complex decisions are usually not taken rationally but intuitively. To this end, the add needs to be relevant to our lives (yeah, water vitalizes) plus helps us to understand why that is (well, approx. 70% of our body is actually water) – ideally on an emotional level. As we increasingly relate this the marketeers want us to get hooked up with and understand its additional value proposition (the founders might be up to save the entire rain forest), we evolve our minds from receiving information to being knowledgeable about this company, its mission and resulting products. Knowledge is acknowledging a pattern behind naked information. Furthermore, knowledge requires and generates a certain level of understanding and relation to a particular subject. So far the job of the marketing guys…

Knowledge without application is useless

In the last decade I read around one hundred books. Did the cheer act of inhaling words put into fancy sentences make me any smarter? In no way, shape or form. Well, it certainly helped me to express myself in a specific way nowadays but doesn’t improve my life a tiny bit. In contrast: Book knowledge is a tricky thing. It tends to make you presumptuous. I can tell you in a thousand words how honey tastes, yet it only becomes relevant once you taste it. This is my plea for action. Only once you leverage the stuff you’ve read to help yourself, others or our planet, it turns into value. Until then it’s unused potential. Raw material, which lacks an acid test. Latter turns knowledge into wisdom through application. You try. You fail. You learn. You improve.

How to turn knowledge into wisdom

Some argue wisdom is understanding the principles behind knowledge. I’m going further: Wisdom is the practical application of knowledge – in both ways, failing and succeeding. Failed attempts are actually often a necessary prerequisite for success. No one learned to ride a bike without falling at least onece. No one learned to play the piano without hitting the wrong keys. Thomas Edison admitted to have failed many times until he invented the light bulb. So, how do you evolve to a wise person (unrelated to your physical age)?

  1. Read and watch: There’re two ways to absorb new knowledge. The first one is reading. I highly recommend you to read as much as possible, yet allow time to contemplate and execute thereafter. Read about divers topics. It makes you a well rounded person. Yet do only read stuff you feel naturally drawn to. This increases the chances that you make it through the article or book. After you read, take some time. Either close your eyes, go for a walk or talk with others about what you read. All of these habits ensure that you properly digest the mind food. Then think about how you can put the stuff you’ve read into practice. By the way: Another highly effective way to learn is through imitation. Watch others failing or succeeding. It helps you to build up on their experiences.
  2. Execute upon it: A strategy is nothing without execution. A decision is a choice plus a plan. Innovation equals creativity plus action. In fact, ideas are worthless without trying them out. Effective execution based on a clear intention is one of the most powerful gifts human beings have been granted. Hence I invite you to try things. The only thing preventing you from achieving your aims in life and pursuing your mission is fear. Smart people say fear is the abbreviation of false expectations appearing real. In terms of future states, this is true. So, we need to shake off irrational fears and jump in to the cold dark unknown.
  3. There’re no mistakes: There’s only feedback. I like this one, as it puts things into perspective by pointing out that every expression of reality is subjective. Reality only exists because a subject observes it. Your reality is watched and thus judged by yourself only. Therefore, the meaning you give to events in your life is of utmost importance. If you see every hardship as an opportunity for growth it will unfold as such and deliver long term reward. Only repeating the same behavior although it didn’t bring the desired results can be considered as stupid or insane, as Einstein put it.

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