Are You a Practical Genius?

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Every morning I get on a coaching call with a Grammy-winning record producer, the CEOs of a manufacturing company, SEO company and fitness company, a university professor and several managers and executives.  And you’d never believe the most common obstacle we all face: the voice inside all of our heads that says “I don’t know, I’m not smart enough, I can’t do it.”

What if we were able to change that conversation to a series of stories that featured our gifts and talents rather than our shortcomings? We’d be geniuses!

Gina Amaro Rudan says we all have Practical Genius in us

In her book Practical Genius: The Real Smarts You Need to Get Your Talents and Passions Working for You, Gina Amaro Rudan (@GinaRudan)  shakes you out of your complaints and complacency by busting through the myth that only some people are geniuses.  In her world, everyone has genius in them.

Amaro Rudan started her genius journey in 2008 when an infection following a common eye surgery left her blind for several days.  After this experience, she began questioning everything.  In 2009 she left her high-level corporate job and started her own coaching and leadership practice that empowers people to discover and market their genius.  You’ll have to read the book to see how insanely successful she has been since then.

A more useful way to look at genius

When you think of genius, your thoughts probably go to intelligence and people like Einstein.  But Amaro Rudan digs deeper.  She notes that the first definitions of “genius” actually referred to a spirit given to every person at birth.  In fact she encourages the reader to not even think about any scores or grades that point to your intellect or IQ.  Instead, she encourages us to focus on our natural abilities and uniquely talented spirit.

Practical Genius is an entertaining and inspiring how-to guide that will take you through the Practical Genius process.

  1. Identify your genius. Your genius comes from the intersection of your “work” 9-to-5 hard skills and your “play” weekend passions, values and creative abilities.
  2. Express your genius. This is one of my favorite sections because it focuses on creating or writing the stories that define who you are.  In addition to the stories, Amaro Rudan helps you identify the themes that drive those stories, and shows you how to use pictures from your past to identify your defining moments.
  3. Surround yourself with genius. You are who you surround yourself with.  Amaro Rudan references Seth Godin’s term “tribe” to describe the people you surround yourself with both online and offline.  She gives a terrific example of how to build relationships by going straight to the heart: She met her future husband at a speed dating event, and instead of wasting time talking about college or work, when he found out where she was from, he asked how she was affected by 9/11.  The rest is history.
  4. Sustain your genius. Sustaining your genius means telling yourself a new and much more powerful story, and then being and living that story daily. Set aside time to nurture your body, mind and relationships and put the focus on only those areas that you determine are worthy.
  5. Market your genius. The key concept here is the idea of paradox.  Amaro Rudan enthusiastically encourages readers to embrace the contradictions inside themselves, lead with those differences and use them to stand out from the crowd.

How to read Practical Genius and put it to use

This is a book you’ll want to read at least twice.  The first time, read it to get the lay of the land.  Get familiar with the content and start thinking about the stories and examples.  After you’ve gone through the book once, you’ll be ready to get to some of the exercises the author recommends.

If you’re considering starting a business, this is one of the first books you should read.  It’s a good idea to do the exercises before you name your business, create business cards, design a website or any other marketing activity.  Going through this book will give you insights into the different ways you can differentiate yourself, find ideal customers and grow a thriving business.

For a small business owner, Practical Genius would be a great foundation for doing a sort of professional retreat.  I know a CEO who takes a week away from her busy schedule to regenerate her vision and strategy.  This book would be an ideal framework from which to reflect on what your business is about.

Managers can also use this tool for their own personal growth and maybe even as a team-building tool to get to know and understand the talents of their employees.

It really doesn’t matter how you use Practical Genius – it only matters that you do.  Practical Genius will give you new insights into yourself and the wonderful gifts you bring to the world.

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Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."

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