Fish Can’t Climb: Harness Your Own Native Genius

When I was young, my classmates made fun of me for being seemingly less intelligent than them. I grew to have a reputation as the class clown, the troublemaker, and the bad boy. I embraced that last one a little bit. After all, who didn’t want to be James Dean? But I digress. The point is that other people’s view of me often influenced how I saw myself. A great poem talks about looking at yourself in a funhouse mirror and believing the image reflected back is the real you. I felt like that. I didn’t really begin to see myself clearly until I was about 16, when I realized that my brain doesn’t necessarily excel at unlocking the mysteries of chemistry or engineering. My genius is in strategizing like nobody’s business — I’m exceptionally good at seeing the bigger picture. I can choose a crazy goal and figure out how to get there with the fewest hiccups along the way.

Embrace Your Genius 

A quote often attributed to Albert Einstein says, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” The realization that I had my own brand of genius led me to better appreciate the unique genius in those around me.

We’ve built Newsletter Pro around nine core values, one of which is Multiply Native Genius. Basically, everyone should focus on doing the things they do better than almost anyone else, rather than the things they’re not good at. When this happens, we all become more efficient, effective, innovative, and full of genius.

Obviously, this system isn’t perfect. Everyone has to do some tasks, regardless of their ability to do them. For example, I don’t think anyone is going to be 100% free from answering emails. For the most part, however, I find that I thrive when I delegate the tasks I’m not very great at to other people. I also thrive when I take on the tasks from them that are more suited to my skill set. By getting rid of the things I dread doing, I work faster and with more excitement. By trusting someone else to take those on, I give them an opportunity to excel and maybe even improve the process so we can grow.

Don’t Be A Bottleneck

When I first started Newsletter Pro, I handled every part of newsletter creation. I used to make the sales, design the layout, write and edit the articles, then print and mail the final product. The first time I hired a designer to take on some of that work, I’ll be honest, I watched them like a hawk. I was irrationally convinced that my rudimentary Photoshop skills could somehow compete with their greater expertise and training. Then we fell into a groove and the rave reviews started coming in. I had to confront the fact that my micromanagement had created a bottleneck in the newsletter creation process. Involving myself in all aspects of creating the product was actually holding Newsletter Pro back from greater improvement and growth. Just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should do it. Again, you need to focus on your own genius.

That slightly painful realization propelled me to where we are today. Now, at the end of every year, I fill out a “What NOT To Do” list. It’s basically a reevaluation of my workload, what’s going well and what’s not. I also include what I need to keep doing, what I shouldn’t be doing, and what tasks bring me joy. The goal of this list is to figure out what I need to delegate and what more I can take on.

Every year, this list helps me restructure my priorities. I make sure the things I’m doing really are of the utmost importance to my business and my happiness.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, bogged down, or just bored with the day-to-day tasks you’re tackling, think about fish and trees. Figure out if you’re trying to climb a tree using fins. Most often, we don’t need something new and shiny to grow and be more productive. We just need to remember why we love what we do! And, more importantly, we can figure out how to do more of it while harnessing our native genius.

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