Faisal Hoque’s 9 steps to cultivating genius in your work in Business Insider

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In making something, whether it is a business, an app, a book, or art, we bring something into the world that could come only from us.

In “The War of Art,” Steven Pressfield explains that the Romans used the word “genius” to denote an inner spirit, holy and inviolable, that watches over us, guiding us to our calling.

“A writer writes with his genius; an artist paints with hers; everyone who creates operates from this sacramental center,” he writes. “It is our soul’s seat, the vessel that holds our being-in-potential, our star’s beacon and Polaris.”

So how do we cultivate our inner genius?

1. Start with being mindful

When you become a better observer of your own actions, you naturally develop a more realistic sense of self.

For example, maybe you’re more worried about that deadline than you let on, and maybe you can admit to yourself that you need to talk to a trusted friend about it.

Mindfulness helps us see the ways our actions aren’t in correlation with the image we have of ourselves, which helps us become more aware of our own interior states. This leads to more empathy for others and more authenticity. In turn, authenticity fosters confidence and well-roundedness.

2. Practice conscious openness

Life does not have a recipe. Therefore, you shouldn’t prepare your next business, book, or song according to someone else’s formula.

An authentic cook likes to experiment, mix and match, and create their own unique meals. They make their decisions based on availability, their companions, and the hour of the day. Understanding the relationships between the ingredients and their interactions is crucial to creating a successful dish.

This conscious openness is precisely what is at the heart of any creative process, regardless of medium.

3. Be intentionally omnivorous

An ongoing part of identity building — both in our individual working lives and as part of a team — is to practice inviting a breadth of experiences, a pool of experiences from which we can draw on later in life. Ideas can only come from experiences.

Gaining diverse experiences, requires us to be intentionally omnivorous. So where do we gather these omnivorous tastes?

The media you consume:

Taking in a range of art, news, and scholarship can help you cross-pollinate insight. If you normally read about business, take in the arts.

The people you see:

Network theory has found that the success of a team is predicted by the quality and quantity of the connections its members have, especially across disciplines. Similarly, in our personal lives, we benefit from fostering diverse partnerships. Yes, a true partner is a rare thing indeed, but that preciousness is part of the reason to seek them out and care for them.

The events you attend:

Finding those partnerships — the members of your tribe, if you will — is as difficult as it is life-affirming. Conferences, talks, readings, and social gatherings are all places you can meet people who could have influence on your life.

4. Practice positive affirmation

Our emotions are wonderful because they are what make us human. Emotions allow us to feel passion, creativity, and happiness. However, our emotions can also be our downfall. Emotions can prevent us from creating the reality we desire.

After all, doubt, fear, and uncertainty are emotions too. They are destructive emotions that can keep us from obtaining our goals. If we are repeating positive affirmations but inside we are filled with doubt and fear, we are defeating our own purpose. We are getting back what we are sending out.

If you are constantly concentrating on what you do not have, you will continue to experience more lack. If you feel down and depressed because of the lack you are experiencing, you will experience more lack.

Thinking positively and using affirmations are certainly helpful in our quest to manifest our desires.

5. Learn, unlearn, and relearn

Author and futurist Alvin Toffler famously wrote, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

There’s a word for not knowing: ignorance.

While this word has a negative connotation — if someone called us ignorant, we’d leap to defend ourselves — I hold that it can be positive. We can be skillfully ignorant by acknowledging that this is a complex, maybe even opaque world that we’re working in.

From there, we can master being the good kind of ignorant: At an individual level, we can get good at acquiring the new skills that will be demanded of us. At an interpersonal and organizational level, we can surround ourselves with people who shine light onto our various blind spots, and treat them in a way that encourages that expansive behavior.

6. Get a handle on toxic emotions

Emotions are a natural part of being a human, and controlling them doesn’t mean becoming an android. But how well we manage what we’re feeling affects not just our own performance but our interactions with others. We’ve all been around someone who leaves you feeling exhausted and drained. Chances are you don’t like working with them.

Keep in mind that you’ll probably need to work with others in some form or another in order to achieve what you’ve set your sights on. If you become that kind of person, you’ll chase away potential collaborators, mentors, partners, and others. Cultivate an attitude that attracts support rather than repels it.

By the same token, guard against the toxic emotions that others may bring into your orbit. That takes intentional and constant effort. The people we surround ourselves with can make the difference between failure and success just as much as our own emotional self-control can.

7. Take nothing for granted

No matter how self-motivated or driven we may be, our lives are constantly being shaped by external forces. Successful people don’t take things for granted. They consciously practice gratitude.

Don’t just take the time to determine what you’re thankful for; express your thanks as well. Show appreciation for others and return the kindness others offer you. The act of showing gratitude isn’t a one-way thing, after all. It changes our lives in a handful of ways:

  • It makes us more patient
  • It boosts our self-confidence
  • It fortifies our relationships with others
  • It helps us rethink our goals and determine why they matter

8. Be OK with imperfection

Paradoxically, it’s only by embracing imperfection that we maximize our chances of success. Setting too-high standards lead us to dismiss talented people out of hand, ignore big opportunities, and fail to contribute our all to worthy causes. Holding out for something better, in other words, usually leaves us worse for the wear.

As one ancient adage states, if you pull the string too tight, it will snap. If you leave it too loose, it won’t make music when plucked. Adjust your expectations before you set out on something new. Know that the outcome can fall short of your ideal but still count as success.

9. Quit trying to please everyone

Trying to please everyone is like trying to fit the entire ocean into a cup; it’s impossible. Whatever good we do, and however good we become, people who think little of our plans or achievements will always let us know about it.

Before we worry about what others think, we need to commit to loving and accepting ourselves. It may sound like a self-help bromide, but it nevertheless has deep practical importance. If we’re unhappy with ourselves, that self-reproach trickles into all of our relationships, work, beliefs, and future.

There are three components to becoming more authentic and resilient through self-acceptance:

  • Self-love
  • Self-expression
  • Self-confidence

It’s through self-acceptance that we discover the complexities of our emotions, vulnerabilities, and imperfections. That’s the basis of true authenticity — without which we’re usually unable to grow to our full potential.

Without authenticity, we wind up wasting our energies where we shouldn’t. The need for approval from others destroys our freedom to succeed on our own terms. When the desire to get people to like us motivates our personal and professional choices, we only go backward.

Serial entrepreneur and author Faisal Hoque is the founder of SHADOKA and other companies. Shadoka enables entrepreneurship, growth, and social impact. He is the author of “Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability” and “Survive to Thrive: 27 Practices of Resilient Entrepreneurs, Innovators, and Leaders.” Copyright (c) 2017 by Faisal Hoque. All rights reserved. Follow him on Twitter @faisal_hoque.