Finding Your Genius

“Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Einstein

This quote (and that picture) gives me chills. We are nearing the end of the first month of a new year. Students are settling into new semesters, and some folks are settling into new jobs and/or resolutions.

I’m going to give you the some advice I was sharing with two student leaders earlier this month on a trip to the Twin Cities. In talking about their future goals, I wondered if they and other knew how much I love what I do? I literally make a good living AND live my passion. So often people assume those are mutually exclusive goals. I have heard students say, “I love playing piano and making music, but I’m going to medical school – I have to make money somehow!” Or I love this one…”I’ll go be a business person and make a lot of money, then I’ll do what I want to do.” I have an idea; what you should do is sell that time machine you have. You know, the one that gives you the foresight that you will be alive long enough to spend your whole life working, and then “do what you really want to do.” Let me suggest that you don’t have time for that. None of us do. And what happens in the midst of foregoing your true talent, passion, and genius? You get beat down, worn out, and spend your entire life trying to climb a tree, when you were meant to swim.

There are philosophers studying engineering; engineers studying psychology; great architects studying to be economists; and business women studying pre-med. There is something to be said about being “well-rounded,” but I personally believe, as do the authors of the StrengthsQuest works, that the best of the best leaders and professionals are not well-rounded, they are sharp. They know that they are fish, and they swim better than the rest. They reject the belief that what they did well in high school (an infinitesimally small moment in time) or in some random summer camp has set their path in stone. The best of us are explorers, willing to take risks on themselves to find and live their true genius.

Going into this new semester, or job, or experience, know that it is a new day. Life is too short, and life is too long to live it out of your purpose.


Ask yourself if you are pursuing what you know you should doing. Either affirm that and be excellent, or stop the madness, and go be who you are called to be.

Did Robin Thicke Get it Right?

For those who follow this blog, and for those who know me, you recognize my love of music – and in particular the spoken word. Songs tell stories, make points, and teach as well as any book does. Robin Thicke, in his second album The Evolution of Robin Thickehas is a song titled “Everything I Can’t Have.” It’s actually one of my favorite songs by Thicke, as much for the message as for the Latin American influence of the music – complete with horns and a salsa rhythm you can’t help but dance to. This song starts with this verse:

I want a fresh girl
I wanna drink my drink
I wanna get high
I can’t have everything
I wanna be rich
Never work at all
And sleep all day
And I wanna see it all
Oh I want, I want everything
I want everything I can’t have

If I am honest, throughout my career I have tried to have it all. I want to be young and old, eat what I want and stay in shape, say what I want but hold the respect of everyone around me, be an all-star student in class and super involved on campus, be single and married, and have a family but maintain all my freedoms. And I have seen those around me, students, new professionals, entrepreneurs, and family all try to do the same thing – though they may not know it. Students that want to be the President of the Student Government Association and also travel abroad the semester after they get elected. New husbands who want to hang out how they hung out before marriage, and with the same people. People who hate their job, but don’t want to do what’s needed to find a new one.

you_cant_have_everythingThis morning while listening to POTUS Politics on Sirius XM (as is my custom during my 45 minute commute from Rogers Park), there was an employer talking with the host, Michael Smerconish, about good paying jobs (20/hr) that were going unfilled. Why? Because people were a) failing drug tests at alarming rates of 40% or more, or b) they didn’t want to work non-traditional hours or on weekends. It reinforced to me how some of us want everything, but are unwilling to give anything. Sometimes it means giving up your preferred schedule; sometimes it means giving up a relationship; sometimes it means giving up on immediate gratification for what will come later in life; sometimes it means choosing and prioritizing one dream or goal over the other. If you don’t, you end up in debt, alone, or always on your way to something, but never quite there. At the end of the day you really can’t have everything…

cant_do_everything_sombraBut at the same time it is that drive for everything that has served as a motivator for me in many aspects of my life. And let me be clear, I don’t mean “stuff.” I am talking about experiences and lifestyles. Stuff comes with that at times, but when I talk about having everything, I am not simply talking about materials goods. I wanted to work full-time and earn a PhD; so I did. I wanted to earn that PhD by the time I was 30 if not sooner; so I did. I wanted to start a family while doing that; so I did. I wanted to buy a house, even though my credit wasn’t great; so I did. But as I reflect back on what I did, I remember what I either didn’t do, or deferred in the process. I remember the sacrifices I had to make, or the blows to my pride I had to take as a result of my wanting for everything. So what does that mean for those reading this blog? I say dream big – know what you want, and go get it. AND, while you’re doing that, realize that this is the real world, and that you will have to make course corrections, give up on some things, and find ways to prioritize along the way. Live in the possibilities, assuming abundance of time and energy – but know that life has a way of setting you back. That’s OK – be resilient, keep moving forward, and be driven by everything you can’t have.

Please, share this with someone who is trying to have or do everything, but not quite getting it right.

Dr. Anthony

Strong Man, You Gotta Leave

In her famous song, Strong Man, The Rev. Shirley Caesar, a legendary African American Gospel singer, sings the following words:

“There’s a strong man, in this house, with my spiritual eyes I can see,
Just what this strong man, is doing to my whole family
He’s got a grip on the feeble, and the spiritually blind,
Strong man, you better leave here, because you’re wasting your time,
Strong man, you gotta leave here, because you’re wasting your time.”

Who is this strong man to whom she references? In some world religions, Christianity being one of them, we believe this to be an evil spirit, presence, or being, that is very real and very dangerous. Quite literally, the devil. If you’re not Christian or a believer in a particular religion, think in terms of negative/bad energy, thoughts, or feelings. Bad mojo in and around you. Ok, we all on the same page? Good.

Do you have a “strong man” causing confusion or angst in your life? I ask because this strong man tends to pop up in my life and in my house often, and despite my vigilance, “it” finds a way to shake my confidence, replace love with fear, and just plain ruin my day/week/month. I’m going to suggest something to you that I have to remind myself – words are powerful. They can start and end wars; they can drive people to take their own lives; and they can keep someone alive who may have no other reason to live. Use your words to take back whatever situation the “strong man” may try to disrupt.

Here’s the leadership lesson – the most productive leaders and managers are those who articulate their goals. Those who literally tell themselves they are going to be successful, and somehow will it into existence. The thoughts, ideas, and the words we have are the beginning of what will be the next big thing. Just as we speak our goals into existence by writing them down, or sharing them with others – we must do the same thing to speak trouble out of our lives. When the strong man shows up in your life or organization, call it out for what it is, and then politely ask it to leave. And declare, “you’re just wasting your time.”