Are You Using Your Brilliance?
It’s one thing to feel brilliant. To master your craft and build seemingly endless wisdom to offer your ideal clients.
It’s another thing to actually get your brilliance used.
To have a steady stream of clients, readers, buyers (take your pick) who not only absorb your advice, but also weave it into their own work, creating new strengths and building their own successes.
Isn’t that at the heart of the work we consultants and advisors do?
We make change happen. We make lives better. Sometimes we even make profound, earth-moving transformations.
So laboring in obscurity is not good for your future clients and it’s certainly not good for you.
The question becomes: how do you take your proverbial light out from under the bushel basket and shine it into the right corners?
Hey, if there were a magic button to push, I’d tell you, I truly would.
It’s more like a way of thinking. Of reminding yourself that your brilliance has a purpose.
Not certain how to pinpoint your best, highest use? You may have to take a look into your past to grab hold of tangible examples of successes (and get someone you respect to hold a mirror up so you can see it).
When I first met “Sam”, he was a 30-something college dropout who kept telling himself he wouldn’t amount to anything. He was waiting tables, renting a room in a tumbledown house, trying to figure out how to support his daughter.
But just a little digging proved that his world had once looked brighter. He’d been a bat boy for a major league baseball franchise (an infinitesimal percentage of applicants get THAT job), where two different household-name star players befriended him and gave him pointers.
His people skills were off the charts, which was one reason why he was the waiter who always went home with the biggest tips.
As he started to see his life—and his work—through a new lens, things started to change.
Today, Sam is a financial advisor. He went back to school, studied hard and invested in his natural brilliance—his care and concern for the people who cross his path. Now he’s the guy they trust to build their financial future.
Sam had a very deep well to climb out of—but chances are you’re far better positioned to identify and share your brilliance.
Start with your experiences and stories—both life and work. Jot down a sentence or two about each and keep them in a single document where you can peruse them at your leisure.
Look for the ones that resonate most clearly. Maybe you were in a family business that gave you a practical MBA. Or you traveled the world as a military brat and speak a smattering of languages. Perhaps you were a soccer star in college and still play in a local league.
These stories can be fodder for your brilliance. They may stay safely inside you, serving as internal reminders of your worth and life path. Or they can become tent poles for your brand, building your reputation and engaging your audience in your particular brand of brilliance.
Because no one—absolutely no one—can match your unique combination of talents, passions and experiences.
And isn’t getting your brilliance used what it’s all about?
Why Lasting Change Is Hard
Before we had any children, my wife and I lived in the heart of Dallas. One day, on our way back to our house, we were driving down Skillman Avenue when we were caught in a sudden torrential downpour.
The rain was coming down incredibly hard, which wouldn’t have been a problem if the storm drains were equipped to handle that much water. Instead, the road itself filled with water faster than we could have anticipated. Quickly, the water rose up the side of our car. Trying not to panic, we realized that we could not continue and would need to turn around and get to higher ground.
Water rising up the side of your car door is the kind of roadblock you might not expect to encounter, but when you do, it’s formidable. We couldn’t drive through it or even around it. We had to deal with it quickly or face serious consequences.
When we’re trying to implement change in our own lives, it’s important to identify and plan for common roadblocks to lasting change.
The first and, in my opinion, most important roadblock to lasting change is not addressing the real issue.
Let’s say you wake up in the middle of the night with a sore throat. You’re annoyed by feeling sick but your throat really hurts, so you get up and spray a little Chloraseptic in your mouth and drift off to sleep. When you wake up the next day, you still have a sore throat, so you pop in a cough drop and go about your day.
The change you’re making – using a numbing agent – might work if you’ve only got a cold, but if it’s strep throat, you’re not addressing the real problem. Only an antibiotic will cure what ails you, even if Chloraseptic will keep the pain at bay for a while.
Just like how more information is needed to diagnose your sore throat than one feeling, problems you encounter in your life or business require diagnostics, too. Figuring out the real problem – not just your most apparent needs – requires some introspection and a little bit of time.
Here are eight questions to ask when you need to discover the root cause, courtesy of MindTools.com:
- What do you see happening?
- What are the specific symptoms?
- What proof do you have that the problem exists?
- How long has the problem existed?
- What is the impact of the problem?
- What sequence of events leads to the problem?
- What conditions allow the problem to occur?
- What other problems surround the occurrence of the central problem?
Once you have your answers to these key questions, you can’t stop there. Your vantage point is skewed from your own perspective. You’re going to want to ask someone else to evaluate the problem at hand with the same questions and then compare your answers.
If you and all of the partners at your firm have similar answers, you’ll know you’re on the right track. If you wind up with wildly different ideas, I suggest seeking the advice of someone outside your organization. Fresh eyes can make all the difference in understanding a problem.
I often talk about being ‘too close’ to understand. You’ve probably heard the illustration about a group of people standing by an elephant with blindfolds on, trying to describe what they’re experiencing. Depending on what part of the elephant you’re next to, you’re going to have different observations.
But someone outside of that elephant’s cage can clearly identify the elephant.
The first key to making a lasting change is to make sure you’ve addressed the real problem and are looking for authentic change.
Next time, we’ll address the second major roadblock to creating last change.
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