Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing its stupid — Albert Einstein.
After many years fighting my body shape, I learnt about the genetic lottery. You know the one you don’t know you entered, until out of the blue you realise that beautiful people are just born that way. They won the genetic lottery. I’ve got a couple of friends who won this lottery so I know what’s included in the jackpot. It’s not that they can smash a hamburger and still look great. It’s more that they don’t want to smash a hamburger. They don’t torture themselves with diets, they don’t over eat. Long legs, tight buns and perky boobs just happen. And exercise? sometimes yes, sometimes no. It doesn’t really make too much of a difference either way. They may go for a walk or a swim, but they are not up at 5.30am most days, slogging it out at boot camp or boxing to get unseen results (gosh I feel great though).
But this isn’t a pity piece. We’ve all heard the expression beauty’s a curse and I’ve seen it be that way. Being beautiful isn’t the silver bullet to a fulfilled life, nor does it mean a life of misery. It just is what it is; nice to be, nice to look at. If you’ve got it, it can get you out of a jam (insert fluttering eyelids here), or you can draw self confidence from it when everything else has gone to sh!t.
My eldest son competed in his school sports this week. He is a pretty good sportschild, but was well and truly beaten in the 400m event by his mate Nae Nae (affectionately nicknamed after ‘watch me whip, watch me nae nae). I asked my son, “why do you think he won?” and he answered knowingly, “cause his Dad is really sporty” — which he is. His Dad is a triathlete, need I say more. Yep, Nae Nae has won the gene lottery and the 400m running race on sports day by a good two metres. Damn you, 10 year old Nae Nae.
I’ve started to wonder about this idea of the genetic lottery and what else it can mean. Effortless perfect body shape or winning the running race is fairly tangible. What about the possibility each of us is effortlessly perfect in some way? Have we each won a prize in the gene lottery that we are perhaps still to claim.
So as I start down this journey to claim my prize, I’m thinking about where to start looking. The most obvious starting point is to consider my ancestors and what strengths I may have inherited from them. The ancestor I most want to be like was an 1840’s Irish rebel who fled Ireland under threat of being hanged for treason. He must have been tenacious with lots of passion, and courage. To me these are three of the most admirable qualities to have. My dad was hilariously funny (to everyone but his teenage daughter) and my mum is open to each persons’ uniqueness and never seems to judge another. I didn’t know my grandparents but apparently my paternal grandmother was also hilariously funny. So could this be my prize in the genetic lottery? I am kind of funny, and I’m not really judgy … but this doesn’t seem like much of a prize. And where is the Irish rebel in me? I’ve gone out on my own to build a business. Even with my penchant towards drama I can see creating a metaphor between turning my back on the corporate world and being hanged for treason is drawing a long bow.
So if not our ancestors, where else can we uncover our prize in the genetic lottery, that thing we were just born with which comes to us effortlessly. Perhaps some psychometric testing on style and preferences? or is it more obvious than that; brainstorm your own strengths; or SMS 5 of your buddies who know you in a work context and ask them to reply in 3 words, your top three strengths. I’m pretty sure you’ll see some patterns. Give this a go, but what I really believe is the answer lies within.
I’ve never really looked through the genetic lottery lens before, and considered what comes to me effortlessly. What is the strength that I turn to, to pull me out of a hole? When I’m feeling shattered, what do I know will get me through…. effortlessly…. in autopilot, when I’ve got nothing else to give?
Where I’m getting to with all of this, is that sometimes we just don’t realise how lucky we are with our God given talents. When I really think about it, my signature strength is probably that I can find something interesting about anyone. Which means I can talk to anyone, and find them pretty fascinating, which makes people relax around me, which means I build rapport quickly. It was only when I mentioned to a couple of friends that I’d been going to a lot of functions where I didn’t know anyone — and they grimaced, that I started to realise that maybe this was my prize in the genetic lottery.
Is it much of a prize? Well it doesn’t really matter. What matters is knowing what your prize is, and it’s what you’ve got when everything else is too hard. It’s what you know you can fall back on to get you through the hard times. When you’ve got to go on to autopilot, it will steer you to a safe landing. So work out what you’ve won in the genetic lottery and know that its there when you need it. Call on it when the chips are down or you can’t see a way out. Know that it’s there to fall back on, whenever you need it. It’s your best chance.
A few cautionary words though. Every skill or asset, if over used, can turn into a liability. If you are amazing at organising you may miss opportunities to be creative. If you are brilliant at maths you may not get the benefit of chance. If you attract others with your beauty you may only ever be treated as a trophy. What ever you won in the genetic lottery keep it in perspective and treat it with humility. You won it ok, you didn’t work for it. And aren’t the things we work hard for the things that give us the greatest pleasure, not the things we are given.
To be a good executive coach you need to know yourself. Thanks for sitting with me as I go through this process. I’m curious to know if people prefer a business blog or a heart piece. Please kindly leave your comments below. And click on the heart if you are about heart not head.
This article first appeared on Medium.com