The book is all about leaping into your “zone of genius,” and Hendricks leads readers through a series of questions, aimed at helping them find the zone. The question that stumped me was a simple one: what is my unique ability? Basically, what is my super power? “It’s a unique and priceless gift that you carry within yourself,” Hendricks writes. Finding it, he says, means taking “a clear-eyed look at a deep, innermost quality, with the intention of applying that quality to make your own life and the lives of others more valuable.”
I look at friends and colleagues that I know well, and I usually see theirs very clearly. I pay attention (introvert that I am), so it’s usually easy for me to spot. I may not be able to immediately form the words around it, because it’s wrapped up in a gesture or a tone of voice or a feeling that I get when I’m around them, watching them work and watching them interact with people.
But I’m inside myself, not around myself. So my perspective is skewed. It’s sort of like when you look in the mirror and you see yourself—but you can only see yourself through your own eyes, so there is no way to know how others’ eyes might see you.
Finding your unique ability starts with thinking about your inclinations and talents. The trick, Hendricks says, is pushing beyond the larger ability that camouflages your unique ability. So, for me, it’s not just writing. Writing is a larger ability, like singing or drawing or running really fast (none of which I can do). As I was reading, an equation popped into my head: unique ability = raw ability + what you do with it + the difference that doing makes for people.
So I understood it theoretically. But how to populate that equation with my data?
I was on the back molars when it just sprung to me (although after reading David Eaglemen, I know that nothing actually “springs” to mind).
I spit, rinsed, and went upstairs to my office, where I plucked a piece of paper out of my notepad and wrote, in one continuous thought without picking up my pen: “My superpower is synthesizing and connecting ideas, and then putting them into context, so they apply to everyday life, as people really live it.”
And then I said, “Really?” And answered myself: “Yep, pretty sure that’s it.”
Does This Have Anything to do With Truth, Justice, and the American Way?
How does identifying your super power change things?
The most honest answer I can give is: I don’t completely know yet, but I have some pretty good ideas. I’ll tell you what I think it means for me, because I think you might relate to what it could mean for you.
The first thing it does is help me understand why certain work really engages me. So, from a work standpoint, my number one favorite thing to do in all of the world is write this newsletter. Before, when asked why, I may have answered: “Well, I like to write.” Or, “It’s something I get to do for myself.” But I do lots of things for myself (highlight my hair, indulge in ridiculous coffee drinks, get massages) and I write all day long. So neither answer really holds up.
But through the lens of my super power, of course it makes sense why I love writing this newsletter: it’s a pure space for synthesizing and connecting ideas and then putting them into context so they apply to people’s lives. It’s the absolute definition of that, uncluttered by anything else. I mean, I get to snatch ideas from the air—whichever ones I want—and weave them together through stories and observations. And I do it all with the intention of making it seem like it’s about your life (it IS about your life), so that you might actually do something different or see something different, right now.
It’s why I prioritize writing this (most) every week, even in the midst of client work that pays the bills. It’s why I feel like I could do it all day long, for free. (And technically, I AM doing it for free—although there is a strong ROI.)
Looking more broadly at the work I do, I see now that I do best when I am with companies on the level of ideas. I love it when I get to collect ideas and then make something around them for my clients. It’s why I love talking to clients, interviewing people, sifting through all the ideas, and then packaging them up into something tangible. It’s why I loved health journalism: I got to take big ideas and help people understand what it could mean for a decision they might make about what to eat for lunch.
The second big thing about knowing my super power is that it helps me know where I might head in the future. And this is really, really, really key for me, because I’ve been a little obsessed with future direction lately. It’s been hard to think about how I can “write” in a bigger way. Like what does that mean? But if I’m thinking about connecting ideas and putting them into context for people—that’s something I can see doing in a bigger way (and marketing in a bigger way). With my super power, I get a much stronger vision for where my career could go.
Whether you’re in business for yourself or you are working for someone else, I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on this super power business. It’s definitely not limited to business owners and solo practitioners. In fact, I would encourage anyone looking for a job or advancing through an organization or an industry to get clear on their super power, because it can help you see where you best fit.
And honestly, it’s just nice to embrace the idea of having a super power. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my daughter, Georgia (who’s three-and-a-half) has been walking around the house this past week calling herself “Super Georgia.” (“Super Georgia is going to finish the puzzle! Super Georgia is hungry!”) When she’s Super Georgia, she wears a tiara, fancy necklaces, sparkly Hello Kitty shoes, and a tutu, and carries a wrench (in case you want a visual . . .).
But you don’t need a costume (and the wrench is optional).
You just need the attitude.
Here’s to super power hunting . . .
PS. Next week is spring break. I’ll see you back here the first week in April!