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#8 Adversity reveals genius

#8 Adversity reveals genius

On My Mind

I think holding space is a highly underrated leadership skill— likely because most leaders don't really know what it means.

Here's my definition of "holding space": building a relationship with someone where they trust you enough to share their full truth with you, then witnessing them (usually in silence) as they share that truth. No matter how big their emotions or how outrageous their ideas, you refrain from commiserating, judging, minimalizing, fixing or anything else that stymies their expression or makes it about you. You do this inwardly as well as outwardly (people can tell when you are commiserating/minimizing/judging/fixing them in your head). If you've ever been around a tantruming toddler and managed to not give in, yell, coddle, or slam a door, you're on the right path.

Why is this a leadership skill? Let's go back to a coaching concept that I referenced in Newsletter #1: Performance = Potential – Interference. Emotions, anxieties, self-talk, and swirling ideas are all interference. When you can create and hold space for your people, you allow those interferences to be released and your people to finally move forward. Best of all, the act of holding space simultaneously builds their trust in themselves and in your relationship.

On My Podcast Shortlist

A friend turned me onto Living Myth with Michael Meade when he did a show about Kairos and Eros (my son's name is Kairos). By passing our current reality through the lens of myths, his podcast provides me with alternative, potentially more helpful stories to tell myself about the turmoil we find ourselves in.

In a recent episode, Meade discusses the idea of "genius": not in the modern sense of an extraordinary person, but in the ancient sense of a unique magic and calling inside every one of us beyond the duality of nature vs. nurture. This understanding of genius suggests that, rather than being a "blank slate" with the freedom to do "anything we want," our life's journey is to uncover and fully embody our unique genius. This echos one of my all-time favorite TED talks, Elizabeth Gilbert on the crippling modern shift from "having a genius" to "being a genius."

Meade wraps up by quoting Horace: "Adversity reveals genius; prosperity conceals it." In these adverse times, he suggests, finding and owning our genius is how we will save ourselves and our world at the same time.

A Tarot Card

The figure on the Four of Pentacles (or Coins) is often characterized as a miser (in the Waite-Rider deck he is gripping the center coin tightly). This is the feeling of holding so tightly to our need for security and personal gain that we block ourselves off from other people and the beauty around us. And there is another side to these coins. At times it's necessary to set clear boundaries and go inside ourselves to help us create structure for ourselves when it is lacking in the world around us.

A Question

What is your genius?


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