23 January 2006


I'm off to something of a slow reading start this year. I finished my first book over a week ago, but I'm not really done with it (though I may be by the time I'm done writing this post). Setting Your Genius Free: How to Discover Your Spirit and Calling by Dick Richards is a book I viewed with much skepticism. Richards accounts for that possibility within the book and suggests the reader suspend her disbelief to engage in a thought experiment. Being most certainly within The Search and having found few answers, I figured it was worth trying something different.

His use of the word "genius" annoys me to no end and is really just another name for "core process," a concept he encountered at someone else's seminar and extrapolated from. Basically, the idea is that everyone has a unique way of interacting with their environments which when honored is their special gift to themselves and the world.

The thrust of the book is naming one's genius, thereby recognizing one's own driving skill or process, so one can take better advantage of his or her natural ability. Richards' rules for naming seem convenient to me, derived to ensure results that support his theory. A person can have only one genius because his naming rules say so. The name of a genius must consist of exactly one verb (ending in -ing) and one noun. Even if no two people he's worked with have come up with the same name for their respective geniuses, that's not proof that everyone's genius' name will be unique. If we generously suppose he's heard 100,000 distinct names of genius, his sample group would still only be .00155% of the world's population, hardly conclusive.

I suppose my biggest problem with the book is the idea that knowing the name of my unique genius will help me discover my unique mission in life. Again, "unique" is a source of trouble. When I imagine a world of people each pursuing a unique mission according to Richards' edicts, what I see is ultimately chaotic. However, the crux for me is this idea of mission. When I finished the book, nothing seemed more clear to me than the fact that I don't believe my life has an intrinsic purpose.

So, can this book be of any use to me? I'm not sure. It seems to me a person's core process, their genius, will manifest regardless of what their job is. That's sort of the point of core process: there's something that you (your brain/spirit/soul/whatever) always do when you encounter sensory data. Some environments will be more beneficial to certain people's processes while others will work against them. Given that, there may be something yet to be gained.

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  1. It all sounds very interesting, by why even starting with the premise that we each have a unique role or genius in the world? While it is a romantic concept, do most of us really want to be so singularly minded to be a genius -- like a Mozart, writing concertos at four year old or training 25 years for the opportunity to be in one Olympic game. I would think the very idea of being a good spouse or parent or friend would take time away from your genius pursuit.

    Maybe, like you, I'm having an initial bad reaction to the concept of "wanting to find my genius," but I'd love to hear more about the book.

  2. There are too many of these books, one point written in a few different ways...

  3. BD- at the very least, this guy has too many of the same book. He just released one last fall that sounds just like the older one I read.

    Neil- Your point is good, but to be fair, this guy is abusing the word "genius" for his purposes. The name for his is "creating clarity." Other names for genius include: "surveying the landscape," "digging deeper," "creating warmth," "straightening up," "engaging the heart," and "building platforms."

    Actually, I was also annoyed that his own examples didn't always follow his own naming rules. Up and deeper aren't nouns, for instance.

    Aside from that, you'll notice that the names can be tremendously vague. The more of yourself you want it to describe, the more vague it has to be, I think. How useful is that?

    The idea as I understand it is that the name serves as a sort of sign post. A quick reminder if you're on the right track.

    I'm not entirely sold that the name I came up with for myself is the 'right' name for me, but I feel it's definitely close. It pretty well describes my core process, but as such I can apply it to anything I encounter. That makes it a pretty useless signpost imo.

  4. So this name, is it supposed to be positive as in what I must remmeber to eh.. strive for, or should the name describe my limitations?

    I think I like to have little mantras of what I should remember to (try and) do, rather than reminding myself what I'm not able to cope with.

    PS! Neil, I would also want to avoid yet another "thing" that makes me unique (and thereby singled out = alone/misunderstood)

  5. That your genius is positive is another one of his rules.

    Perhaps signpost isn't the right way to put it.

    The name reflects the unique way you process information to positive effect. The name is more of a title for what you are naturally best at, so it's not about limitations.

    It's a way to name what you were doing when something came to you easily, you were successful at it, and you felt good about yourself doing it. Knowing what it is would help you place yourself amidst work, places, and people that would be supportive of your gift.

    He calls them all unique, but it's not an isolating uniqueness for the most part. Typically (from his examples) people's gifts help other people either directly or indirectly. His outlook lets everyone be special (unique) while contributing something positive to the world and other people.

    That may be it: think of 'special' instead of 'unique.' It'll give you a better sense of my take on it anyway.

  6. It sounds pretty interesting, really! Actually anything that makes you (me) focus on something positive/constructive is fine by me. Did you by any chance read a book called Seven Habits of Highly Effective People? - I never did the exercises (I never do) but it had some good points - Though it surely has it's aura of quick fix about it - I *did* find some food for thought in it.

  7. I know of it, but I haven't read it.