What is your “Unique Genius”?

December 23rd, 2008

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pebblestorm-unique-genius-sketch-smallOne of PebbleStorm’s core ideas is “Unique Genius”.  I believe that everyone, and each company, has one, whether or not they know what it is or can harness it (yet).

[Update: visit for a series of free Unique Genius videos]

Your life purpose is to help others by sharing your inner self – but what does that mean?  How does that take shape in the world?  Here’s another way to think about it…

Your Unique Genius inspires you. It is a mashup of your talents and enjoyments, done in a way that adds meaning to your life by making a difference for others.  For example, all the things I’m great at and enjoy doing (coaching, writing, sales, etc.) combine into “helping people make money through enjoyment”, which inspires me!

What are your favorite ways to put your strengths to work in ways that help people with their problems or make a difference?  Once you have at least some direction on this, you can begin to build a business around it.  Yes, it will take time, likely longer than you want, but how will you get there if you don’t start in the first place?

By the way, I find the most common roadblock to people tapping into this incredibly powerful source of inspiration is the phrase “but I could never make money at that…”.   Don’t worry about the making money part quite yet.

Why it’s so important

pstorm-sunYour Unique Genius inspires you, intrigues others, and gives your Dream Business (or Dream Work) resonance and direction.  If your Dream Business was a car, your Unique Genius would be the limitless fuel that powers it.  So unlocking your Unique Genius is a key part of manifesting your Dream Business.

The resonance of your message should attract other people to you, either as customers or champions.  Keeping it simple is important, because you’ll use it to introduce your work to people.  When you share your Unique Genius with someone who’s relevant to what you’re doing, they should be intrigued by it, even if they don’t understand what it is yet.  You don’t need to explain what you do first – just get them interested enough to want to know more.

Finally, a clear Unique Genius is something that keeps you on track, like a compass, even when things are hectic or you’re feeling lost.  I know that if I’m stressed with work, I can’t be making money through enjoyment, so something is wrong and I’m not following my own advice!

Unique Genius and life purpose

A Unique Genius is similar or the same as a life purpose, but I specifically like “Unique Genius” because it emphasizes that 1) everyone is unique in their own way, and brings their own “voice” to life and work, and 2) people do have a form of genius, even the ones that don’t recognize it yet.

The more clear you can get on your Unique Genius the easier your path will be to creating your Dream Business.  Things will flow more easier – ideas, projects, customers, audiences, income…

I really like this article on finding your life purpose: “How The Matrix Can Help You Discover Your Life Purpose

Why it pays to be unique

Rather than thinking about how broad your talents and passions are, instead, ask what is a specific purpose in life to which you can apply them, meaningfully?  A purpose brings focus and meaning to your enjoyments and talents.  It’s not an easy question, but when you start asking this question, answers will come.

When describing your business and genius, try it in terms of “the result you create for others” rather than “what you do.”  People care more about what you can do for them than what you do. Here’s a personal example: “I do sales consulting” versus “I help sales organizations create predictable revenue” (

How you know when you’re in the zone

There is no “right” answer to what a unique genius is or how it’s described.  However, here are some guidelines:

  • It authentically inspires you
  • It offers direction as a guiding principle or compass
  • It intrigues others
  • It is simple

These are also roughly in order.  For example, first figure out what inspires you before trying to simplify it or to inspire others.

Note that “it is clever” is not on the list – it doesn’t have to be tricky or clever.  Start simple and meaningful, such as “help people express themselves through sculpture”, “motivate children to learn” or “bring happiness to seniors with pets”.  Expect it to evolve over time.

Real examples

Sample questions to help you crystallize it

I’d suggest taking a blank page, picking a single question, and starting to brainstorming without trying to think about it too much.  There’s also a link at the bottom of the post to a worksheet with more questions.  Because your Dream Business is the manifestation of your Unique Genius (which in turn inspires and powers your Dream Business), the same questions are useful to reflect on them both.

  • If you could do anything for work, what would it be?  (Including the “I could never make money at that…” things)
  • Assume you have plenty of money and don’t have to work, but wanted to do something meaningful with your life…what would that be?
  • What are your favorite things to do?
  • How would you like to mash them up?
  • If you could help any kind of person, who would you help?
  • What did you want to do when you were 8 years old, and why?
  • What is your superpower(s)?
  • What do people come to you for real advice on?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • If you could make a difference in the life of someone you don’t know by writing a note or book, how would they be different after reading it?

Here’s a sampling of “my enjoyments” that I listed out, as a way to kick the process off.  Of course I didn’t do the sketch until much later 🙂


Don’t worry about other people

The future of work is about collaboration rather than competition.  Even if two people seem to have similar Unique Geniuses now, over time they both will evolve in different directions, and are more likely to end up helping each other than competing.

Also, your Unique Genius isn’t just what you do for people – it’s also how you do it.  Let’s say two people both describe what they do as “motivate children to learn”.  One might do it through videos with puppets, another through creating fun learning games.  There are infinite ways to be unique in what and how you do!

More: Unique Genius worksheet

View and download worksheet

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It’s good to be back ‘online’ here!  I just returned from an amazing 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat in North Fork, CA (near Yosemite).


There were 120+ other people there, evenly split between men and women and ages from 20s-60s., describes Vipassana as: “This non-sectarian technique aims for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resultant highest happiness of full liberation. Healing, not merely the curing of diseases, but the essential healing of human suffering, is its purpose.”

And a booklet from the retreat continues:

What Vipassana is not:

  • It is not a rite or ritual based on blind faith.
  • It is neither intellectual nor a philosophical entertainment.
  • It is not a rest cure, a holiday, or an opportunity for socializing.
  • It is not an escape from the trials and tribulations of everyday life.

What Vipassana is:

  • It is a technique that will eradicate suffering.
  • It is a method of mental purification which allows one to face life’s tensions and problems in a calm, balanced way.
  • It is an art of living that one can use to make positive contributions to society.

How I benefit from regular meditation

Even before this retreat, I’d been meditating for about a year (simple observation of my breathing, not Vipassana) because:

  1. Meditation enhances my ability to focus. It creates mental ‘space’, helping me distinguish “activity” versus “productivity”. Ever feel like you’re so busy doing ‘stuff’, but when you look back, none of it felt like it mattered?   It doesn’t matter how hard you’re working to climb that mountain…if you’re climbing the wrong mountain.
  2. It opens up my creativity – I’ve had some great ideas come through!
  3. It enhances my happiness and contentment
  4. It’s enjoyable – calming and relaxing, like a mental massage 🙂  

How I got started with meditation – slowly; babysteps!

I started about a year ago, after beginning to work with an Ayurvedic nutritionist (which is also when I stopped drinking coffee and alcohol). I started with just a few minutes at a time in the morning, and slowly built from there.  Even now I don’t meditate every day.  For the past six months, it’s been about 3-5x per week, for 10-30min, and slowly getting more consistent over time.  I am increasing that now after the retreat.

Attitude makes all the difference

I’ve found my attitude makes a huge difference.  When I started a year ago, meditation felt like more of a chore, as if my conscious was a mom saying “eat your peas, dear”.  OK ok…grumble, grumble.  However, once I got the hang of it and stopped resisting, I began to look forward to it as an enjoyable, relaxing mental space, like a mental spa break ☺ Do you look at going to the spa as a chore?  The kid grew up and realizes they not only like peas, but even looks forward to meals full of them!  (Please ignore this analogy if you don’t like peas as an adult.)

I heard about Vipassana from a friend about three years ago, and even though I wasn’t meditating at the time and had no idea what Vipassana was, I immediately had a feeling of “I want to do that!” (someday).

The retreat: 10 days of silence to calm the mind and enable the study

It’s called “Noble Silence” – no communication during retreat with other students or the outside world, either by voice, glance or gesture.  The purpose is to calm the mind, to enable one to really learn and apply the technique. You can see ask the teachers questions, and their is instruction, so it’s not totally silent.  I found the silence actually very easy, and it did make the practice easier to learn.

Walking into the retreat, and leaving behind iPhone, camera, etc., and knowing I wouldn’t have access to email or my phone for 10 days, my mind immediately calmed down…


How it went & what I got (including an unintended addiction)

We had a suprisingly busy schedule, beginning at 4am, of meditation, breakfast, meditation, lunch, meditation, evening tea break, meditation, and then evening discourses. I was asleep by 9:30p each night. During the long meal breaks, I’d nap or take walks on the walking paths.  The food was amazing!  I became addicted to Celestial Seasoning’s “Bengal Spice tea“, a form of chai without black tea or caffeine. Yum!!  Don’t worry, caffeine addicts – they had instant coffee there too.

Although some people had a really tough time in the first couple of days with the silence and hours of meditation, I found it was surprisingly easy; a piece of cake.  I had some tough days (Day 8 was a low one for me), but it was all worth it.  I was surprised that it was harder physically than mentally for me, because I wasn’t used to sitting like that for so long.  Many other experienced meditators brought their own cushions and backrests. For novices like me, the Center had a ton of cushions and benches there for people to try out and use. It took 3-4 days to figure out my ‘seating system’.

Here are some of the specific things I got from the retreat:

  • A practice that will increase my happiness, calmness and awareness in all situations in my life
  • Clarity/confirmation that what I’m doing with PebbleStorm is exactly what I should be doing with my life
  • A GREAT image for PebbleStorm, using a tree to illustrate four levels of happiness, and how PebbleStorm helps people tap into the most enduring, meaningful forms of happiness.  It’s only sketched in pen now, I’ll have to play with it before I’m ready to post it here.  First a Sun, now a tree…I sense a trend here in using natural images in addition to my circles…
  • A shift in my thinking of the balance of buddhism/happiness thinking and capitalism in PebbleStorm (a topic for another day).  I used to think it was 50/50, but really the mix is more like 80% buddhism/happiness and 20% capitalism. By the way – if you’re unfamiliar with buddhism, its core isn’t religious at all, though sects have added rites and rituals. It is simply a system to help people achieve lasting happiness (“enlightenment”).

Did I mention the 10-day retreat was free?  It’s 100% donation-supported.

And by the way, the course is free.  Yes, lodging and TASTY meals for 10 days.  They do ask for a donation at the end, “to pay for others”, but it’s by no means required and there is really no pressure at all.  The entire worldwide organization, in 120 countries, runs on a donation and volunteer basis.  This is how strongly people feel about how Vipassana has impacted their lives!

A worldwide non-profit driven by genuine, passionate commitment

Both the practice itself and the non-profit organization teaching it at more than 120 centers around the world are fascinating.  Run by volunteers (even teachers aren’t paid), it’s a worldwide, well-oiled machine. The retreat ran like The reason the organization works so well is because of people’s passion for the benefits they receive from Vipassana…and they want to help others receive the same benefits.

Now: integrating it to my (daily) life

They recommend, as a minimum, an hour of meditation in the morning, and an hour in the evening.  Rather than start out strongly and probably have some discouraging breakdowns in the practice, personally I know I’ll be more successful with a gradually building practice (this is me – what you need to be successful might be very different). It’ll take me some time to figure out my routine and to really make it a part of my daily life. For the next three months, I’m going to do it as much as possible, at least once a day, but realize that I have some experimentation to do.  Especially since I’ll be traveling and moving quite a bit between San Francisco, Los Angeles and Buenos Aires…and any kind of travel plays hell with my routine.

“I could never meditate, my mind is too busy/I have ADD…”

I’ve heard this from so many people.  If your mind is so agitated, isn’t that exactly why you should work to tame it, to put it to work for you rather than being at its mercy?  Jumping into a 10 day silent retreat might be too much at first, but there are plenty of ways to try it out in smaller steps.

A 3-minute practice and simple steps you can try

Please Leave A Comment!

Do you practice?  What works for you?  Leave any suggestions in the comments!  And I’ll share updates on my practice monthly as it builds.

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