It’s one thing to work and live in your zone of genius. It’s an entirely different thing to discover who you are first. In today’s society, we often talk about how to live in and foster our zone, but first, we have to pay attention to the often-overlooked personal development necessary to start that journey.
Before Your Zone of Genius
As I recently wrote about in my memoir, “Chasing Normal,” I grew up enmeshed in poverty, neglect, and abuse. The town I lived in fostered hopelessness. No one was thinking about a zone of genius when the real question was where your next meal was going to come from.
Through a lot of hard work and the blessings of others, I found my way out of that tragedy. I built a career and a life. I became a successful business executive and an expert at solving intractable problems for society and businesses. But hard work didn’t solve the problem of how I grew up: in a town and a home where I didn’t know who I really was or what I wanted out of life. The price of survival was never really addressing those other questions until it was almost too late.
And that’s the far too common problem in America today. How can we talk about a zone of genius without addressing the elephant in the room? Millions of people—even those who go on to find their way out of poverty—are not taught how to find themselves, discover what they really want, and how to pursue it. If you don’t know who you are, you can’t uncover and follow your zone of genius.
Discovering Who You Are
My journey was different from most but all too common simultaneously. Though abandoned as a teenager and left to fend for myself (which was unusual, to say the least), what was more common was the world I lived in: one that prioritized following the masses in search of whatever was “normal,” rather than being yourself. Ending that chase of “normal” is the first step in discovering who you are and what you want – which will allow you to embrace and succeed in your zone.
- First, stop listening to social media. Almost none of it is real, and your life should not be controlled by an algorithm. Realize that it’s never wise to compare yourself to others – because it’s never apples to apples. Enjoy the cute cat photos and keep up with your friends. Ditch the “influencers.”
- Second, recenter yourself. Think about how you grew up. What impact did it have on you? What lessons did you internalize, and are they truths or just holdovers because “that’s the way things are?” Separate truths from learned habits.
- Third, find the truths that are most important to you. Don’t think about what matters to others first. Yes, we all face pressure from society to be one way or another, but you can’t decide how you’re going to show up if you don’t know what matters to you most.
- Fourth, and most importantly, stop thinking about your zone of genius. It might sound counter-intuitive but stop thinking about what’s down the field. Focus on you. Focus on what makes you happy. Focus on friends, and family, building a robust personal life and a fulfilling inner world. Learn how to meditate, pick up a new hobby, and make a new friend. Live your life. The zone will come in time, but you will never thrive as a professional if you don’t take the time necessary to build a robust and value-filled personal world.
These are just a few of my suggestions – lessons I’ve learned as I stopped “Chasing Normal” and found myself. I hope you’ll take them with a grain of salt…and develop your own.
About the Author
Craig Greiwe is a business executive and former Chief Strategy Officer for one of America’s largest culture and marketing firms, Rogers & Cowan PMK, as well as a former 2022 Los Angeles mayoral candidate—but success didn’t happen overnight. He grew up in poverty in rural Indiana before being abandoned as a teenager. He worked hard, relied on the blessings of others, and built a life from virtually nothing. Now, he’s known for finding solutions to seemingly impossible problems and developing a groundbreaking strategy for America’s most trusted businesses, all while making sure that every friend has a drink in their hand, a warm shoulder to cry on, and a “chin-up” perspective. He has a relentlessly optimistic yet practical outlook on life—the kind you can only develop by having hit rock bottom and dusting yourself off to try again, as chronicled in his debut memoir “Chasing Normal: Growing Up, Letting Go, and Finding Joy in Being Different” (available now via Post Hill Press).