Thousands Struggle With Their Inner Genius – But Never Discover It

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Catherine Hughes

Director of the 8 Women Dream Project at 8 Women Dream
Catherine’s dream is to make 8 Women Dream the premier online publication for women looking to pursue their dreams. She is a published author, a freelance writer, and a guide for those who want their dreams to come true online. Catherine would someday like to be invited to speak at TED about her observations about her 8WD project inviting women to take a chance on their dreams. Wine was required... Catherine posts on Sunday evenings and fills in dream stories as needed. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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Practical Genius homework

In last Sunday’s post, Life Purpose: What If You Picked The Wrong Dream? I debuted Gina Rudan’s new book, Practical Genius: The Real Smarts You Need to Get Your Talents and Passions Working for You. I wrote about the notion of play in creating your dream life.

Rudan says, “For many of us, our form of play is our greatest passion, so don’t ignore play when considering your passion. Keith Carroll, the renowned leader of the play movement, believes we all can find our inner genius through play: ‘Once you find your source of play let it be your life’s work so much so that no one, not even you, will be able to tell the difference between work and play.”

I promised I would work through this book each Sunday and offer my insights into identifying if the dream I picked is the right one.

This week I worked through the section of  the book where Gina walks you through creating your own Playbook. I hate it when there’s homework from a book, but since I assign homework to dreamers when you are in search of your dream life then it is only natural I do the Practical Genus homework.

What is a playbook?

A playbook is your snapshot moments in life. Gina wants you to explore your life so you can tell a passionate story of who you are when you meet people and in your personal conversations. She hates the standard small talk like, “I run a popular website known as 8 Women Dream.”

She’d rather I’d say …. wait I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me walk you through it so you can do it too.

What’s your story?

Gina makes the argument that your Practical Genius resides in the place where your hard and soft assets meet and the stories you tell everyone about who you are. To quote her, ” Expressing your practical genius is not about expressing the limitedness of our personalities or egos but more about expressing wonder of the depths of the oceans of who we are as complex multidimensional creatures.”

The first homework assignment

Take a whole day to note all the instances and ways you tell your story– if at all. What are the signals you send in your ordinary exchanges with people? Is there anything consistent about the way you project yourself to those who populate your day?

Do you convey an energy, a sense of contribution, or connections with others that are a reflection of who you are across all of your communications? When you email or tweet an update your profiles on any one of digital venues, are you purposefully telling your story– or are you just regurgitating empty bits of information that have no meaning and steal time from you and everyone who reads about you?


I know this drill. You’d be surprised at what you know — you know about yourself when you look hard enough. I get amazing feedback from my Toastmasters group when I give a speech. One thing they notice when I give speeches about my Hashimotos life is that I draw my body in, close myself off and give the visual impression that I am conserving energy.

They love my thyroid stories, but I seem to be giving the impression that the listeners should protect me.  I don’t want that. I am out to show the world that you can achieve great success — even when your thyroid hates you. Dealing with heath issues should never stop you from achieving your dreams. Look at Stephen Hawking. Has he let his disease prevent him from being the physicist my son loves?


How powerful was the feedback on my speeches? I had no idea that my body language told a different story.

The two-minute drill

At this part of the book, Rudan further challenges the reader to practice that you have only two minutes to get someone to care about you. No using your kids, your illness or your sob stories. How would you get someone to fall in love with your passion if you had just 120 seconds?

Are you telling the right story about who you really are?

Gina Rundan argues that your real story matters because it is the truth. Your real story inspires, explains, or connects you with someone else. Because it is powerful, free, persuasive, natural, entertaining, memorable, and, above all, authentic.

But what is my real story?

Designing your story

You can do this with photographs or by telling stories as answers to the following questions –

Can you name the all-time greatest moment of your life (you cannot use when your child was born or your wedding day)? What led up to it and what happened next?

Russian doll. for practical genius

Well how’s that for a tough question? I want to answer when my son was born, but if I factor that wonderful event out of the equation then I do remember the time in ballet when I performed and received my first standing ovation.

It was like no high I have ever experienced and I instantly wanted to go back out on stage in front of hundreds and hundreds of people.

What lead up to it was years of practice and a desire to have my own ballet solo. I was given the part of the Russian Doll in the first act of Nutcracker, where my ballet teacher brought in a coach from the San Francisco ballet.

He was also dancing one of the leads. I had a second part as a Russian Candy Cane with three other dancers. I had a small solo in the middle of the piece. In the middle of this dance I had to do a high leap split into the air.

This one night — it was as if I was possessed by the great gods of dance and everything I did seemed to click. My Russian Doll dance went well, but it wasn’t until I was high in the air of that Russian Candy Cane solo that I realized I had just done the greatest dance-leap of my life.

The audience responded with a standing ovation when I was done.

What happened next is that I came into my own confidence as a dancer.   I was previously discounted as a possible contender because of my height. I am 5′ 10. Back in my day, dancers had to be 5’6″ or shorter and there was no real opportunities for professional dancers outside the ballet world.

My ballet teacher could be mean and after that ovation I could care less what she thought. I knew I could dance.

What was your biggest “aha” moment, when you learned and experienced something so profound in your life that it changed you forever?

My biggest “aha” moment was when my dad died and I got how brief life can be. I suddenly understood how important it was to tell the people that you love that you love them, even if they don’t feel that way about you — and be okay with it. I was able to forgive myself for being a typical bratty teenage girl because of how often I told my dad I loved him and how often he told me (and hugged me) back.

What is the wildest thing you’ve ever done? What made you do it?

Which one? Since “adventure” is my word I tend to take risks — more when I was younger and before I was a mom. But if I had to name wildest …

I went for a flight with a stunt pilot I hardly knew where I was fitted with a parachute. I was determined to experience life as a stunt pilot and a guy who liked me at the time just happened to be one. When he asked me if I wanted to go up in the air with him I answered yes before taking a breath. He told me that I would probably throw up.

I was determined not to throw up.

To give you an idea of the type of stunt flight I went on in this guy’s Citabria plane — when we landed his fellow pilot friends call him an ass. At this point I was throwing up the skin from the bottom of my feet in the bathroom. But I didn’t throw up in his plane.

Even through all the barrel rolls over the Northern California Geysers.

My nurse mother had to give me a pregnancy nausea pill and send me to bed for 24 hours so I could stop feeling like I was still flying.  I was sooooooo proud that I did it.

In last Sunday’s post I talked about the place where your hard and soft assets meet — and how your narrative should always take you to that place. Gina’s idea with these questions is to get you to realize that you can have several versions of your story, but they all express, portray, reveal, illustrate, project and attract others to your genius.

Snapshot moments

Is there a photograph of you that you come back to again and again because you (and only you) know that it expresses every single thing about you? When you look at that photo what do you see? Do you see your story? Tell yourself the story you see in that photograph.

This was hard for me because I really don’t look at photos of myself doing anything.  I have all kinds of photos of my son, but of me?  Not so much.  And certainly  none that I look at of myself.  the photos I enjoy are those of my family and friends.  Gina doesn’t give any advice if this question stumps you.

Scavenger hunt

Gina wants you to dig through your life as if you really have an empty word bank, and begin identifying the words and phrases you own by grabbing a few of your favorite periodicals and highlighting the words or phrases on an index card, and spread them on a table. Move them around, change their order try to find the hierarchy of meaning to you. Collect those words into the start of a vocabulary log that you can continue to tweak refine and add to.

This one still confuses me.  You can see how varied my interests are.  But maybe I should look at all the books I read and see if there are words that draw me in….


Sketch a six-box grid on a big piece of poster paper. Each box represents an ingredient of your practical genius– your passions, values, and creative abilities and your strengths, skills and expertise. In each box, place images or symbols or swatches of color or any other visuals you think represent your unique genius in this area. This is an exercise that should take place over time.

I have vision boards for this.

But I’m still not sure about all this.

What did I find out about myself this week?

I’m weird because I have vision boards on my ceiling instead of pictures of men.

I did find that I need to change up my routine more.  Doing new things makes me happy. It appeals to the adventurer in me. The rest of these exercises? I’m not so sure . . . I guess we’ll see as I walk us through her book.

Unless you see a pattern forming?

And my story beyond “I run a popular website known as 8 Women Dream”?  I’m still working on it.

What did you learn about you and your dream this week?


8 Women Dream has an extra copy of this new book, Practical Genius: The Real Smarts You Need to Get Your Talents and Passions Working for You, by Gina Amaro Rudan and we want to give it to one of our treasured readers.

Here’s how to get your name in the drawing —

Leave a thoughtful comment on any of the posts in Catherine’s series on Practical Genius and this will register you for the drawing. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win. Notification of the contest winner will be sent to the email address you use to post your comments.

We will draw a lucky winner on Sunday, November 2nd.

  • Pingback: How To Fuel Your Life Purpose By Surrounding Yourself With Genius | 8 Women Dream()

  • Remy Gervais, Top Photographer

    Great post. I have lots of boards and photos hanging to keep the reminder…sometimes, when I get really stressed I cant even see them. I have to be in the moment and my truest self to really use them! xo rem

  • Edna Stallman

    *WONDERFUL* post. Thanks for sharing your insights into this book.

  • Liu Shan

    The job of the person still remains the spark that moves mankind ahead. Sometimes you find your spark through the job that you do.

  • Lynn Fincher

    Have you ever played the Career Interest Game? You should check it out here – maybe your dream readers could use this too! I like this series of posts Catherine. Very helpful.

  • Looks like an interesting book.

    • It is. Just when I think I’m not getting it something happens in my life that reminds me I need to craft “my story.” Thanks for your comment Brandon.

  • Geri Malandra

    I like how Steve Plavlina says to do this –

    So how to discover your purpose in life? While there are many ways to do this, some of them fairly involved, here is one of the simplest that anyone can do. The more open you are to this process, and the more you expect it to work, the faster it will work for you. But not being open to it or having doubts about it or thinking it’s an entirely idiotic and meaningless waste of time won’t prevent it from working as long as you stick with it — again, it will just take longer to converge.

    Here’s what to do:

    Take out a blank sheet of paper or open up a word processor where you can type (I prefer the latter because it’s faster).
    Write at the top, “What is my true purpose in life?”
    Write an answer (any answer) that pops into your head. It doesn’t have to be a complete sentence. A short phrase is fine.
    Repeat step 3 until you write the answer that makes you cry. This is your purpose.

    That’s it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a counselor or an engineer or a bodybuilder. To some people this exercise will make perfect sense. To others it will seem utterly stupid. Usually it takes 15-20 minutes to clear your head of all the clutter and the social conditioning about what you think your purpose in life is. The false answers will come from your mind and your memories. But when the true answer finally arrives, it will feel like it’s coming to you from a different source entirely.

    This worked really well for me.

    • lol is it this simple Geri? But I kinda agree with his method, or the method that Barbara Sher follows. I love this about this dream blog — we can all exchange ideas so people have many options to how to discover their dream life.

  • Heather

    I LOVE that your vision boards are over your bed! If that doesn’t show commitment, I don’t know what does.

    Great exercise… I might be brave enough to actually try it for myself. When can I steal your copy??

    – H