How to Own and Protect Your Genius
As a business coach and entrepreneur, a common challenge that continues to come up for both me and my clients is people asking us to give away our time and gifts for free. This could be inviting us to speak, picking our brains or submitting a detailed proposal that basically outlines the entire project. The common element is an expectation of us giving with no reciprocation from the other party.
While we can’t stop the flood of requests, we can learn how to own and protect our genius. Because if we don’t, no one else will.
Since many people struggle with this issue, I thought I’d share some tips on how to own and protect your genius.
A coaching client recently shared her frustrations about a business organization that has her on speed dial to fill space when a speaker cancels. They seem to expect her to be honoured by the request, rather than understanding the work involved and compensating her accordingly.
Not only do they have no respect for the time it takes her to prepare, travel and present, she also has received zero clients from her speaking. Why? Because their audience doesn’t align with the clients she serves.
The result – the transaction is one-sided. The organization gets a free speaker, while making money by selling tickets to the luncheon. As for my client, she leaves feeling deflated and used.
For both sides to feel fulfilled there needs to be an equal exchange. This could be a speaking or consulting fee, honorarium or even a donation to a charity. A transaction needs to occur where both parties bring something to the table.
Passion over obligation
One of the reasons we often find ourselves giving away our genius is we say yes out of obligation versus passion.
How many times have you said yes just because they asked you? Or you don’t think you had the option of saying no? Or you felt obligated because you have a connection to the organization, project or cause?
Obligation has a sneaky way of making us say yes when we want to say no.
Having fallen into this trap too many times, I now use a decision-making funnel to ensure I’m saying yes for the right reasons. I have three main criteria I use to evaluate all opportunities –passion, ability to make big changes and desire for creative solutions.
You’ll notice #1 on my list is passion. If I’m not passionate about the project or opportunity it’s a simple no.
I’ve learned the hard way that when you let obligation sway your decisions it only leads to you giving away your genius with no personal fulfillment.
Respect your genius
Not only are you the gatekeeper of your genius, you also need to be its biggest champion.
This means respecting and honouring the years of education, experience, struggles and successes it’s taken to hone and craft your genius. It didn’t come freely but rather is the result of hard work, dedication and passion.
To own and protect your genius you need to give it the respect it’s due.
Treat your genius like you would a valued client. Be strategic on how to best use your time and resources, focusing on where you can make the biggest impact.
Honour your needs
In one of Brené Brown’s books, she shares the story of a time she was asked to speak at a conference. For free.
Not only did she say yes out of obligation, but she also learned a hard lesson about the importance of speaking up for herself.
When she initially declined the speaking offer, the conference organizer made a comment about her being too famous to speak for free. Guilt kicked in so Brené said yes. As the details of the conference were being finalized, she learned should would be sharing a room with another speaker.
Again, when Brené expressed her concerns and asked for a private room, the organizer shamed her into sharing a room (who do you think you are for asking for your own room).
Brené shared how her experience of saying yes out of obligation and not speaking up for her needs resulted in a very negative experience. Not only did she have a disastrous night with her roomie, but she also was not happy with the talk she gave the following day.
In giving away her genius, she not only negatively impacted her personal comfort but also didn’t bring her best to the table.
It’s not selfish, but rather self-preservation, to honour your personal needs. I know that Brené Brown is not the only accomplished person to struggle with this challenge.
Bring your best to the table
Owning and protecting your genius isn’t about saying no to all volunteer or pro bono requests, but rather about being clear on what you say yes to. It’s about honouring your skills, experience and gifts and be selective on how and where you share them.
By doing this, you’ll be able to show up fully and bring your best self to the table instead of feeling worn down and deflated.
I encourage to think about how you’re owning and protecting your genius. Where are you giving it away and getting nothing in return? And where are you sharing your genius in a way that motivates and inspires you?
The world needs more of your genius in a strategic and authentic way. Honour this by honouring the gifts you bring.