I was blessed with parents who passionately nurtured curiosity, awe, wonder, a passion for learning, open-mindedness, resourcefulness and many other gifts I now call “elements of natural genius.”
My mother, Mayo McHenry, taught me practical and design skills as she designed and sewed beautiful clothing. My dad, William McHenry, an industrial arts teacher who met my mother when he taught her in a college woodworking class, had my brother, sister and me help build our own home and maintain a flourishing garden as soon as we could be trusted to handle basic tools and discern weed from vegetable.
If you want to know what God is like, they taught, get out into the world and let it teach you. Be open to new perspectives anytime, anywhere, from any source. Use your design and discernment skills to ensure that you create what is right for you and on the level with others.
For over four decades I’d wanted to share the wisdom of my parents and other great teachers. But in about 2009, it was obvious that my attempts to write a book based on their wisdom was failing badly. After much frustration and meditation, I was guided to:
- Affirm your willingness to know and do what truly matters, even if that means to give up a cherished project.
- Take a long, prayerful shower and welcome guidance for your next step.
Memories of my father added, “Be sure to pay attention to any strange notions that run through your head.” After only a few minutes in the shower, a strange new thought did appear. “Genius Amnesia.”
Genius Amnesia? What the Heck?
Assuming genius amnesia didn’t relate to people like me who lack spectacular talents, achievements or IQ, I asked my husband John to see if the word genius had a Latin derivation. John quickly found this from his beloved March 1995 edition of The New College Latin & English Dictionary by John C. Traupman, Ph.D., Genius: guardian spirit of a person, place or thing; personification of all natural appetites, natural inclination; talent.
It didn’t seem unusual that the ancient definition didn’t mention IQ, an idea that wasn’t invented until just over a hundred years ago. David Shenk, author of The Genius in All of Us, reports that Alfred Binet, the developer of the IQ tests, hated the common notion that an individual’s intelligence is fixed. Binet even called such notions, “brutal pessimism.”
Nor was it surprising that ordinary talents are enough, for genius expert Barbara Sher has long said that talents are more about what we love than what we’re already good at. Besides, we can always team up with others who overflow with talents or brilliance we lack.
Since early childhood, I’ve been fascinated by how people receive inspiration, information and other forms of guiding wisdom, whether that guidance comes from a divine or secular source. In fact, the failed book that led me to the “genius amnesia” clue was about how people like you and I can receive guidance that leads to inspired visions for life and work. So I was quickly on board with the notion that guidance and talents are major aspects of the genius in all of us.
But what about natural inclinations, and how do they relate to genius amnesia? Another shower flooded me with memories of human potential work I’ve been involved with since 1971, and how painful my life had been during the prior 16-year period when I was unknowingly disconnected from the very gifts my parents had so carefully nurtured during my childhood.
Learning from My Own Genius Amnesia
In 1955, my world collapsed with the illness and death of my mother. This was before the work of death and dying expert Elizabeth Kubler-Ross that shattered old paradigms of “let’s not talk about death and dying, especially with those who are dying.”
Yielding to pressure from doctors, family, and our minister, I bravely smiled when asked how Mama was or when I visisted her in the hospital, trying to believe common advice that this could help her keep up hope long enough for a miracle cure to be found and to save her.
When Mama died one snowy day, I could not cry. I sublimated denied grief into becoming a teenage workaholic and dreaming of becoming a doctor who would cure the illness that killed her. That way, I thought, I could finish Mama’s too-short life and give her death meaning.
When that dream failed in pre-med, I was too ashamed to seek help. I did not realize that by denying the reality of grief, the more I repressed curiosity, a love of research, creativity and other habits I needed to find my own right place in life. Not surprisingly, I got caught up in many disappointing jobs and relationships.
In 1971, a friend suggested the human potential movement. During a sample session of bioenergetics, I cried deeply, which released and made me aware of much stagnant grief. Soon I again felt awe and wonder, curiosity, hope and the creative spirituality my parents had practiced. My instincts sharpened, and I began having flashes of intuition. As I experienced and trained in various human potential modalities over time, more lost inner treasures came apparent and alive.
A Vision of the Genius Treasures in All of Us
On my second visit to 55 treasures from the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun to Washington, D.C’s National Gallery of Art in 1976-77, I went straight to the small gilded statue of Selket. “What a tragedy it would be if all this beauty had remained hidden under the sands of Egypt and no-one would get to see and be inspired by it,” another gallery visitor said.
“Yes,” I quietly agreed. As I watched her melt into the crowd, I was struck by how alive and awestruck the people there were in spite of having had to stand in line for up to four hours merely to get into the exhibit.
“It’s an even worse tragedy that so many of us are unaware of the treasures of body, mind and spirit that lie hidden within us,” I realized. Fortunately, bioenergetics and other human potential work had already taught me how forgotten natural gifts can be recovered. Inspired by the Tut exhibit and the work of archaeologist Howard Carter, who rediscovered the Tut treasures, I now love helping people do what I call “personal archaeology” to reclaim our buried treasures of body, mind and spirit.
A New Formula for Genius
Since I began following the “genius amnesia” clues, I’ve been thrilled to discover new insights about genius from people in many fields. Research over the past 10 years and questions from students in my first courses on genius in 2018 led to this draft definition: Genius = 1) the ability to consciously integrate insights from your natural inclinations, talents, perspective, experience and other channels of information and inspiration to be your wisest self in every aspect of life and work; 2) the acts that result from using your genius abilities to solve problems or to know and build purposeful dreams.
How do you do this? Here are my favorite tips:
- Welcome insights and inspiration anytime, anywhere, from any source, including whatever strange notions flow through your brain;
- Investigate ideas and possibilities to determine their truth and relevance to you;
- Keep seeking guidance while you develop clear visions of what you are called to do to solve problems, build dreams, and live with integrity, purpose and joy;
- Treat genius like love: work with it every day, in matters large and small, especially when your genius challenges what you think you already know.
Who is the “Us” in About Us?
John Sullivan, husband and best friend, and I did a lot of work together in the field of spirituality and work for almost ten years. You can see the fruits of much of that work in the blog posts about spirit, work and/or money and the Inspired Work & Business section of this website. Now, he supports Everyday Genius by being the best listener of writing I’ve ever had. As I read aloud, the quality of his listening is so good it’s fairly easy to spot many errors, unclear sentences, and other things that shouldn’t be here. He’s my no. one cheerleader, shoulder to cry on, and fellow traveler through times tough and good.
Watch this site and all my writing for the insights of people John calls “fellow wizards,” a name inspired by The Wizard of Oz, meaning a wonderful world of people whose ideas and inspiration it’s a delight to share.
How May I Help You Reclaim and Cultivate Your Genius?
Finding and sharing new insights, tips and stories about our genius is supreme joy. Hopefully, I’ll be able to encourage you, as my mother did in her daily chats over coffee and cake with her best friend while they shared joys and concerns, tips and resources.
As you savor what’s here, may you also enjoy lots of laughter, tears, and new ideas and inspiration for your best life. If you want one-on-one help, classes and other ways to know and live your genius, I’m here for you through the expanding Products and Services pages or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many blessings and best wishes to you, Pat Sullivan