Travel back to your childhood, when you were 7, 8, 9, or 10 years old. Go back to a time or place when you felt free, alive and possibly at your best, doing something the way only you would do it. Use your active imagination and memory to see  your young self at your best. 

What three adjectives describe your at your young genius best?

Jeffrey Davis

I love hearing this question, and listening to people’s responses to it. Jeffrey Davis asks a version of the “young genius question” of pretty much everyone he interviews, provides services to and works alongside.

In Week Two of Quest2019 he’s asking it of those of us who are engaged in a month-long opportunity to envision and shape the year ahead.

This week we’re using the young genius question to help us design our work  so that we’re productive and enjoying what we’re doing. [Click to Tweet]  We’re using this time to consider how we are making our work meaningful for ourselves and we are also making it meaningful for those seeking what we offer.

Sound interesting? There’s still time to join us!

A Glimpse of My Young Genius

As a 9 year old, I spent hours enacting “let’s pretend” games with my best friends. Watching us play, I see my backyard with its small stand of  plum, peach and apple trees. Nearby are  forsythia and currant bushes. Beside the brook bordering the yard is a weeping willow, its graceful branches perfect for hiding under. A tire swing hangs from the oak tree way at the back of the yard. 

I am outlining a great idea for an adventure game with my friends. It  involves a fort, horses, spears, bad guys, us as heroes, and an arduous journey through lands unknown. It is up to us to save the world!  

We debate and embellish the plot, characters and story line. We each become a character, and as we play out our roles, new ideas come to us and the story morphs in unexpected and delightful ways.

The journey is completed, the heroes prevail, the world is saved. We run inside. It’s time for juice and cookies. 

Bringing My Young Genius to Work

Here are some characteristics that stand out as I watch my young genius at play:

  1. Collaborative leader
  2. Visionary
  3. Creative improvisor

This triggers memories of the results of my Fascination Advantage Assessment, which I took a few years ago as part of Jeffrey’s ArtMark class. It identifies the primary characteristics through which we best engage others. I could say it identifies some of my “Grown Up Genius” characteristics.  

My Fascination Advantage archetype is “Avant Garde.” This archetype is characterized by high standards of expertise and professionalism and by innovation.

Others see Avant Gardes as forward-thinking innovators, enterprising leaders, and wonderfully creative brainstormers who implement the right ideas with great care.

This gives me some clues as to how my young genius shows up in my work today. 

My Young Genius Today: Creating Productive Change for Others

This week I called on my young genius’s best self to help a group of nonprofit site managers. Their challenge: how best to provide continued support for learning and practice change as follow up to 90 minute session I facilitated the previous week for them and their staff. The topic of the session, reflective practice, is a big one and the session served to introduce some key concepts and practical strategies.

After the webinar, I contacted their program director, offering an hour of my time to join her site managers’ meeting in order to debrief. She accepted with enthusiasm, saying that they could really use help with their commitment to offering a 6-week follow up series to extend the learning about reflective practice, and support their staff implementing it.

 I stepped into this unanticipated role without fear. I didn’t need to bring all the answers. What I needed to do was to bring my best self, my young genius characteristics of collaborative leadership, visionary thinking and ability to improvise.  

I prepared by developing a few open-ended questions to begin with. Then I  listened carefully to the responses. The rest – discussion, brainstorming and planning – flowed from that start. Facilitating that process was work, and yet it felt like fun. As we ended, the site managers said they felt ready, with a little more preparation time, to begin putting the plan in place at their first meeting, which was scheduled for that very afternoon!

The next day I heard back from one participant in that discussion. She said

I think we had a very rich and productive Community of Practice call yesterday, Nancy! Our call with you in the morning really shifted our team forward in supporting Reflective Practice.


Nonprofit Site Managers’ Meeting Participant

That’s what can happen when you bring your best self to work and play along with others who have brought their own best selves to the task. 

What Other Questers Are Saying

Donna Druchunas

Tim Snell

Britt Bravo

Previous Quest 2019 Posts


Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash

Sign Up for Weekly Updates

Join my growing community. You’ll get free resources, great information and updates about events that guide over-giving, service-centered professionals in reconnecting to what matters most: caring relationships, core purpose, clear vision.

You have Successfully Subscribed!