My 13 year old has recently discovered a love of cooking.  Until recently his only interest in food preparation was to know when a meal was going to be ready or when it will be time to eat again.  That all began to change about a month ago when he asked me to teach him how to cook eggs.  He had been making his own lunch for a while but this was much more ambitious.

Why am I dedicating a blog post to this?  Anyone who has had or been a teenage boy knows how important food is but his interest in cooking appears to go beyond simple food preparation.  He is now making eggs for the whole family every day.  Not only that, nobody has to remind him.  As he stands by the stove cooking the eggs he takes special care to make the eggs according to each person’s preference.  He also asks me about other ways to prepare eggs.  He seems to be genuinely interested in all things eggs.  I know this sounds weird but he is 13.

You’re probably thinking, “but what does this have to do with performance?”  Let me explain.  Several years ago I read an article titled “Is Your Genius on Purpose?”  In it the author observed that “the key to feeling satisfied in your daily work and making your best possible contribution lies not with your purpose but with your genius, the energy and spirit that you alone can bring to your work.”  In this light it appears that my son has a “genius” for cooking eggs. The value of this goes beyond simple food preparation.

His willingness to take the initiative to cook the eggs is another sign of his “genius.”  Its not just a chore to him.  He wants to do it.  The same cannot be said for all his chores.  He even asks about other ways to prepare eggs.  He is that passionate.   It is my job to develop that in him and stoke the fires of his passion.

Since the article is old ASTD charges an outrageous fee to get a copy ($10 for a lousy 3 page article).  Here’s a link if you want to buy it.

Here are some key points from the article:

Your genius is your divine spark, the essence of how you best express yourself.  It is a gift to you and your gift to others.

A few years ago I was helping a colleague prioritize and assign tasks to her team.  After reviewing the list and discussing the constraints I asked her what each of her direct reports likes to do.  After a short pause she began to tell me what each person does in their free time.  I interrupted her and clarified, what work tasks does each person like to do?  She had never considered that there were aspects of their jobs that each person actually liked to do.  That is their “genius.”

Your purpose is the assignment to which your genius is called.  The beginnings of purpose often arise when you perceive a need that compels you to act.

I believe organizations can be much more productive if people were able to pursue their “genius” at work.  My 13 year old tolerates his other chores if he gets to make eggs on his own terms.  I have a “gift” for project management (some people don’t consider this a gift).  What is your “genius”?  What is the purpose that compels you to apply your “genius”?