Latina marketing expert Gina Amaro Rudan thinks you’re a genius.
And while your best friends might beg to differ with that assessment, Rudan has just released a book that makes a strong case about your capacity for genius and greatness.
In Practical Genius: The Real Smarts You Need to Get Your Passions and Talents Working for You, the South Florida-based leadership consultant, blogger and social media expert provides a roadmap to unleash your dormant genius and live a more successful and fulfilling life. Marketing gurus such as Seth Godin and thought leaders such as Daniel Pink have praised Practical Genius and even collaborated with Rudan on the book.
As she embarks on a book tour beginning Oct. 12 in New York City, Rudan shares with Hispanicize her journey from a global marketing expert and unfulfilled writer to a genius coach and published author. She provides extensive insights into the five-step process that makes up her Practical Genius method (Step 5 is “Marketing Your Genius”), her experiences with famous mentors, her TEDxMIA passion project, why her book is especially relevant to Hispanics, and how she learned to use social media to build a community around the book and the nascent movement.
BG: Tell us about Practical Genius:The Real Smarts You Need to Get Your Passions and Talents Working for You
Gina: With Practical Genius, I basically set out to re-define genius as having nothing to do with genetics, your IQ or your SAT score. I believe that we all possess genius. I wrote this book to inspire people to realize that genius is available within us all. I hope to show people how to find it and I identified the location within. After doing research with 100-plus different thought leaders and scientists and business leaders I realized that we all possess six ingredients that contribute to practical genius, and to simplify it, I break up the ingredients into two sets of three: The first set of ingredients is your Soft Personal Assets. These are your Creative Abilities, your Passions and your Values. And that’s basically who you are on the weekends or who you are with your hobbies. That’s really the heart of who you are. The second set of ingredients that contribute to everyone’s genius is your Hard Professional Assets and those are your Skills, your Strengths and your Area of Expertise. I’m proposing that where the Hard Assets intersect with the Soft Assets, that’s where the genius within all of us resides.
So in Practical Genius, I walk the reader through a five-step process to first identify those six ingredients, do a self-analysis, a self-diagnostic to find out, “well, you know, I haven’t paid attention to my Soft Assets. Let me think about this. What are they? Now let me review what my Hard Assets are.” We’ve been conditioned to focus on our Hard Assets for so long, so most people know what they are. But on the Soft side is where people are weak. And so, that’s the first step in the Practical Genius model, to get people to really identify “well, what are the six ingredients?”
After that, I share some best practices and recommendations on how to Express your Genius. That chapter — which is the second step for me in everyone’s leadership development after knowing what makes them unique and what contributes to their genius – is, how are you expressing it? This is about the power of narrative and inspiring people to out all the stories within their narrative so that we’re not just sharing the same old stories that we’ve been conditioned to share. Moms tell mom stories. Lawyers tell lawyer stories. Doctors tell doctor stories. I’m getting people to realize that in order to express your genius you have to share the narrative of both sides of who you are, the Soft and the Hard, and you have to be consistent and clear with outing the themes in your life, the vocabulary that contributes to your message. So that’s the whole second phase of work, is around Express.
Then from Express, we move on to how do you really look at Surrounding yourself with Genius? This is something I learned after I quit my job. I realized I had to set out and surround myself with people that were living the life I wanted to live. I basically made a list of 25 amazing people that I wanted to interact with and who I wanted to learn from. I set out to interview and to experience them in real time, one by one, and I‘ve had great success with most of them. And most of them are already a major part of my life and have been for the last four years. So for me, I’ve tested this model of what happens when you decide to curate your life as a people collector. It also means I’m encouraging people to remove people from their lives as well so that you have room for new amazing people that are living at the intersection. So, step 3 in the Practical Genius model is how do you surround yourself with genius, how do you curate your life as a people collector so that, as my mom would say, you really are who you walk with.
Step 4, which is my favorite area, is how do you Sustain your Genius? How do you fuel it? That’s where I talk about listening to your intuition, following and not compromising your spiritual side and how to fuel your genius physically, realizing that all content you consume matters, from food, to music, to reading materials, to all forms of media, all content matters. That’s kind of my healthy chapter, with non-traditional recommendations on how to fuel and sustain your genius from a physical place.
The last step is how to Market your Genius. And that chapter builds upon all of my years as a global marketer, on how the four traditional Ps of Marketing which all of us have obsessed over since B-school or if you’ve had a role as a marketer — Product, Place, Publicity and Promotion – I’m saying scratch all those Ps. The only P that matters for a genius is Paradox. And again, I share recommendations on how to out that bittersweet opposing force of who you are. So my marketing chapter is really provocative. It’s the last chapter in the book. And it’s the last step in the Practical Genius model.
So we start off with let’s figure out how to identify, how do we express it, how do we surround ourselves with other geniuses, how do we sustain it and then how do we market the heck out of it. And that’s the entire book. And it’s written with case studies and exercises in every single chapter. So I do it as almost as like a portable mentor for someone that’s trying to make a lifestyle change. Anyone who’s trying to reinvent, anyone that’s tired of being Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, living one life 9-to-5 and living a whole different life on the weekends. Enough is enough. Let’s just see who we are and realize that’s what moves the needle from good to great.
BG: Why is it so hard for people to live their genius, to identify and to express it? What’s the block for most people?
Gina: I think we’ve allowed life to de-Genius us. There are three contributors to the de-Genius self, which is conditioning and mediocrity. I think a lot of us have settled for an average life because we’ve been conditioned to just “do good” and just “be okay.” We haven’t pushed ourselves. We’ve accepted that average is okay. I also think we’ve been rewarded to live a very monotonous, conditioned life with little encouragement for risk-taking, with little value on creativity, with little value on innovation, with little value on doing anything at the fringe. And I think the reason there is so much economic turmoil and there is this wave of activism going on around the world is because people are fed up with this kind of conditioned life. Practical Genius shows you a way to create a life that will prevent you from falling into this trap of believing that conformity, being average, living a monotonous routine life without honoring your values, without scratching at your curiosity, without leveraging the hell out of your expertise is okay. It’s not okay. It’s no longer okay.
BG: How does your company complement your book?
Gina: What’s great is that I created a training package and have tested this five-step curriculum over the last four years. So, I didn’t set out to write a book and then launch a business. I launched a business, and based on the findings, and based on the experiences and the interviews and the quantitative and qualitative research I was able to do through my small business, I was able to test and qualify this model for many executives and many managers that I have coached and trained. So, the model has been tested and proven and I’ve seen it transform not only my own life, but the life of many, many, many people. So the book is launching at a great time because I’ve tested this over the last four years.
BG: Can you share one of your favorite case studies of someone that you helped go from Point A to Point Z?
Gina: Sure. There are quite a few. I would have to take Katina Rojas Nazario Joy who is a dear friend of mine, and who’s just been involved with Practical Genius from the beginning. And she was a pharmaceutical representative for Novartis and recently took a job as Deputy Director for the Department of Commerce. She’s always had a passion to help redefine and enhance how government is going about supporting business in this country. She’s always had this kind of cause- related stitching to who she is. And she was very content with her pharma life and made a really good career there but realized that life ain’t no dress rehearsal. Life is short. And if you really have a passion for something around change and being part of the solution versus complaining about the problems, then you have to take that giant step and sometimes that means crossing over from the private to the public sector. Sometimes that means taking a pay cut. Sometimes that means accepting a new life which will be high-stress, high-travel, and going to a place of huge risk. She’s recently taken a huge risk and I really view this move for her as an example of what happens when you start to consider the message of Practical Genius. That’s the most current example I have. She actually starts on the 13th. You’re talking about a career of 15 years in the pharma space now going to work for government. That just doesn’t happen every day.
BG: You talk about how the fifth step, Marketing Your Genius, is the real game-changer. How does social media play into that?
Gina: Social media is so powerful. It’s powerful beyond measure. I really have to say. Today my book launches and I’ve had over 200 posts to my Facebook page from people updating their Walls with the message that the book is available. They’re sharing the excerpts online. And just the fact that I’m able to sit in an apartment on the West Side of Manhattan where I grew up, and still in my pajamas on the day my book launches. The reason why I’m in my pajamas is that I insist on participating in the online conversation. Some authors run around and spend their launch day doing everything externally. I’ve dedicated my entire launch day to social media because the power of social media is that huge, that important. And for me, it’s important to give back to the conversation and to participate as it’s happening in real time. So I’ve been Tweeting and Facebooking and responding to questions and comments and just online. And the response has just been beyond my expectations. It’s incredible.
BG: Who are your mentors in terms of social media marketing and who inspires you, as far as who is doing it right?
Gina: Pam Slim is doing it right. Daniel Pink is doing it right. Steven Pressfield is doing it right. Gary Vaynerchuk is doing it right. Guy Kawasaki is doing it right. Seth Godin is the master and has done it right for a long time. For me, these are folks that I really admire and who get it right as far as leading with intelligence. TED gets it right. Arianna Huffington gets it right. Kevin Carroll gets it right. These are all folks that I have been following and learning from and I have to say Ken Gillett, who is my social media guru personally, just did a phenomenal job at creating a strategy for me and giving me a roadmap so that I could facilitate conversation in a meaningful way around the book over the last three months. He’s been an amazing teacher. I agree that some of this you have to learn. All of the Fat Brains in my life. These are people under 30 who mentor me. They’ve been great teachers. Summit Series is an organization committed to young entrepreneurs. They have been wonderful teachers as well to me in social media. Ben Bator, another Fat Brain social media guru, gave me some tips early on that really had an impact. So, once you’re in this space you find out who does it well and you follow and learn from them in a great way.
BG: What were the tips that Ben Bator gave you?
Gina: About being consistent, about being clear. About not speaking to, but speaking with. About 10 followers is better than 10,000 followers if you’re having conversations. And all of those rules early on really helped me in how I set out to share and build the message online. But more importantly, I have learned so much from my social media tribe, more than I could have ever imagined. I’ve built friendships; have met people online that I’m now having phone conversations with who I did not know. And it’s been phenomenal. I mean really in-depth, amazing, meaningful relationships I have with folks online who I’ve met through Twitter and Facebook.
BG: During the process of creating the book and researching it, what was the most emotional moment, the most powerful moment or your favorite anecdote about the creation of the book?
Gina: The most emotional experience for me was realizing that I should have been writing from the first day I graduated from college. I was an English literature and rhetoric major and didn’t pursue writing because I was told that writers don’t make any money. And so I silenced my passion for writing for many years. And it wasn’t until four years ago that I realized that I could no longer silence it. So for me working on each chapter with editors from Simon & Schuster and also my dear editor and literary agent Karen Watts who was my writing guru, working with her over the whole year, writing seven hours a day, seven days a week from the FIU [Florida International University] Library, Third Floor, that experience, when I was in it deep, and having to re-write chapters. It was hard work. It was the hardest work I’ve ever done, harder than my Master’s Degree, I have to admit. But it was also the most enjoyable, the most rewarding thing, for me the most emotional experience because I realized how much I enjoyed it and how I could have been doing this for the last 20 years instead of waiting until now. I just turned 40 in August and my life as an author is only beginning now when it could have started when I was 20.
BG: What is the Practical Genius movement and what is the ultimate vision that you have for that?
Gina: My ultimate vision is that every single one of us that comes in touch with a Practical Genius or the Practical Genius message begins to emulate and transition their life from a place of wholeness. So for me the Practical Genius movement is that I would love to continue to meet other people and to interact and work and support and build with other people around the globe that are living from their hearts and their minds. I’m sick and tired of people just walking around within their communities, in their workplace from just a Hard Asset, logic-driven place, putting their hearts in their back pockets. For me the Practical Genius movement is to be able to have entire communities operating from both heart and mind simultaneously, without compromising a creative ability or a skill, without compromising a strength or a passion, or a value or an expertise. Enough with the Tupperware approach toward life. Let’s be who we are. Let’s do it in a beautiful way, in a holistic way, so that we can make this planet a better place.
BG: Did you come across issues of people with very difficult, traumatic backgrounds where they needed to overcome some real internal demons to access their genius?
Gina: Absolutely. We live in turbulent, stressful times and I think that adversity contributes to the de-Genius self. And everyone that comes from great adversity or hardship does have a harder time accessing it, but for me there’s just no excuse. You have more of the incentives if you have experienced extreme hardship to do this hard work more than anyone else. So for me, there are no excuses. We’re all responsible for accessing and leveraging it. You’ve got to climb out of that fear, climb out of that depression, climb out of that past, and move into the future. And this is one way to do it.
BG: Tell us about TEDxMIA. Why host this program in Miami and why are you part of this tribe?
Gina: TEDxMIA is my passion project and I think that all of us need to be involved in community efforts. And for me the TEDx movement to share and spread ideas locally that can impact communities countries and the globe, is a huge undertaking and a huge priority and we have a great need in Miami. So it’s a great honor for me to be one of the curators for TEDxMIA because I believe in the sustainability and the future of Miami. The only way that we can continue to contribute to our city is to really look at the intellectual capacity and the genius that is available here locally and to support and spread the ideas of these amazing thought leaders that many times don’t have a platform or a stage to share their ideas on. So that’s what we’ve done. Given them a platform to really express and share some of the work they’re doing and it’s had a huge impact and it’s truly my greatest passion project right now. TEDxMIA is my service work to Miami. In my mind it’s how I give back to Miami, putting on one of those events, or what we just did recently. It was blood, sweat and tears and it was worth every second of it because we’re having an impact.
BG: What is a genius? And, in your quote: “Every one of us has a capacity for genius,” how is a common genius different from an Einstein genius or a Mozart genius? IS there a difference?
Gina: I call the Mozarts of the world Card-Carrying Geniuses. I believe some people have been struck by lightning and have an extraordinary ability. These are the folks that have the really high IQs and the 16-year-old that’s graduating from Harvard. These traditional geniuses will continue to be born and to bless our world, but I also think it’s less than one percent of the global population that are struck by the gods with this extraordinary ability. I think that the rest of the population, the 99 percent of us, we really do all possess practical genius and it’s up to us to identify it and to spread it and to exude it and to use it. So I’m not saying that people with extraordinary ability don’t matter. They do matter. But again, they are a small percentage and we know what happens when we focus on just the small percentage. And I really think it’s unfortunate that more of us were not told we were gifted or possessed genius as a child. So I also have a strong position on how we inspire young people to consider what genius means in their own life. Like my son is five years old and if you ask him about genius, he will say “I am a genius.” He uses the word genius regularly and it’s the way that I get him to realize that he does possess it versus being told that he does not.
BG: Now that you’ve done something that so many bloggers and aspiring writers want to do, what was the most surprising thing about writing a book?
Gina: It’s harder than most people think. It’s much harder than I even thought. I’ve been at this for four years. It’s doable if you’re relentless. It’s doable if you practice. It’s doable if you get a kick-ass editor. I believe in this T approach. We need breadth and we need depth. So I think many writers set out to write a book from a place of transaction, which means that they are just using the book as a marketing tool or maybe they’re doing it to grow their business, and those are the wrong reasons to write a book. Writing a book is a hard journey. You have to do it if you love it. And if you do love it, just set out, be relentless, don’t take no for an answer. I got something like 29 rejections before I got my book deal. So, I didn’t take no. I continued to work on my manuscript. I continued to work on my proposal. And I didn’t stop with all of the rejections that I got maybe Year 2 into my book idea. You have to be relentless but you have to love it. And if you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, then you’ll fail.
BG: Is there a message in this book that you think is especially relevant to Hispanics?
Gina: Absolutely. I think for Latinos in general the message is an easy one because we’ve lived at the intersection of two cultures as Latinos and as Americans. So my Latino audience and followers that have been involved with my blog and kind of tasting the message over the last four years through my blog, the response has been phenomenal. And also the different Hispanic executives that I’ve coached and people in my audiences from my speaking engagements, especially Latinas, I think that the message is received well because a lot of us have compromised our cultural authenticity and identity because we think that…or maybe have made the wrong decision that being more like the others works. Practical Genius is liberating in that, no, you need to out the cultural authenticity of who you are and you’ve got to keep it real and it actually gives you a competitive advantage. I call this Brown Genius and Brown Genius is strong.
BG: Is talent or genius inherent or circumstantial?
Gina: The traditional definitions of genius argued whether it was inherent, or were people born with this talent or was it learned? I believe we all have dollops of potential that have to be cultivated. So for me genius is inherent in all of us. But it does you no good unless you really, really cultivate it, harness it and work at it. You don’t just wake up and realize how to leverage all your assets. You have to really learn and practice how to leverage all your assets simultaneously. So it is hard work. But no, I really do think that every single one of us possesses the ingredients and the assets that contribute to genius. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to access and to leverage those assets.
BG: You mentioned in the chapter about Walking with Genius how you made a list of 25 people that you admire greatly and that you sought out. Did you actually meet all 25 and of the 25, what was the most surprising insight?
Gina: I met about 16 of my 25 in person and I wish I could say that some were more [surprising than others]. The wow factor for each and every one of them was unique and substantial. Everyone from meeting the curator of TED and spending time interviewing Chris Anderson was phenomenal. Spending time with Kevin Carroll in his hometown of Portland and having him show me around was amazing. I had all of five minutes with Eva Longoria and we spoke about Latina Genius specifically. That was amazing. I met Martha Beck, an incredible writer and Oprah Winfrey’s life coach and she, after meeting her, inviting me to spend a weekend with her in Arizona for a Genius Retreat, that was life-changing for me. The stories continue: Dr. Christiane Northrup, who wrote Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, an incredible M.D. who I also have been following for many years — met her, interviewed her, and spoke to her on the phone and just had wonderful, insightful conversations. The stories go on and on. Out of the 25 I was able to build with 16 of them. Dan Pink, who ended up reading my manuscript and giving me advice on writing it, he’s a thought leader and I would argue a Card-Carrying Genius and having him in my life and being able to interact with him, has been phenomenal. And what it does is, you just continue to raise the bar. Now I have another list of 25. And so we’ll see how that goes. I’m setting out on my new list of 25 for 2012.
BG: Does the publisher plan to translate the book to Spanish or other languages?
Gina: Absolutely. It launches in Spanish in 2013 and it launches I want to say in like seven different languages that same year.
BG: In terms of the cliché that we hear all the time about “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration” — after all the work you’ve done now, do you believe it still holds true?
Gina: I think I would add that it’s also about the relationships and learning from others. So the sweat is there and I know no other way. This is the hardest work I’ve ever done. But it’s also been the greatest pleasure. So I would add surrounding yourself with genius and enjoying the journey. I’ve played as much as I’ve worked through this process. And that really makes the difference because if it’s just hard work and inspiration, I don’t think that’s enough either. I think it’s hard work, it’s inspiration, it’s play and it’s surrounding yourself with amazing people. That’s the trick.
For more information about Gina Amaro Rudan and Practical Genius, here are some links: