The Aligned Strategy Principle

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How to Focus on Your Unique Genius as a Thought Leader

In my last post, I shared three ways to discover your unique genius. Once you have discovered your unique genius, how do you focus in to become as effective and successful as you want to be?

I’d like to share with you something I learned from Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach.

Grab a legal pad and list out all the things you do in your business. Add to that list over the next couple weeks as you remember stuff.

Don’t forget to include stuff that comes up monthly, quarterly and yearly.

Now on another sheet of paper draw, two lines so you have four quadrants and categorize everything in one of these four areas. Start with the first category, and work your way down.


This is the stuff that you make a mess of when you try to do it. The classic example for most people here is bookkeeping.


This is the stuff you can do to minimum standards, but which drains you, frustrates you, and which you probably procrastinate at.


This one is tricky, because you’re quite good at this stuff. You even kind of enjoy it because people pat you on the back for it. However, it’s not really unique genius.


This is the stuff that lights you up. It’s the stuff that energizes you, and you do it at far above average. When you focus on this stuff, it feeds you AND it feeds your business. It’s really the “product” you are selling, and the reason why people want to work with YOU over someone else.

You want to spend as much of your time as possible doing this stuff.

For the tasks in the incompetent, competent, and excellence categories, you will want to delegate, systematize, and/or automate it. In fact, you can even just ditch it if nothing bad will happen or it’s just not that important.

Over time, this will allow you to focus on increasing the amount of time you spend on your unique genius.

What’s one unique genius thing you know you do exceptionally well, it that lights you up, and it creates immense value for others? Share in the comments!

EXAMPLE: One thing I have learned is part of my unique genius is my ability to bring clarity to a situation by listening and asking good questions.

3 Ways to Identify Your Unique Genius

We each have unique inherent talents that, when developed, become strengths. We sometimes refer to this as “unique genius.” Research by the Gallup Organization states that focusing on strengths makes you ten times more likely to feel engaged in your work and three times more likely to experience an excellent quality of life.

Focusing on your strengths in your business, body of work, and daily activities provides your greatest opportunity for happiness and growth. Leveraging your strengths is also your greatest opportunity to create value for others and to contribute to something bigger than yourself.

Finally, when leveraged in the right way your strengths are a competitive advantage and a key element for strong brand positioning as thought leader.

So how does one discover their unique inherent talents? Here are three ways.


There are a number of useful assessments that provide valuable insights about your strengths and how you best show up in and create value for the world. Here are two assessments that I use frequently in my business and with my clients because they are backed by research and immensely helpful for discovering, understanding, and leveraging your unique brilliance and leadership abilities.

Strengths-Based Leadership

The Gallup Organization created this assessment based on a 40-year study. You get a code to take the assessment quiz when you buy the book. The assessment requires about 15-20 minutes to complete.

This is the same assessment used in the Strengthsfinder 2.0 book. The difference is in the report that it generates. Strengths Based Leadership gives you a report with  insights about how to best use your strengths when leading others.

How the World Sees You (Fascination Advantage)

Sally Hogshead’s Fascination Advantage assessment identifies how you best gain attention and  influence people with your personality and gifts. When you buy the book, How the World Sees You, you get a code that gives you access to take the assessment. This requires about twenty minutes. Once you’ve taken the assessment you receive information about your primary and secondary advantages as well as your archetype (one of forty nine).

Feedback From Trusted Advisors

We often don’t see or quickly discount our strengths because they seem natural and come to us easily. Because of this, we either assume that they are not valuable – because society has placed in us a belief that something needs to feel like hard work to be valuable – or that everyone must have similar abilities.

For this reason, it’s helpful to get outside input to help us notice our strengths. An effective way to do this is to request feedback from trusted family, friends, colleagues and clients.

It may feel a bit odd, but the input your advisors can offer is invaluable. This is one of those exercises that you might be tempted to skip, but I urge you not to.

Best Self Statements

Here’s the process for creating your list of Best Self Statements.

  1. Pull out the results you gathered from the assessments above and any other strength-finding assessments you’ve found to be valuable to you, as well as feedback you’ve received from trusted advisors about your unique strengths.
  2. Use themes and ideas from your unique genius results to complete the following three statements. Write as many completions as possible for each one (ideally five or more each). Some of them may be similar or repeats.
  • I show up at my best when…
  • I serve others best when…
  • I create the greatest value when…
  1. Combine and narrow down the sentence completions until you have ten statements that feel like they summarize how you show up, serve, and create value at your best. These are your 10 Best Self Statements.
  2. Display this list where you can easily and frequently refer to as a compass, filter, and reminder in your day-to-day pursuits.

Best Self Statement Examples

Here’s an excerpt from my own Best Self Statements.

I create the greatest value when I help others uncover, value, trust, and leverage their unique strengths.

I create the greatest value when I help others choose the best path forward or uncover alternative paths.

I create the greatest value when I facilitate clarity and confidence in others.

What about you? What’s one way you would complete the statement:

I create the best value when I….

Let me know in the comments.

11 Ways for Thought Leaders to Stand Out

Time for some real talk. Here’s the question. On a scale of one to 10…er…11…

How are you doing at getting attention and engagement with your marketing and content right now? Whatever number you’re at right now is fine.

But you know what to do: commit to doing it.

Most online marketers and content creators show up at 4 or 5, perhaps a 7 at best. That’s why they are stuck in a cycle of sameness.

That’s not you.

You didn’t start your business just to fizzle out and fade away.

It doesn’t matter if there are marketers and content creators who are smarter, more qualified, better at writing, funnier, or even better looking.

There are people in this world who want to listen to, learn from, and buy from you because of who you are. But for that to happen, you have to unabashedly show them who you are. Do not hold back. Out of 7.5 billion people on Earth, you only need a few thousand of them to resonate with you to have a big impact and a successful business.

They are waiting for you to turn it up to eleven! And that is what you are going to do. To help you, I’ve put together a list of eleven ways you can turn it up to eleven.

11 Ways to Turn it Up to Eleven

    1. Emit Passion & Energy: Only create content and sales offers about things that you have really strong feelings, motivations, and opinions about. Let that energy shine through.
    2. Share Your Interests: Talk about your interests (e.g. tv shows, hobbies, philanthropic pursuits, etc.) in your content. Use these interests to create analogies that are relevant to your content or just drop the occasional reference to them. Find ways to use talents like drawing, playing guitar, knitting, or whatever in your content. Quote your favorite movies.
    3. Use Humor: You don’t have to be a comedian (but if you are go for it). You can be punny. You can use self-deprecating humor. If you have a silly or goofy streak, let it shine! Try to make yourself laugh when you create content.
    4. Bring Them Behind the Scenes: Share your process. Let them see the messy origins of your new ideas and projects. People love to be a fly on the wall. Or just share parts of your personal life that your audience will relate with and enjoy seeing.
    5. Have Conviction: Share what you believe with certainty and courage (no matter the response it might get). Be clear about where you stand. But when appropriate, also show a willingness to learn and change but explain why you are doing so. Don’t change because it’s popular or convenient.
    6. Be An Example: Exemplify the values that are most important to your audience. Show extreme dedication to those values (e.g. discipline, creativity, spontaneity, family, etc.).
    7. Do Fascinating Stuff: Do things that people will find interesting. Then share your experiences in your content. Want to be interesting? Do interesting stuff regularly.
    8. Speak Truth: This goes beyond integrity. This is also about saying what others are not willing to say, bringing new truth to light, or restoring truth that has been lost. The secret to Howard Stern’s success is not just controversy. His interviews focus on revealing what is real and true under the surface — stuff that doesn’t get shared elsewhere.
    9. Be Adventurous: Take people on a journey with you. This might be travel like when I lived in Paris or when Chris Guillebeau set a goal to travel to every nation on earth. Or it could be a personal growth journey or the process of reaching for a big audacious goal.
    10. Be Rebellious: Challenge the conventional wisdom. Do things differently. Say something controversial (but mean it and embrace it).
    11. Use Aesthetics: Adopt a distinct look or brand. Use the highest quality, beauty, and design in everything you do. Set a new bar.

Let’s take fast action to get results…

Choose one of the methods in the list above (or another one that you come up with) that feels natural for you to use, and decide one simple way you can use that method in your content over the next 7 days.

And I’d love to hear from you: who is as thought leader, writer, creator, etc. you think is excellent at turning it up to 11? Let me know in the comments!

How Thought Leaders Turn it Up to 11

Britney Spears’ vocal coach taught me one of the most valuable marketing lessons ever. In 2003, my wife and I were sitting in a hotel ballroom with a couple hundred other pop and rock hopefuls ready to mix, mingle and learn from titans of the music industry.

You see, at that time we were in an alternative rock band named Desmo. (Imagine Incubus-style guitar rock but with Gwen Stefani on vocals and Flea on bass to get an idea of our style.) We were listening intently to speakers on the stage and rapidly scratching out notes as they shared wisdom about how to “make it in the music biz.”

Then Lis Lewis — vocal coach to singers like Rihanna, Jack Black, and Demi Lovato — got on stage and said something I still remember all these years later: “There are hundreds of thousands of amazing singers and songwriters in the world. Some of you are in this room today. But talent alone does not get attention. Here’s what I have noticed about every one of my clients who has become a big star. They’ve all taken parts of who they are — their personality, their look, or their story — and they’ve turned it up to eleven.”

The movie reference “turn it up to eleven” got immediate nods from a room full of musicians. It was from the 1984 mockumentary film, This is Spinal Tap, a satire about the heavy metal bands of the 80s. In one of the most infamous scenes of the film, the band’s guitarist is showing off his one-of-a-kind guitar amplifier with knobs that all go up to 11 while, “most blokes will be playing at 10.”

So what does all of this have to do with you creating a business and brand that stands and attracts a loyal audience online? While you may or may not aspire to rock stardom or celebrity status, there’s no ignoring the fact to generate income and impact you have to first get attention…something that is getting exponentially harder every day.

There are hundreds of thousands, scratch that, millions of people trying to share their message and sell their products on the Internet. The noise level is at an all-time high and only getting worse. It used to be that just starting a blog, podcast, or video channel was enough to get attention. Not anymore. This is why so many struggle to get traction and attention online, whether here on LinkedIn in our on other digital platforms.

Now, don’t worry. Not all is lost. There’s one technique that will crack that noise floor right open and help you rise above it. It’s something no competitor can duplicate. Here it is…

Take parts of yourself and turn them up to eleven!

In other words, accentuate the parts of you that are the most interesting, likable, entertaining, and valuable to others. We all have these things. You don’t even have to be a pop star or pretend to be a British 80s hair rocker. This is about showing up as your best self without holding back.

And let me be clear. This is much more than being authentic.

Authenticity tends to mean being genuine, integrous, down to earth, generous, and likable. I’m a fan of all of those things. By all means, be those things if they are part of who you are. But authenticity is not enough. There are hundreds of thousands of “authentic” people online. And one person’s authentic is another person’s fake.

When you know how to really turn it up to eleven in ways that are natural to you, you become…

Magnetic, fascinating, irresistible! Not to everyone, but to exactly the right people. You will easily attract the people you want to do business with and serve most.

That brings me to the Barenaked Ladies. Now, before you get any ideas let me clarify that I’m referring to the Canadian rock band that frequented the radio charts in the late nineties with a quirky flavor of folk mixed with rock.

I hated the Barenaked Ladies.

Though all my college friends loved their music, I just couldn’t help expressing my opinion.

“How can you listen to this crap?!”

That’s when my friends would barrage me with groans and boos in return. It didn’t matter. I had 1,132 specific reasons why the Barenaked Ladies were not deserving of their praise.

The truth is the same friends that booed me for this opinion loved to flip through my CD collection to get a look at my latest musical discoveries. They knew I always found the best stuff before it was popular. I had particular opinions about music, expressed them freely, and always backed them up.

I had conviction in the face of overwhelming backlash and that was the very thing that earned their respect for my musical tastes.

These days, my convictions and opinions tend to be more about things like marketing, business, strategy, leadership, influence, and other similar topics.  I’ve also learned to share my opinions without disdain while still keeping the passion.

Along my entrepreneurial journey, I discovered that I got more people’s attention and engaged them longer when I shared strong convictions with well-thought out reasoning.

This was a way I could turn things up to eleven.

You don’t have to be Lady Gaga, Dwayne Johnson, Howard Stern, or Ellen to fascinate and engage an audience. The secret is to find those traits, strengths, or qualities that others recognize and appreciate in you.  Look for the ones that you tend to do naturally, especially around people that you are most comfortable with. Then accentuate those in your marketing and sales content.

We tend to overlook these things because they come to us naturally. We just don’t see the value they bring to others.

Let’s take fast action to get results…

Get feedback from at least one person about which of your traits, strengths, or qualities stand out most or that they appreciate most.

What is a trait, strength, or quality that you can leverage to turn it up to eleven? Let me know in the comments!

Also, anyone else out there have a garage band when they were younger? 🙂