Monday Seven No. 028

On living your genius, learning states, and questioning authority

Welcome to the latest edition of Monday Seven — actionable ideas and frameworks for people who want more out of life and work.

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Hi Friends,

I want to share two things with you before we dive in.

Last week I published Time to Think, my essay on the value of extended breaks. Almost 2,000 people have read the essay so far. I wrote about the benefits of think days, how world-class performers create breakthrough work by setting aside time to think, and how you can incorporate think days to transform your work and life.

The last edition of Monday Seven earned us a mini-virality on Twitter. This crew grew more in the last two weeks than since we started. This was largely from a tweet that’s reached 263,184 people so far. The fascinating part of the tweet is that it wasn’t my original content—far from it. I neatly packaged up other people’s response to someone else’s tweet. There is value in curation in an increasingly noisy world.

The lesson? If you aren’t ready to create, curate.

I’ve been trying to find a word to describe all of us here. Something that captures what we all have in common and why we’re all here. That word is seekers.

We’re seeking something more. We want to better ourselves and the people around us. There’s so much to live for. We want to get the most out of life while we’re still here. 

So going forward you’ll see me referring to us as seekers.

If that doesn’t describe you, that’s fair. You’re welcome to hang around—but life is short and your precious attention deserves better. Be selective with how you spend it. 


No. 028 - On living your genius, learning states, and questioning authority

1 — The zone of genius was introduced in The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. By working within our natural talents we end up doing the kind of work we earnestly enjoy. In the process, we gain an unfair advantage. We get to play life in cheat mode.

Living in the zone of genius is a rewarding and fulfilling experience.

Your genius has been in you all of your life. It’s your uniqueness. Your genius is what you do effortlessly and easefully. When you do it, you lose track of time. When you're in your zone of genius, you get a disproportionate return on the energy expended. Genius is that thing that you do, whether you got paid for it or not.

To find your zone of genius, evaluate your past curious moments. Search for times of deep immersion into an activity or interest. Look for those moments you spent an unreasonable amount of hours working on something for the pure joy of it—like writing a free newsletter. Genius hangs around keen interests. By searching your keen interest, they revealed your genius.

As you search for your genius, don’t worry about how it will be used. You are only gathering the pieces and will put the puzzle together later. The sum of your keenest interests defines your zone of genius.

By identifying your zone of genius, you’ll find what comes easily to you but is difficult for others. You can then use your list to identify where you can be spending your time and be rewarded for it.

2 — I assume I’m below average. This is a short and excellent read by Derek Sivers. The large majority of people think they’re above average. For example, “ninety-four percent of professors say they are better-than-average teachers” according to Sivers. While for some that may be true, 44% are wrong. From Derek:

I just assume I’m below average.

It serves me well. I listen more. I ask a lot of questions. I’ve stopped thinking others are stupid. I assume most people are smarter than me.

To assume you’re below average is to admit you’re still learning.

3 — Listening to Dr. Martine Rothblatt on Tim Ferris is worth your time. Adopting a “Questioning authority” mindset is at the core of Dr. Rothblatt’s approach to life. Asking why not, when you’re told no. Asking Why? Why? Why? repeatedly like a 4-year old to get to the truth.

4 — On eating well: I’m been running a mushroom experiment. For one week every month this year, mushrooms are the main ingredient of every dish I eat. I just finished week one. Why mushrooms? I’ve been endlessly fascinated by them ever since Biology 101. My interest peaked after watching Fantastic Funghi and Future Funghi from Monday Seven No. 026. I think mushrooms have the potential to be as big as avocado on toast, they just need to find their toast.

While I’m not yet ready to share the full results of the experiment, I can say that eating two pounds of mushrooms in a week caused some unexpected changes in the body. Not good or bad, just different. If you’re going to try this, I suggest starting with one pound per adult in the household. Ease into it. It also occurred to me that most people don’t know how to cook mushrooms, so here are 54 Mushroom Recipes.

5 — Opal is a new app that’s fundamentally changed how I interact with my phone. It’s helped me minimize cognitive load from distracting things that don’t matter. 

Opal prompts you to set your intention before you visiting distracting apps or sites. It’s what Screen Time wishes it was. I have no affiliation with Opal. I’m just an early user and absolutely love it. There’s a free version, but I’ve found the Pro really helpful. If you want to try one month of Pro for free hit reply here and I’ll send you an invite.

6 — What I’m listening to: Julie Nesrallah’s Tempo on CBC Radio. The best of classical streaming for free 24-hours a day. Music has such an important role in my flow state. I share it with you in hopes that it gets you to the same place.

7 — Quote “There are no rules that require us to obey rules” — James P. Carse


The next time you’ll hear from me will be Monday, February 15.

Until then,
Yashar