Who are the Everyday Geniuses, the multitude of swans domesticated for a duck’s life? They wear no ID tags, so we can’t spot them by appearance or by even asking. Few of them know the markers of their core identity.
Even so, they are all around us. As Mary-Elaine Jacobsen writes in her book, The Gifted Adult, “Everyday Geniuses are the visionaries who make things happen, those who willingly and enthusiastically pursue answers to life’s “unanswerable” questions. They are the problem solvers on whom society relies, the original thinkers and innovators who can creatively merge information, experiences, and intuition.
Meet Robin McCasland – corporate communication executive, conference speaker, and podcaster, also known as The Texas Communicatrix.
By the time she was 12 years old, Robin had already taken piano lessons for a few years. She loved playing music but hated the lessons. Her piano teacher was frustrated because for most sessions she could tell Robin hadn’t practiced the week before.
Then, Robin was in a statewide music competition in Texas. She received an almost perfect score on her music theory and sight-singing exams. She was told a score like that was exceptional. Her teacher called her mother to express her joy – and frustration. It was clear Robin understood music on a deeper level but wasn’t learning in the way her teacher wanted.
Her mother said to the teacher, “Did you know Robin can play by ear? She creates her own arrangements of popular songs. She writes music, too. She doesn’t like playing classical music. She likes contemporary pop and rock. Let her create her own arrangements for your recitals. You’ll see a different person.”
There are more than 50 measurable traits of the gifted adult, also documented as Everyday Genius™ or Rainforest Mind, but to name a few, Robin has these: Exceptional ability to predict and foresee problems and trends, including a preference for original thinking and creative solutions. Also, extra perceptivity, including powerful intuition, persistent curiosity, and potential for deep insight. Robin has the ability to learn rapidly, comprehend readily, and retain what is learned. As a result, she has developed more than one area of expertise. She also possesses an unusual sense of humor, not always understood by others.
Complex sums it up!
Many years ago, a peer asked a mutual boss: “Why does Robin get the cool assignments?” (I don’t think I got all the best gigs. But perception is reality.) Our supervisor replied, “Robin comes up with a lot of creative ideas. She throws many ideas at a wall, every day. Some of her ideas stick. She knows intuitively when concepts will work. She believes in her ideas, even when the rest of us think they might be crazy. But, she also has crazy good results.”
I had tremendous professional and personal growth early on when my supervisors understood I was wired differently and let me use my own approaches to solving challenges. I couldn’t wait to get out of bed each day. The biggest joy was when my “crazy” communication ideas made a difference strategically for my employers. When you get the audience’s attention differently, you break down walls and they’re generally more receptive to the messages.
I’ve also had supervisors who didn’t know what to make of me. Those situations made my professional life more challenging. Then, I learned to adapt. For some gifted people, the world can be frustrating because it doesn’t always work the way we think it should. Even when you lead your own communication practice, you need to see the client’s viewpoint, first, vs. trying to get them to see how yours can make all the difference.
I always intended to be in the communication profession, but I was introverted and didn’t know quite what I was doing. I took a detour before I went full-time into communication. I began as an advertising major at The University of Texas. Then, I took a course focused on the business side of advertising but decided it wasn’t for me. Looking back, I would have been just fine and could have graduated with a degree in that field. At the time, I didn’t want to learn the business side. I was only interested in the creative side.
Ultimately, I majored in Communication Studies and Speech. I didn’t know what I’d do with it, but I loved it. When I graduated, the job market in Texas was depressed and I couldn’t find work in my chosen field. I had been working part-time for a real estate firm while in college and continued doing that, but full-time, for five years. The real estate market then went into a worse slump, and I knew I was headed for a job loss. A real estate sales agent asked me, “What do you really want to do?” I said I wanted to write the Great American Novel, but that it wasn’t practical.
I don’t remember her name, but I owe her a lot for motivating me. I picked up the phone right then, called the local Austin newspaper, and somehow, with no writing samples, talked my way into a weekly column writing neighborhood feature stories. I always knew my powers of persuasion were strong! That column helped me build a writing portfolio so I could get a job in the communication profession. That gig, which paid virtually nothing, changed my life.
Robin: Listening. Staying in the moment, not being distracted – simply listening to what someone is saying. When I listen, then pause before responding, I can form a more thoughtful response. I can have a more meaningful conversation with the other person.
I’ve also learned – and continue to practice – not responding at all. In certain situations, it’s better to pause and just take it in. Not responding with speech – remaining quiet – is powerful communication in itself.
Like many gifted professionals, Robin loves the power of a good quote because they affirm what we already know (or think we know) about ourselves. Many of the quotes that resonate with Robin are song lyrics.
Don Henley (another Texan) is a favorite singer/songwriter. He wrote a song in the mid-90s called “My Thanksgiving.” It’s some of the more meaningful things that come with age. He sings, “Sometimes you get the best light from a burning bridge.”
Now she knows that’s not possible and she’s more content with it. The longer you live, the more you may encounter manipulative people or those who don’t want the best for you. She doesn’t need those relationships in her professional or personal life. Sometimes burning a bridge is illuminating in more ways than one.
She does, however, try to be liked more than being right. You can be the smartest person in the room but it’s a lonely place to be when you insist on always being right. The way Robin sees it, being liked and being kind is a happier way to walk through life.
Another favorite artist/band is Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Tom wrote a song called Crawling Back to You with the lyric, “Most things I worry about never happen anyway.” It’s not an original thought. Robin has heard variations on that theme throughout her life. But it sticks with her because of the song.
When it comes to her work, she plans for back-ups, and thinks through every possible outcome. Her team would likely tell you she prefers to overprepare.
“It’s good to know how you’ll handle things if a project goes pear-shaped. But if you plan well to begin with, you probably don’t have anything to worry about.”
Worry has contributed to unnecessary stress and health concerns in Robin’s life. Now, when she feels the worry coming on she takes a deep breath and reminds herself that everything’s going to be okay.
And if it’s not, she has three backup plans she’d like to share with you.
Often, if not weekly, we feature professionals who are initiating meaningful conversations with other gifted minds and storytellers–and who they serve. They connect regularly through this blog, our newsletter, and their own emails to nurture and support the network which enriches them. See if their words and actions work for you or engage with them directly by sending a comment and sharing your insights.
If you are curious about how sensitive, creative, intense, multipotential, professional, ethical, expressive, and clear you are about your intentions, wants, and needs, go here to check your GPC Score.