We All Have One Personality Trait That Defines Our Future. Google's Chief Innovation Evangelist Shares How to Identify Yours.

You may have heard this question before: “What advice would you give your 16-year-old self?”

I know this is a popular way to package the “wisdom” of someone with experience or success, and as Google’s first chief innovation evangelist, people asked me this sometimes. But I never got it. Why would I ask my older self what my younger self should have known or done? The missteps I made or the odd turns I took back then are part of who I am now. Offering someone else a road map of my own pitfalls and speed bumps would give them a defensive strategy, at best. No one’s gaining any yards by looking in my rearview mirror.

But I do think it’s useful for people to do a retrospective on their own lives, noting meaningful milestones, because those moments tend to reveal something very important: a personality trait that I’ll call your “Dimension X.” This is your unique superpower — the lens through which you see the world — not as it is, but as you are (to gently paraphrase Anaïs Nin). Over time, your Dimension X becomes a signature reflex that plays an increasingly important role in shaping your future. It’s your through-line response in events that move you forward. And if you cultivate it, it can act like a strong, confident hand on the rudder in your day-to-day decisions and in your overarching narrative.

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