Let’s assume that you are very good at what you do. You have a lot of clients, you’re in demand, and your skill set allows you to make a good living. In fact, you might be so good that attracting clients and making money isn’t even that much of a big deal.
When someone comes to you with a question, you have the answer. When a client is stuck, you’ve got the solution. When a business needs direction, you’ve got the roadmap.
You might say that you’ve reached your “Zone of Excellence.”
Now, all this sounds pretty good, right? Well, it is a comfortable place to be. But perhaps it’s a little too comfortable.
If you know where I’m going with this, then you’ve probably read Gay Hendricks’ amazing book, The Big Leap.
According to Hendricks, all the work we do falls into one of four zones:
1. The Zone of Incompetence: Basically, this is the stuff that you suck at. These are things you’d rather ask (or pay) someone else to do as you’ll only make a mess of it.
2. The Zone of Competence: These are tasks that you’re okay at, but that others can do much, much better. For example technical or administrative tasks that you might do every day in your business.
3. The Zone of Excellence: This is where you talent really lies. When it comes to this type of work, you’re really at the top of the game, and you feel comfortable in your own skin when performing it.
4. The Zone of Genius: This is your true calling. You are not only the best in the world; this something that you are naturally gifted at and that you find satisfying and inspiring.
Now, there is a fine line between excellence and genius. How do you know when you’re ready to crossover, and what does someone operating in the Zone of Genius look like?
A prime example might be Oprah Winfrey. Not only is she highly successful, but also her natural gift to inspire seems effortless and comes through in everything she does.
It’s a common problem for highly successful people that they reach a stage where they become unsatisfied and want a little more, or what Hendricks refers to as the “upper limit.”
At this point, it can often seem like things are falling apart around us, for example, strategies that have worked for years may suddenly seem ineffective, clients and projects dry up, and we may even find ourselves overwhelmed by doubt and fear.
As Tina Forsyth notes in this excellent video, all this may just be our Zone of Genius “knocking on the door,” encouraging us to move on to the next stage of our journey.
We often feel so comfortable in our Zone of Excellence that it can become a trap.
Making the leap into our Zone of Genius means confronting the possibility of failure. For many, this will seem unbearable. But at a certain point, you will inevitably become tired of your Zone of Excellence work, and perhaps even start to dislike it.
An important thing to remember is that transitioning into your Zone of Genius isn’t some kind of dramatic break. It’s not about screaming “I quit!” and storming out of the office. Instead, Hendricks suggests transitioning into your zone of genius gradually. In an interview with Forbes magazine, he suggests starting with just 10 minutes a day:
“When I work with busy executives, I start by asking them to make a commitment to blocking out just ten minutes a day in their calendars to devote to cultivating their genius. The ten minutes can involve journaling, meditating or any number of other activities, just as long as you are focusing on your genius for ten uninterrupted minutes. After you have gotten your ten minutes a day you’re your routine, then bump it up to fifteen minutes. Ultimately I want to see people I work with spending 90% of their time in their Zone of Genius.”
The Zone of Genius isn’t about learning a new skill or imitating someone else’s success, it’s about developing your own rules for success. By identifying your natural talents and cultivating your innate abilities, you can break through that “upper limit”, stop treading water in the zone of excellence and do the work you were truly destined to do.