My library has a number of books that are highlighted, dog-eared, and have margins full of my musings. These books inspire my growth and challenge my thinking. I’ll randomly yank one off the shelf when I need a jolt of inspiration.
One of these books is “The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level” by Gay Hendricks. Pick it up or listen to any of the podcasts interviewing Hendricks. Here is one I enjoyed: Learning Leader Podcast.
Hendricks has many “tweetable” quips and concepts to ponder. I will focus on one concept this week and another gem in next week’s blog.
One of the key “nuggets” described in this book is called your zone of genius. What is that thing that makes you unique and different from other people? That thing that when you do it, time stands still and it doesn’t feel like work at all. That when you do this, it produces the highest amount of satisfaction and payoff in your life for the amount of time you spend doing it.
Hendricks describes 4 categories of work:
Zone of Incompetence
These are activities that you are not good at. They tend to be where you experience the most failure and they feel like an energy suck. You should eliminate these incompetent activities because you are not the right person for the job.
Zone of Competence
These are activities that you are good at but there are a lot of people who could do better. You should delegate your competent activities.
Zone of Excellence
These are things you are skilled at and have cultivated over time. You may have a reputation for these activities, but no passion. Many people keep doing them to pay the bills. You should systemize excellence activities.
Zone of Genius
These are your unique abilities. They are often innate rather than learned. In this zone, you capitalize on your natural abilities which are innate, rather than learned. This is the state in which you get into “flow,” find ceaseless inspiration and seem to not only come up with work that is distinguished and unique but also do so in a way that excels far and beyond what anyone else is doing.
How to Uncover Your Zone of Genius
As you can imagine, highly successful people function in the lattermost zone. Hendricks explains: “Most successful people are operating in their zone of excellence, in which they are doing things at which they are highly skilled. This zone is ultimately unsatisfying, though, because it does not engage the innate genius of the individual.”
The important thing to recognize is that your zone of genius is not just what you’re “passionate” about. In fact, it can often be something you may not love a whole lot initially, but it’s something you recognize you are naturally gifted at. When you can identify those skills or interests, you can capitalize on them by working on them consistently.
To identify your zone of genius, Hendricks asks you to consider the following questions:
- “What work do you do that doesn’t seem like work?”
- “In your work, what produces the highest ratio of abundance and satisfaction to the amount of time spent?”
- “What is your unique ability?”
Ultimately, it’s about identifying what comes most naturally to you, and then capitalizing on that, rather than identifying what has come naturally to other people, and trying to teach yourself those skills in order to mimic and recreate their genius. You can absolutely be successful in the zone of excellence. But to take your life to the next level, you cannot keep playing by other people’s rules.