Do you want to know how to manifest the business of your dreams? The one that you had when you first started this entrepreneurial journey, that dream business! Well, that’s what I plan on sharing with you today, along with how to work less, make more, and have fun again in your business.
During all my years of coaching and consulting, one of the things I noticed is that people tend to operate in what’s called their Zone of Excellence. Now, you may have heard this term being floated around. It comes from Gay Hendricks’ book The Big Leap. When I read it, I was blown away; I started seeing it over and over again — all these people operating in their Zone of Excellence. But before we get into what the Zone of Excellence is specifically, let’s talk about Gay Hendricks’s four zones: the Zone of Incompetence, Zone of Competence, Zone of Excellence, and Zone of Genius.
ZONE OF INCOMPETENCE
The Zone of Incompetence is where you don’t know what the heck you’re doing. Isn’t it true that that’s where we were when we were in school? We’re trying to work extremely hard to develop our Zone of Incompetence and get to a Zone of Competence. Then, unfortunately, we carry that habit forward. For the rest of our lives, we hyperfocus on our Zone of Incompetence to try to increase our competence.
ZONE OF COMPETENCE
The Zone of Competence means you have an idea of what to do — you could probably do it, but you’re not that great at it. To use a personal example: I’ve watched a lot of woodworking videos, I have woodworking tools, I can operate the tools, and I can get things to turn out…okay. It is definitely a Zone of Competence, but it is not a Zone of Excellence by any stretch. I am a very average woodworker!
ZONE OF EXCELLENCE
The Zone of Excellence is a skill that you’ve likely cultivated over time. It’s something that you’ve learned. I spent a lot of time in the finance industry doing business and home loans. I was really good at looking at the numbers, running forecasts, and doing all the paperwork. I was also really good at going through regulations, and all the financials (even big hairy ones with tons of different tax returns or different business entities!), then pulling it all together, and getting someone a home loan.
That was a skill that I developed over time. It was in my Zone of Excellence. After all these years, I still have people contacting me to help them optimize different parts of the home loan process within their company. While it’s certainly a massive strength of mine, that was in my Zone of Excellence, not my Zone of Genius.
ZONE OF GENIUS
The Zone of Genius encompasses skills that come easily to you, that are seemingly innate, and that bring you joy. My Zone of Genius lies in working with service-based companies that are here to transform people and the world.
It isn’t just about the companies, it’s also about the small business owners. I help solopreneurs become CEOs in their own right. I provide the insight and strategy they need to go forward, and that brings me SO MUCH JOY! It’s like solving a puzzle; I literally love doing it. I love getting to the core of them and their business, and taking both from good to AWESOME.
Running a business can be hard work. Many people want to know which concrete strategies they can use to get ahead. It’s what I call the practical side of running a business.
REALITY CHECK: What really moves the needle in your business, the 80%-90%, is what goes on in your head. It is the mindset and spiritual part. It’s the insight they provide that really helps businesses skyrocket, because the transformation of the leader transforms the entire business.
Knowing all of that, can you see why it’s so exciting for me to be in my Zone of Genius? Now can you imagine what it would be like for you to be in your Zone of Genius?
I love guiding people from their Zone of Excellence into their Zone of Genius. Sometimes they don’t even realize where their genius is located because they thought it was no big deal since it’s so easy for them!
You can tell I love math, but some people really hate math and some people really struggle with math. I was always of the opinion that you’ve just got to change your attitude around math.
Before the finance industry, I worked in higher education for years. During that time, I also tutored. One of the subjects I tutored was math. It was amazing to help people move from their Zone of Incompetence to a Zone of Competence in math. My students wanted to get through College Algebra, and then not go any further — and that was OK. That was the goal.
Like many things we’ve learned, the details of how to do the more intricate things begin to fade away. Now this is interesting: if something is in your Zone of Genius, it doesn’t seem to fade. It’s always with you and it only gets better. It’s also easier when it gets better. When that ease is there, that desire to deepen your knowledge is there. What you don’t realize is that because it’s so easy for you, you don’t value that skill in the same way other people value it.
Going back to the math example, many people would consider being able to do trigonometry in your head a very valuable skill. But maybe it doesn’t seem very valuable to you, if you found it to be super easy. Things that you find easy, you likely don’t see as valuable. Things you find that are difficult are extremely valuable to you. Why? Because you don’t want to do them.
WHY DO WE GET STUCK IN OUR ZONE OF EXCELLENCE?
I think I’ve convinced you that you want to be in your Zone of Genius and get paid to play in your Zone of Genius. Things are easy, you’re in flow, you’re having fun. This is literally how people work less and make more. It’s just easy and they’re giving from a wellspring of energy, a place of overflow.
I wish we all started from that point. However, most of my clients (and me too!) got stuck in our Zone of Excellence and had to be guided to our Zone of Genius. Being in the Zone of Excellence, while you are good at it, is not always fun despite it being something that you do really well. That’s why people still say, “Oh, that’s difficult. I don’t want to do it. I’m gonna pay you a lot to do it” and you find it kind of difficult too, so you’re happy to get paid a lot of money to do it.
That’s the trap of the Zone of Excellence. You become a badass practitioner that works your butt off like a little busy bee. You keep working and working but you never quite get done because there’s always more to do. It is drudgery. However, you keep going because there’s always more and it’s easy to chase the money because you know that the more you do, the more money you make. The only reason you stop is burnout. And that burnout may not trigger you to switch over into your Zone of Genius because you get stuck in the Zone of Excellence and what I call the “receiving money cycle.” So remember: the Zone of Excellence is made up of skills that you’ve cultivated over time, whereas the Zone of Genius is composed of those things that are easy for you and not easy for others.
Remember those vocational tests they gave us as kids? I was looking at one of mine recently. Most of my answers to the questions were “People tell me things” and “I like helping people with their problems,” which I did. What amused me looking at that test was even as a seven-year-old child, I knew I was meant to work with people and their problems because even then people were coming to me with their issues. It was as if I had a sign on my head that said “come to me with your problems and I will help you.”
When I was in high school, a guy who was in the grade ahead of me would make comic strips and distribute them throughout the school. They were really well done and, of course, made fun of people. Inevitably, he made a comic strip about me and people coming to me with their problems: “Ole wise Af on the top of the mountain, help me with . . . (insert teenage problem).” He was so bang-on!
Throughout my life, other people saw my Zone of Genius too. It has always been my Zone of Genius to puzzle through and help people work through their issues. I decided as I got older that despite it being so easy for me, I would actually charge money doing it. I started business coaching and consulting and haven’t looked back.
What makes me different from many others is I am not that business coach that says to leave your personal stuff at the door. I like to deal with someone holistically. This is playing in my Zone of Genius: I dive into what’s going on with a client personally and bring that same acumen to bear on their business.
You could be stuck in all the aspects of your business that are in your Zone of Excellence, Zone of Competence, and even a few that are in your Zone of Incompetence. But the way you get to make more, work less, have a ton of fun in your business — have your dream business manifest into reality — is to stay in your Zone of Genius.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Comment below with your Zone of Genius and something you are doing in your Zone of Competence or Excellence in your business.