Get in the Zone
Who Am I?
An exercise I assign to my entrepreneur class at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. I challenge students to look in the mirror and do a deep evaluation of themselves to discover their natural personality traits, strength, weaknesses, likes, dislikes...do they really understand who they are? A question everyone, even martial arts students, should ask themselves.
My take on entrepreneurship is that it cannot be taught simply because there is no single recipe for business success; entrepreneurship is more a mindset than anything. I focus the class on business basics and, more importantly, getting the students to understand who they are and if they are even cut out for being a business owner. In other words, determining if running a business is in their Zone of Genius.
There are four basic zones a person can find himself in: Zone of Incompetence, Zone of Competence, Zone of Excellence, and Zone of Genius. Where we live in these zones is larger determined by our ability to perform in a particular endeavor. This ability is a mixture of skills, strengths, and talents.
- Strength is anything we do well and energizes us during the act
- Talent is an innate ability that can’t necessarily be taught
- Skill is a competency that can be taught or acquired through practice
In the event a person doesn’t possess the skills or talent for a particular task the individual is in a Zone of Incompetence. More training and practice is needed. When skillsets improve to the point of being fairly good at a task but others may still be better we find ourselves in a Zone of Competence. Sometimes we operate in an area we are very good, even great, but don’t particularly enjoy what we are doing; we are not energized. This is a Zone of Excellence and often leads to burnout. The sweat spot is the Zone of Genius when everything is aligned. Skills, talent, passion, desire, and fun all come together; we love what we do and are very good at it.
A great read on the subject is Gay Hendricks’ book The Big Leap.
What does this have to do with knowing who we are? Simple. Having an acute understanding of who you are allows you to recognize which of these zones you are in sooner rather than later. When/If you ever find yourself frustrated, dejected, or burnt out take a step back to ask if our skill and talent matches our expectations and which in these zones you might be existing. Only then can we make an appropriate change to get into that Zone of Genius.
Whether we want to admit or not, sometimes our impression of our skill and talent is skewed. We are never as good as we think we are; we are never as bad either. The real disconnect we need to manage is our expectations of what those skill sets and talents can yield. The wild card is asking ourselves how happy we are where we stand. Remember, that Zone of Genius is where everything comes together…skill, talent, AND happiness. In business we just happen to make money as well. In martial arts it’s where pure enjoyment of the act intersects with advancements in rank or competitive accolade. In life it’s where family, career, and hobby all intersect.
Take that regular long, hard look in the mirror. Ask yourself who you are, where you are, and where you want to be. Understand yourself is the first step to getting in your Zone of Genius.