“If you are human, you have a calling: to live your genius.” – Gay Hendricks
Have you ever examined how you spend most of your working hours?
What kind of activities consume your entire day and what should be the ideal activities that you know you need to incorporate in your day?
How can you feel fulfilled at the end of the day?
If above few questions resonated with you, then keep reading, as this article is all about how you can safeguard your time from being wasted on low-priority activities and how to find your most important activities that will lead you towards the path of fulfilment.
We will talk about four different zones of activities, in which all of your activities can be categorized, as formulated by Gay Hendricks in his book The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear And Take Life To The Next Level.
Here are the four different zones of activities:
1. Zone of Incompetence
2. Zone of Competence
3. Zone of Excellence
4. Zone of Genius.
Let’s understand the activities that get categorized into the different zones as below:
The zone of incompetence, as the name suggests, covers those activities where you are not good at. There are other people who can do it much better than you.
An example below will explain the activities falling under this zone.
John purchased a new four-wheeler last week. As it generally happens when you get something new, he is very excited about his new possession, his dream car. However, over the weekend, he finds a red color light blinking on the odometer when he was driving the car to the supermarket. He reached home and was curious to know why this light continued to blink. He opens the manual of the vehicle, and reads through the relevant pages and somehow realizes that there is some minor fixing needed in the car batteries. Now, notice he is not a car mechanic. Rather, he is a management consultant, and he proudly charges few hundred dollars per hour as his consultancy fees from his clients.
But somehow, he is very excited and determined to fix this car problem on his own. He goes to his garage, opens the car bonnet, and starts casually fiddling with the various wires around the car batteries. After following some directions in the car manual, which he vaguely understood, he now checks the car, but the problem persists. He again tries, still not succeeding. He ends up spending 4–5 hours of his time trying to fix something, in which he is not competent.
Finally, he calls up a neighborhood car mechanic and shows the problem to him. The car mechanic opens the bonnet and within next 15 minutes, he fixes the problem by connecting the right wiring in the car batteries. The issue got resolved and John paid just a paltry amount of thirty dollars to the mechanic for his service.
Now you can see, being a management consultant, whose time’s value is five hundred dollars per hour, John is not supposed to know how to fix the car. But only to prove to himself that he can do it or maybe to save a few bucks, he wasted five hours of his weekend time. And adding to the woes, he had a fight with his wife that day, as he could not get her and the family to the latest movie that evening.
This is a perfect example that John was operating in his zone of incompetence and thus ended up wasting his precious time on things that didn’t deserve his time.
You may also want to assess your life to verify if you have been engaged in some activities that lie in the zone of incompetence given your circumstances. If you realize that you also sometimes waste time in the zone of incompetence, here is what you should do.
You must make a decision to never engage in any activity that is in your zone of incompetence. Rather, you should immediately delegate such activity to someone else who is competent to address that activity.
This principle applies to those areas entirely beyond the scope of your work. However, if the work relates to some area which you are interested in learning and growing in that area, that’s an entirely different ballgame.
With that, let’s move to the next zone.
This zone covers those activities, at which you are good at. But you also realize that any other person can also do it as good as you do. The problem with carrying out only these activities (and nothing beyond) is that the longer you do it you will start feeling yourself suffering from a disease of non-fulfilment.
And most successful people find themselves engaged in doing such things which others can do just as well. Then why don’t they simply delegate it to others?
It is because they think it would be a hassle to first delegate the work to someone and then to follow up with that person. It seems to them they can do it faster if they do it on their own. No doubt, it doesn’t make them dependent on someone outside, but that time they could have spent on something which would matter them more.
In an interview, Rory Vaden, author of best-selling book Procrastinate on Purpose, suggested that you should be willing to spend 30X the time it takes you to do an activity in training someone to do it for you. For example, if it takes five minutes for you to input some information into your software every day, you should be ready to spend up to two and half hours (150 minutes) to teach someone to do it for you. It may seem like spending too much on training someone, so better you do it yourself. Yes, it seems a bit of concern from a short-term perspective. But in reality, you will get a long-term ROTI (return on time invested), because after thirty days (you will recover your original time invested in thirty days) you will still continue to save your time doing that activity for a long term. The saved time can be utilized for something more productive and rewarding.
If you can do something on your own, that doesn’t mean you should continue to do so if it is not your core activity and doesn’t help you grow faster.
What is the right way to get out of this zone of competence?
It requires asking yourself a question, “If you could stop those activities in the zone of competence, what would it free up time for you to do?
If money or job description were not an issue what would you really like to be doing?”
With enough asking, you will get to hear some inner voice eventually guiding you to take some action.
Hendricks gives an example of his coaching client, who was good at organizing events, managing the calendar, or fixing any meetings in her organization. But as she competently handled those activities, she was given more and more of such activities. Over a time, she started getting a feeling of chronic fatigue.
Hendricks states this problem sometimes as “diseases of unfulfillment.” He states that when people are not able to express their full potential, they often get caught by some diseases that have vague and hard-to-diagnose symptoms.
Upon questioning, this woman realized that if she had enough time, she would love to work on one environment revival project, which had been in the back of her mind for so many years. But she was worried about how she could be able to make a living out of the work that fulfills her.
Finally, she started taking steps to improve her life and to move out of her zone of competence to higher levels. She stopped taking additional mundane work from colleagues that was beyond her scope of work and also started delegating her work to other people as much as possible. Within few weeks her symptoms of chronic fatigue started to disappear. Finally, she was able to cut back her office timing to half by having a discussion with the company and devoting more time to her environment project she wanted to work on.
Therefore, it’s a time for you to examine if you are spending too much time on your zone of competence and ask yourself the same question, “What would you love to spend time upon if you could stop doing activities in the zone of competence?”
With that, let’s now move to the next zone of activities called the zone of excellence.
The name of this zone apparently attracts and moreover seems to suggest that you have arrived and therefore you can stay here for life (but, wait until you read the next one). The activities covered in this zone are the activities which you do extremely well and also, you make a good living in this zone.
This is the zone where your own addiction to comfort wants you to stay. Moreover, your family, friends, and relatives want you to stay in this zone as well. You are reliable there, and you easily provide a steady supply of things on which your family, friends, and relationships thrive on.
For successful people, this zone is quite seductive and even a dangerous trap. Why? It is because this zone stops successful people from moving from good to great. Though you excel in a particular field and make a great living out of it, there is still some inner voice nagging in your head, which can be called your true calling. The problem with staying in this zone of excellence is that a deeper and sacred part of you will start dying slowly if you remain here. Therefore, the question comes, what comes next after being excellent.
Hendricks suggests that there is only one place where you will ultimately thrive and feel satisfied and that place is called “Zone of Genius.” Let’s talk about this final and ultimately rewarding zone now.
This is the final zone where you feel liberated and are expressing your natural genius towards your ultimate path to success and fulfilment.
This zone comprises those activities which you are uniquely suited to do. These are your special gifts or abilities, which the world can benefit from. You have a deeper sense of pulling towards doing these activities as you grow up, which Hendricks termed as a ‘call to genius.’
Hendricks further states that by the age of forty, most of us ‘tune out’ the call to genius and the resultant symptoms are increasing anxiety, depressions, illness, or relationship conflicts, etc. These symptoms are the alarms which keep on telling us we need to pay attention to what matters most to us. These alarms prompt us to feed our natural genius and let our inner genius spread the magic to the world.
It is recommended that we should heed the call to genius in a gentle and graceful manner. Because if we don’t pay attention to it, sometimes life gives us shocking jolts that tell us with blatant clarity that we are not paying attention to the call to genius.
Hendricks further goes on to state that with the right tools and a little wisdom, we can start to listen through intuition and react to the call to genius — and that will save us from all the suffering and pain that arises from neglecting the inner voices. He recommends that one should be aiming to spend seventy percent of his time in the activities in the zone of genius to lead a life of fulfilment and true success.
Consider this article as an assessment sheet to examine the activities that consume your days. If you are not moving towards your zone of genius activities, then it is the time to pay close attention to your inner voice and start spending time in the activities falling in your zone of genius.
It has been honour to appear as a Guest Blogger with Alison O'Dornan, and I wish you every success in your future.
(Above is a brief excerpt from my book “The Way To Lasting Success”, which contains wisdom nuggets to live your life based on intrinsic motivation and move towards success that gives you fulfillment. You can get your copy here)
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