by Laura Garnett
Everyone wants a job they love. It’s a basic part of our psychological wiring. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author of Flow, says that, contrary to popular belief, not only do we feel better doing work than doing nothing, we are happiest when we are working. The reason that the cocktail sipping beach scene has become a socialized “dream” is because most people aren’t happy at work and the idea of doing nothing is a respite from doing something that is either soul draining or just not fun.
Mihaly maps out the key steps required to get into that feeling of “flow” where time is suspended and we are completely engaged in our work:
1. You must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress. This adds direction and structure to the task.
2. The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback. This helps the person negotiate any changing demands and allows him or her to adjust his or her performance to maintain the flow state.
3. One must have a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and his or her own perceived skills. One must have confidence that he or she is capable to do the task at hand.
My work has been about the third step. Having the confidence that one is capable of doing the task at hand. Meaning, how do you know what you are best at and where to apply this skill? I have spent most of my life combing through books, coaches and expert advice trying to figure out what I was meant to be doing in the world. Without that understanding I found, getting flow was a random event that seemed out of my control.
In my time studying this phenomenon I have discovered the opposite to be true. Finding the conditions that allow us to “flow” is a formula to solve, not a guessing game. The formula to solve lies within defining your Zone of Genius, and I’ve devoted my career to helping people find theirs.
Your Zone of Genius is unique to you, fitting your personality traits like a finely tailored suit. As a small business owner or an employee, your brand should reflect this, standing out to potential clients and competitors as something that is truly authentic. And it is only by combining the power of your innate talents with your deepest passions can you reach this rarefied air.
There are three steps to finding your Zone of Genius. The first is identification, the second is sharing, and the third is operating. For the purposes of this discussion I am going to focus on the first: How do you identify your personal Zone of Geniu
Uncovering your Zone of Genius begins with the understanding that "innate talent," for this purpose at least, is not what you do but HOW you do it. It is a unique approach to the work that you do. Typically when we talk about talent we say WHAT we do, we are an athlete, a singer, or a doctor. What this lacks is specificity to you. There is a level of distinctness that goes well beyond what we typically use to describe what we do, and to identify your innate talents you must work to really drill down to what it is that makes your approach special.
Your greatest passion is the activity that you could do for countless hours with joy. This is not always straightforward, but can be embedded in your psychology and linked to your personal journey. Invariably when you are able to help others conquer something that you have mastered, its endlessly fulfilling.
When you are crystal clear what these two pieces of information are, you then have the building blocks to create the role, project or job that will allow you to be in your Zone of Genius on a regular basis.
To articulate this I will share the story of a client, Katie, who is the CEO of a consulting business. Katie was dealing with huge growth of revenue and possibility. She had built her company on what she enjoyed, however was overwhelmed with the number of ways that she could take her business to the next level.
On the path to discovering her Zone of Genius, Katie got clear on a few things. We determined that her innate talent was a “Strategic Service Strategist”, meaning she was driven to serve people, industries or projects by always improving them in a way that was a win win for everyone. She was driven to improve everything she touched. Her newfound awareness of this trait helped her recognize that it was actually a key selling point for her entire organization — her innate talent had infused the entire team without her awareness! She was delighted to use this as the starting point for her brand.
The other component, her greatest passion, was mentoring others to maximize their fulfillment and sense of accomplishment at work. Knowing her greatest passion suddenly became a new guiding force for her and gave her the ability to plan how she should prioritize growth opportunities. She knew that as long as the result of anything she did was helping others enjoy their work more that she would continue to feel fulfilled.
Katie is not an exception. We all have the potential to be using what we are best at to create the career of our dreams. There are two key steps you need to take today in order to start your journey towards identifying your Zone of Genius:
1. Be committed- This is not an easy journey. It requires tenacity, confidence and the ability to let go of what others think as well as what you have been socialized to believe. Commit to doing the work that is right for you not your “Image”.
2. Get Support, Not Advice- You need to find or hire someone to help you be objective about yourself. You can’t experience yourself. Try as you might, its impossible to see the “experience” you create by being you. Hire someone who will help uncover and reveal to you who you are, not tell you to do something that may be right for them.
If you are willing to dive into the first steps then you are well on your way to unlocking your potential and a level of happiness that far surpasses cocktails on the beach.
Laura Garnett is a Business Matchmaker. Her Zone of Genius is being able to see the underlying patterns within people that is indicative of their Zone of Genius. She then connects them to their personal brand and career strategies that are right for them. Her mission is to help everyone know their Zone of Genius and use that as a driving force for their career decisions. When you have clarity, focus and passion, anything is possible. Laura brings years of experience as a high-level corporate executive for companies such as Google, American Express and Capital One as well as her own personal time “in the trenches” as a solo entrepreneur who’s created her own dream job.