Getting Into Your Zone of Genius

Driving home from work I told my mom, "I just don't want to get up and go to work tomorrow!" She replied, "Do you enjoy every run that you go on? No, but you do it anyway. You know you have to in order to achieve your goals." In this case my goals were to have a paycheck that afforded me a comfortable lifestyle in my late twenties.

I wasn't miserable, but I was genuinely uncomfortable working as an office manager for an RV dealership in Chattanooga, TN. My coworkers were pretty awesome - we always had fun and there was little drama. I got to move around during the day, checking on repair process, moving motorhomes around the lot, and conducting roof inspections which I loved doing because most girls wouldn't scamper up on the roof like I could.

That particular job even introduced me to a guy I dated for a few years, so all in all, not too shabby.

Somehow I was still unable to find satisfaction and frequently felt frustrated during the day. I lived for five o'clock and was out the door right on time every night. This was the year I began distance running for fun. I needed the outlet and found solace in many solo evening miles, the frustration of the day pounding out of my body with each sweaty step in the hot humid summers of the south.

The Great Recession of 2008 finally caught up with the recreation industry and my company made cuts. While shocked to be one of those let go, that was the only emotion I had about losing a job. In fact, I felt like they had done me a favor. In spite of the missing enthusiasm toward my job, they paid me well and during a recession I would have been crazy to leave on my own.

Free as a bird it took me literally two hours to decided I was packing what I could fit into two suitcases and moving to San Diego where my parents lived at the time.

Long before I discovered the enneagram and so much else about my personality and work style, I had no vision for what I wanted to do or become. I had been fortunate enough to stumble onto a few good opportunities and each time I rode that wave until it fizzled out. 

The Missing Link
I do have regrets from my twenties. That decade is meant as space to find yourself, discover who you are as a person, an employee, a partner, perhaps a parent, and embrace life as an adult. You learn just from living, but I drifted aimlessly. Sure, I dabbled in a few different areas testing out potential careers and had fun along the way, but I was missing a foundation that could provide a filter for choosing a career path.

Rarely does anyone figure out the ONE thing they are supposed to do their entire life. That seems a little boring to me, to be honest, but some personalities may thrive on that consistency and predictability, so who am I to judge?

What in the heck are you supposed to do to create job satisfaction if you can't find that perfect, magical, unicorn-like job that will satisfy all your wildest career fantasies?

Zone of Genius
I'm not sure where this phrase came from, but I learned about it sometime around 2018. Your zone of genius is more about your gifting than your passions. The two overlap, for sure, but they are different. 

Your passion is something you love doing. It brings you great joy and satisfaction. It could be relaxing or energizing, private or service-oriented. It's outside of you and typically involves action.

On the other hand your zone of genius is innate. It's part of your DNA and you may not even realize when it's functioning. Zone of geniuses are gifts that you possess which transcend any specific company or role you may fill. 

A great example of working in your zone of genius is when I'm able to team up with my colleague, Correy, on marketing contracts for clients that either of us secure. 

You could offer me a million dollars to cast a vision for a startup company and try as I may, I would suck at it and be so stressed out trying to conjure these skills which I don't possess. I can see myself clenching my fists, scrunching my eyes closed tight, and mustering every bit of energy to manifest a vision. In the off chance I came up with something it would be emotionally and mentally painful to the point that I would have made myself sick. Been there, done that. I used to get sick a lot being under stress of just being plain miserable.

Correy might need to develop a strategy to get from A to B, to take a client's vision and map the process, plus oversee the implementation of each step. That would be just as painful for her as it is for me to be the visionary. Correy and I both know that our digestive issues are largely due to stress. It's actually very common for women to carry stress in the gut and sort of stay clenched. That was random, but true and important to know.

Correy and I have discovered that we work incredibly well together WHEN we are both in our zone of genius. She is the visionary and I am the executer. I don't even need a lot of details - she barely gets the thought out of her head and I can already see the ten steps required to achieve our goals.

Correy and I work together in the marketing space, but the point is that our zones of genius transcend that industry and no matter what we chose to do, we would do best to function in these capacities of visionary and strategist.

This is 100% why I'm a business consultant. While I probably won't be able to help a business owner create a vision for where their business can go, I can either make their vision come to pass or I can step in and identify problems and opportunities, then devise a strategy to help them move forward and achieve short and long term goals.

For years I functioned in sales-based roles, which are basically high stress and high paying customer service jobs. I do love people, but not in that environment. Every position had a high quantitative relational component (I do quality, not quantity of relationships) and it was draining the life out of me. 

THIS is why I used to tell my mom I didn't want to go to work almost every day.

If only someone had helped my understand my zone of genius when I was in my twenties. I wouldn't trade any of the experiences I gained along the way, but I would have been so much less frustrated knowing that I was a broken person, I just wasn't in the right seat on the bus.

There are a few assessments available these days that help you understand where your zone of genius lies. I recently discovered my favorite assessment called The Six Types of Working Genius Personality Assessment by Patrick Lencioni.

Lencioni's assessment lists Wonder, Invention, Discernment, Galvanizing, Enablement, and Tenacity as the six types. Test results give each person their top two categories. While we all have to do things we don't like just because they are necessary evils, he reports that you probably want to aim for spending 70% of your time in the two categories that are energizing and be very aware of the amount of time you spend in the areas that are draining.

So What?
Now that I'm in my forties I have learned my zone of genius through trial and error. Whether I continue as a freelancer or consultant, or even choose to work for another company, I am comfortable filtering opportunities through these parameters to ensure I place myself in a position to thrive.

I am proud to be a generalist, able to pick up just about anything and succeed. But I know that I suck as a visionary, so I probably won't ever lead any large organizations. I also hate the minutia of details, so I am careful to avoid jobs that have too much detail, like anything financial or long editing projects. I would shoot myself in the eye to do these more than 30% of the time!

If you are struggling to make peace with your work, perhaps you don't need a complete change. Sometimes there are other positions within the same company into which you can be transferred or work toward a promotion. Realizing WHY you are unhappy can be the most transformational experience of your life. Even if you can't change your circumstances immediately you can develop a game plan to move toward greater job satisfaction, toward life satisfaction.

Visit the Working Genius site for more information.

Take a peek at these other resources. If you would like to set up a life coaching session, let's do it!

90-Day Goal Planner

Find Your Zone of Genius

The Genius Zone