Feeling trapped in your zone of excellence?

Nov 10, 2021

One of my favorite concepts comes from the book The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks.

In the book he talks about how our activities in the world show up in four main ‘zones’:

Zone of Incompetence. Zone of Competence. Zone of Excellence. Zone of Genius.

The first two zones are pretty straightforward.

  • Zone of Incompetence are those activities that we just aren’t good at. Others can do them a lot better than we can.
  • Zone of Competence are those activities that we can do well, but others can do them just as well as us.

It’s the last two zones that are zingers for us as business owners.

  • Zone of Excellence are those activities that we do extremely well.
  • Zone of Genius are those activities that we are uniquely suited to do. They are an expression of our natural genius – our gifts. Our purpose.

Now here’s the zinger, in Gay’s words straight out of the book.

“For successful people, the Zone of Excellence is a seductive and even dangerous trap. To remain in this zone is to hobble yourself from taking the leap into your Zone of Genius. The temptation is strong to remain in the Zone of Excellence; it’s where your own addiction to comfort wants you to stay. It’s also where your family, friends and organization [clients] want you to stay.”

Oooooeee! I remember the first time I read this it really hit home.

My entire business at the time was built around my zone of excellence. I was making good money. My clients were thrilled with my work. BUT something was missing… I was no longer feeling fulfilled and it was starting to drain me.

I spent years trying to ignore those feelings – telling myself “I should be happy with what I have” and that people were relying on me. It felt irresponsible to want more and to risk ‘shaking things up’ in pursuit of what felt like selfish desires. Despite my best efforts to push it aside, that nagging feeling that I was meant for more just wouldn’t go away.

Perhaps you can relate?

This is the zone of genius calling us. Tapping us on the shoulder saying “hey, look over here…”

And try as we might, we can’t get away from it. As much as we want to stay in the comfort of the zone of excellence – and it can be SO comfortable!! – it’s always there… peeking over our shoulder. Whispering in our ear of possibilities we may not even be aware of yet. Those inklings that there is something more out there for us on the journey of business and life.

I’m curious – what zone are you in right now in your business? Leave me a comment and let me know.


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