Earlier this year, I got a call from a nonprofit organization. The board was looking for someone to manage their social media campaign. It sounded like a fun gig — plus it was pretty significant in scope.
Even though it wasn’t really in my line of work — I don’t work with nonprofits, and I don’t do social media campaigns — I came up with all kinds of reasons on why I *should* do it.
But as I stood in front of the board making my presentation, I kept thinking, “Why am I doing this?”
Working in the Zone of Genius
A year or so ago I read Gay Hendricks’ book, The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level.
It’s basically about how to make the leap from working in your Zone of Competence to working in your Zone of Genius.
Your Zone of Competence are those tasks you can do pretty easily. For me, that’s writing a blog post for a client or putting together an e-newsletter.
My Zone of Genius, however, is Website Overhauls. And, something I’ve only recently discovered, ghostwriting books. (I joked on Facebook recently that after all these years of not calling myself a writer, I’m now a writer. It snuck up on me.)
When I’m doing work I love, I am in *the zone* — my Genius Zone.
How you clog up your Zone of Genius
I get calls regularly from people looking for help for all kinds of stuff outside my Zone of Genius.
The problem? I used to take on all this work out of fear. Fear that if I turned it down, I’d wake up one morning with zero work (and therefore no money).
When you take on work that’s outside your Zone of Genius, however, you clog things up. You don’t have the time or energy for your genius work.
Then you get cranky and resentful (at least I do, anyway).
Staying in your Zone of Competence is also how you get stuck in a rut.
I said “no” to the nonprofit gig
The morning after the board meeting, I knew what I had to do. I emailed the board president, thanked him for the opportunity — and referred my colleague, Christine Green. Christine, I knew, was *perfect* for this gig: She works with nonprofits. She is really, really good at coming up with creative for social media campaigns.
A few days later, Christine emailed to say she got the gig. Yay!
For weeks after, however, I kept wondering: Did I make the right decision? I couldn’t believe I had walked away from a well-paying, significant gig.
“You can’t outgive the universe”
A funny thing happened, though. As I watched Christine do a FABULOUS job with the campaign (and I have to say, much better than anything I could have done), the happier I became. I could see her expressing her Genius. Her brilliance touched something inside of me.
I found myself changing — spiritually, emotionally, intellectually. I realized that by working in *my* Zone of Genius, I no longer had to fear or be jealous of people working in theirs. It was a very freeing idea.
After Christine read this post, she responded:
Due to your referral, I finally had a large enough platform and opportunity in which to fully EXPRESS my current Genius Zone. The kindness of your referral allowed me to land a client that I might not have gotten on my own (or at least not for a few more years). You facilitated the process that gave me that opportunity.
For months I’ve listened to prosperity guru Randy Gage say, “You can’t outgive the universe.” I finally understand what he means. I had referred Christine without expecting anything in return. Since then, however, so many wonderful things have happened — one of which is, I got another book ghostwriting gig completely out of the blue. WOW.
And here’s the best part of this whole story. The nonprofit gig came about because I gave a free talk to a small group of artists back in January — again, not expecting anything in return. A woman in the group sits on the nonprofit board and recommended me. I could’t help but think, when I passed it to Christine, “It’s true. The universe does move in mysterious ways, and we are all connected.”
Walking away from a gig because it wasn’t 100% right for me — and referring Christine instead — is one of the best decisions I’ve made this year. By doing so, I kept my Zone of Genius open. I’m much happier.
If you want to make this kind of leap in your business, here is my advice:
1. Find your Zone of Genius and do whatever it takes to get there. (Reading The Big Leap will help with this process.)
2. Trust your gut. It is scary to make the leap, but once you do, your life will change in so many ways you’ll wonder why you didn’t make the leap sooner.
What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Have a similar experience you’d like to share? Please leave your comment.