I found myself reaching for my old copy of The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks last week.
The funny thing about re-reading books is that I end up focusing on different sections of it each time. Or I read the same section and find new meaning—a new angle—in it.
Someone once said something about the message finding the recipient at the right time. Or something like that.
I suppose re-reading a book is much like that. You find the nugget that’s right for you at the opportune time.
The One Problem That Holds Us Back
The Big Leap talks primarily about our Upper Limit Problem—how to recognize it, how to address it
According to Hendricks, all of us have an Upper Limit Problem. Even the most successful ones of us.
In fact, the more successful we get, the more urgent it becomes for us to identify our Upper Limit Problem. Otherwise, it will become a drag for the rest of our lives.
Here’s Hendricks talking about his Upper Limit Problem:
I have a limited tolerance for feeling good. When I hit my Upper Limit, I manufacture thoughts that make me feel bad. The problem is bigger than just my internal feelings, though: I seem to have a limited tolerance for my life going well in general.
When I hit my Upper Limit, I do something that stops my positive forward trajectory. I get into a conflict with my ex-wife, get into a money bind, or do something else that brings me back down within the bounds of my limited tolerance.
I’m a bit obsessed with this topic at the moment because I have a suspicion that I’m hitting my own upper limit with the work that I’m trying to do. More on this in another post.
The thing I want to talk about here is the first part of the book, which presents the idea that all our activities in the world occur within four main zones.
The sooner we understand which zone takes up most of our time, the sooner we can take the leap to our next level (whatever that next level may be for you).
The Four Zones
Here are the four zones as described in The Big Leap. One caveat. Sometimes, we read descriptions like these in binary terms. Either/Or.
I find our time is spent across the board, depending on our jobs or the work that we’re trying to do. The thing to keep in mind as you read these descriptions is the predominance of time spent in a particular zone.
Zone of Incompetence
This zone is made up of all the activities that we’re not good at. And—if we’re being honest with ourselves—will probably never really be good at, no matter how much time we spend doing these.
Surprisingly, we end up doing lots of things in this zone for various reasons: we’re trying to save money, it’s what people expect us to do, we don’t want to ask for help, or we haven’t yet realized that we’re not really good at it.
Zone of Competence
When we operate in this zone, we spend time doing things at which we’re generally well… competent. Although we do good stuff here, there’s nothing really special about it. Others can do these activities just as well.
Things we do in this zone are so easy for us, we can do them ‘in our sleep’. As an aside, anytime I find myself saying I can do something in my sleep, I know I’ve reached a rut.
Zone of Excellence
This zone is made up of all the activities we do extremely well. As Hendricks points out, people generally make a good living in their zone of excellence. And because of this, this zone can be “seductive and a dangerous trap”. We’re solid and reliable in this zone. This is where our family, friends and the organizations we work for, want us to stay.
The problem is that a deep, sacred part of you will wither and die if you stay inside your Zone of Excellence.
Zone of Genius
This is what the Big Leap is all about! This is the zone where we should be aspiring to get to. Ultimately, this is the only place where we will thrive and feel fully satisfied.
Liberating and expressing your natural genius is your ultimate path to success and life satisfaction. Your Zone of Competence is the set of activities you are uniquely suited to do. They draw upon your special gifts and strengths. Your Zone of Genius beckons you with increasingly strong calls as you go through your life. […]
By age forty, many of us have tuned out the Call to Genius and are getting loud, repeated alarms hidden in the form of depression, illness, injuries and relationship conflict. These alarms are reminding us to spend more time feeding our natural genius and letting it do its magic in the world.
Zoning Laws, Anyone?
It’s often hard to shine the flashlight on our current work because we tend to explain (ahem, make excuses) for our actions and decisions. It’s easier to look at things when they’re a little detached from you.
So, armed with all this zone information, I reflected on my past jobs and roles. I saw clearly where I got stuck. Where I fell into a pit—for me, somewhere between zones of competence and excellence. And how I rationalized my actions to stay in there <gasp>.
Now that I see it, as if the spotlight has been trained on it, I am better able to recognize the pattern in my current work. And with that information, I can—in theory—devise ways to avoid falling into the similar pits from hereon.
I say ‘in theory’ because knowledge doesn’t always translate into action.
Knowing myself, I must translate this idea into actionable steps. Better yet, convert them into habits so that I can really get the bang out of what I just learned. I’ll come back to write about that in another post.
I hope you found my book notes on The Big Leap, and especially the discussion on zone (incompetence, competence, excellence, and genius) helpful and relatable.
Over to You
Do you see yourself stuck in one of these zones? In what zone do most of your current work activities fall?