Zone of Genius

Many years ago, I was sitting in my cubicle at work and started to yawn.  I was hungry and a bit bored with the less-than-challenging work I was doing.  Thinking it was almost lunch-time, I glanced at my watch.  9:38 AM.  What?!  It felt like I had been sitting there in my little felt box for at least three or four hours.  Ugh.

Has this ever happened to you?  You’re at work uninspired, disengaged, bored.  Time creeps by one agonizing second at a time.  You are not alone.  A recent Gallup poll found that only 30% of U.S. workers and 13% worldwide are engaged in their jobs.  What the heck are the rest of the 70 to 87 percent of workers doing — just staring at their laptops?  Searching for the next disengaging job?

The Japanese have a term called Ikigai which literally means “a reason for being”.  Or, your life purpose.  When you are doing a job or activity that is not your “reason for being”, time creeps by.  The complete opposite is true when you have found and engaged in your reason for being — time flies by.  See the illustration below for a visual explanation of Ikigai:

Ikigai =  Your Reason for Being / Life Purpose

To better understand Ikigai, I like to reference a term created by author and personal growth guru Gay Hendricks called your “Zone of Genius”.  In Hendricks’ book The Big Leap, Gay explains there are four zones we all operate from:

  1. Zone of Incompetence (things we are not good at doing and don’t want to do);
  2. Zone of Competence (things we are good at doing but don’t really enjoy doing);
  3. Zone of Excellence (things we are good at doing, enjoy doing some of the time, but ultimately leave us unfulfilled and lacking);
  4. Zone of GENIUS (Ikigai — see the illustration above);

The Mushin Way is all about creating clarity to help you make better decisions.  Decisions that help you get “unstuck” and into action to make your business and personal life exponentially better.  The Mushin Way is about living your life from your Zone of Genius.  And in The Big Leap, Gay poses these four questions to help you start to identify your Zone of Genius:

  1. What do I most love to do?  (I love so much I can do it for long stretches of time without getting tired or bored.);
  2. What work do I do that doesn’t seem like work?  (I can do it all day long without ever feeling tired or bored.);
  3. In my work, what produces the highest ratio of abundance and satisfaction to amount of time spent?  (Even if I do only ten seconds or a few minutes of it, an idea or a deeper connection may spring forth that leads to huge value.  Whatever it is, find it and I want you to put the highest priority on doing some of it every day.);
  4. What is my unique ability?  (There is a special skill I’m gifted with.  This unique ability, fully realized and put to work can provide enormous benefits to me and any organization I serve.);

So who wants to join me in living from their Zone of Genius?  Who wants to discover their Ikigai and escape the drag of the felt box?  Start by answering those four questions above.  Post your answers below.  And when you get stuck on the questions, ping me at @mpveltri to help you get unstuck.  Happy to help — that what my Ikigai is.  And don’t forget to purchase a copy of Gay’s wonderful book, The Big Leap.  I guarantee the book will help you discover your true purpose in life.