It was early 1981. I’d graduated from college June 1980, after a disastrous student teaching experience. I got married in October of that year and was looking for my first “real” job. The disastrous student teaching experience really sunk my confidence; I’d wanted to teach ever since my freshman year of high school. I didn’t know where to look. On top of that, our country was in a recession, so jobs weren’t plentiful.
The first position I found was as a clerk for a finance company. On my first day of work, I was taught how to receive the checks from the mail and record the payments for outstanding loans. Sounds simple, but I was miserable. I went to work for two days and quit. Yes, I am that person. I figured that it was better to cut our losses for both the company and myself than to keep showing up for a job that was sheer torture.
Fortunately, I had the ability to do this, because I had a husband who could support our simple needs until I found something better. Not only that, but he was willing to support me in finding something that was a better fit. Thank God for you, Mark Peterson!
The Big Leap
I tell you this story to illustrate the first of the four zones described by Gay Hendricks in his book, The Big Leap. Over the next four weeks, we’ll be exploring the concepts in this book and how they relate to your Masterpiece Work.
Zone 1: The Zone of Incompetence
The situation I described above was in my Zone of Incompetence. This zone encompasses work and tasks that you’re just not good at. Spending your time in this area means you will struggle to accomplish your goals. You’ll experience misery and exhaustion. Record keeping and accounting are definitely part of this zone for me. I was raised by a mother who is a bookkeeper. She thrives on that level of detail.
It’s not a bad thing to know things are in your Zone of Incompetence. I believe God brings us into community by giving us gifts that serve each other. Finding others who are good at the things you’re not good at is the smart way to manage those important tasks that must get done in your Zone of Incompetence.
Zone 2: The Zone of Competence
The second zone described by Hendricks is the Zone of Competence. In this zone, you are capable. However, you are one of many people who can accomplish this task. There’s nothing in this zone that you would say sets you apart. My first real job that I actually stuck with fit this category for me. I was a service representative for the phone company. I was capable in the role, actually, my people skills were stellar in this role. But I was one of many who could do the job and do it well.
Zone 3: The Zone of Excellence
Zone 3 is the Zone of Excellence. My response to this zone is “Beware the Zone of Excellence.” Others often see your capabilities in the Zone of Excellence and encourage you to work in this area. They want to leverage your strengths in this area. However, working in this area doesn’t “light you up”. It doesn’t give you the fulfillment you seek. It’s not the place where you can make the biggest impact.
When I think of the Zone of Excellence, I think of a young leader in a large corporation that was climbing the ladder quickly. Senior leaders saw his capabilities and had big plans for him. However, he was slotted into a role that took him away from the work that gave him purpose. He was stuck in a place that completely drained him. He knew he had to find a way out, because the role he was in was affecting not only his family life, but his health. Eventually, he found the opening he was looking for and said farewell to the grind he’d found himself in. He jumped into a role that may not be his final landing spot, but it gives him the freedom to find the best option, his Zone of Genius.
Zone 4: The Zone of Genius
Zone 4 is the Zone of Genius. Your Zone of Genius is the place where you contribute at the highest level. It’s where you make your biggest impact. It’s the place of intersection between the world’s needs and your strengths and talents. Hendricks describes the Zone of Genius as “the set of activities you are uniquely suited to do. They draw upon your special gifts and strengths.”
Masterpiece Work is how I describe this zone. It’s the work you were created and called to do. This is where the gifts God put in you can best be used for the benefit of others and your fulfillment.
Masterpiece Work comes from Ephesians 2:10. We are told we are God’s masterpiece – we together as God’s people are a masterpiece. Each of us has a role within that masterpiece. When we allow ourselves to be created anew in Christ Jesus, we have the eyes to see what our role looks like. Then we can see the work He created for us long ago. THIS is our Masterpiece Work. Because God placed in us the gifts and strengths for our masterpiece work, of course it's what we're uniquely suited to do!
Work Takes on a Whole New Meaning
In our Masterpiece space, the work we do takes on a whole new meaning. It’s not just to provide for our physical needs through a paycheck, but to make a difference in the world by contributing at the highest level possible. That may be by leading a company or being the best customer service representative possible. It may be by growing crops to feed the world or teaching first graders how to read. Any of these roles – and a multitude of others can be used by God to make an impact in the world, while providing fulfillment for you.
As a leader, you make a huge impact by helping your team members see that their work has meaning beyond just a paycheck.
Outside Your Comfort Zone
Stepping into your Zone of Genius can be a challenging experience. There is much to be excited about, but you’re also stepping into unfamiliar territory. I guarantee your Zone of Genius is outside your comfort zone. (Have you noticed that the good stuff usually is?)
Over the next three weeks, we’ll explore more about your Zone of Genius, the barriers that get in our way of stepping into it and how to step into your Zone of Genius and your Masterpiece Work more fully.
For now, share with us which Zone do you feel you’re in today. Are you in the Zone of Incompetence, the Zone of Competence, the Zone of Excellence or the Zone of Genius? What makes you believe this?