by Margaretta Noonan, Featured Contributor and Editorial Circle of Excellence Member
IN 1987, Marsha Sinetar published Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow – a beguiling concept, especially for Boomers who want to “have it all.”
As an entrepreneur, I’ve come to realize that loving what I do is just one of three conditions that have to be met for success: I also need to be good at it, and there needs to be a market for it.
I love to sing in the car – with no one else around, I turn the song up loud and belt it out. I’m great at remembering all the words. The trouble is, I can’t carry a tune. I have absolutely no singing competence. I love it, but I’m no good at it. Taylor Swift will get no competition from me.
I also love to nap – and this one I’m really good at. I can close my eyes and drop off for 20 minutes in just about any situation. I once fell asleep while getting an echocardiogram, causing all the alarms to go off when my heart rate slowed. But I’ve yet to find anyone who will pay me for napping. I love it, I’m good at it, but there’s no market for it.
So how do I find what I love, what I’m good at and what there’s a market for? In his terrific book The Big Leap, Dr. Gay Hendricks calls this our “zone of genius” – the things that we love to do and bring a special set of skills and traits to doing and that bring us abundant rewards. When we’re spending time in our zone of genius, we’re “all there.”
In its recent annual survey, Salary.com was told by 83 percent of employees that they planned to look for a new job this year. That means that less than a fifth of employees want to remain in their jobs – they’re clearly not “all there.” And other studies reveal that 98 percent of us would quit our jobs if we won the lottery! Only 2 percent of us have achieved that place of passion, competence and reward that would keep us “all there” even if we won the lottery.
So how do we move toward that 2 percent? How do we get “all there” ourselves, and help our team members get there with us? How do we do a better job of operating in our distinctly personal zone of genius, bringing our best selves to work every day?
In my case, it required a radical rethinking of what I was doing and why I was doing it. I had a long, outwardly successful corporate career in senior level jobs at brand name companies. For many years I was passionate about what I did. I enjoyed my work, my colleagues and my impact. But for the last several years I was empty and unsatisfied. I felt bored and impotent at work. Though I kept up the façade, I was only going through the motions. I certainly wasn’t “all there” – I was barely there. And I couldn’t figure out what had happened.
After I left my last corporate job a few years ago, I became an entrepreneur and I loved being my own boss. I felt more control than I had in a long time and my passion reengaged. But something was still missing.
While I was doing competent work with interesting people, I still felt unfulfilled. I wasn’t spending enough time doing the things that I truly loved to do…and that I was really good at. And to top it all off, I realized that at a fundamental level I was still faking it – deep down, I didn’t believe that I was good enough to be doing what I was doing. And the more I faked it, the more out of balance with myself I became. I started having severe headaches and made some risky life choices. Something had to change.
Earlier this year, I unplugged for three weeks. I went to a remote beach, just my dog and me. I read. I reflected. I took long walks. I cooked and ate healthy meals. I meditated. And somewhere in the course of those three weeks, I found the part of me that is good enough. That is ragged, imperfect and gifted.
I came back from my “retreat” with a more authentic sense of myself as marvelously flawed and wonderfully good enough. Being good enough means being “all there” – with my beautiful parts and the parts I’m still working on, my joys, my failures, my desire to learn and to teach. Being “all there” meant discovering where my personal genius lies and how to put the things I love to do and am terrific at doing at the center of my work.
Those three weeks were a tremendous gift I gave myself – yet it’s often hard to find even a fraction of that time in the day to day. Even with our busy daily lives, here’s some discoveries I’ve made of actions I can take when I’m feeling stuck or underused or not “all there” at work or at home:
• Examine basic assumptions:
o Why am I doing what I’m doing?
o Am I doing what I love, am good at, and that brings me rewards?
o When am I truly happiest?
• Make time for reflection
o Breathe deeply and rest in the present
o Even a few minutes of quiet contemplation makes a difference
• Review my personal and professional priorities and values
o Are these aligned with my passion and competence?
o How am I living – or not – in accordance with them?
o Day to day, every day: what am I doing that keeps me in touch with my passions/ competence/ genius?
You may find that putting these steps in place can be helpful as well and once you’re spending more time in your own zone of genius, you can help your team do the same by:
• Being “all there” yourself – show them your own authentic, good-enough self
• Share a compelling vision of what’s possible and invite them to contribute to getting there
• Provide work with meaning – be clear on how their work supports the vision
• Create an environment of respect, caring and service
• Allow your team members to be “all there”
Perhaps knowing that we each have the potential to uncover our individual, magnificently good enough self – that we can truly be “all there” – is even better than winning the lottery.
As the Skin Horse said to the Velveteen Rabbit in Margery Williams’ classic story, “It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Editor’s Note: This Article first appeared on Enterprising Women and is featured here with permission.