How can ordinary people help you find your zone of genius?
My wife and I were watching a movie this weekend. It was The Darkest Hour. Now, I don't know about you, but I barely remember my history classes from high school, and we certainly did not learn anything about other countries' history when it came to World War II. This movie is about Winston Churchill and how he became Prime Minister and what he had to deal with. One of the important things about his story is that he was set up to fail. Based on what I learned in the movie, he wasn't a great leader – but he was a great orator or speaker and communicator.
There was another movie that we saw a while ago that gave us a little perspective that we did not understand, and it actually should have been in this movie, too. That movie was called Dunkirk. I'll talk about that in a little bit.
When Churchill came into power, things were really starting to break bad. One of the things that happened was 300,000 British troops were pinned against a beach in Dunkirk and he had to try to get them out. He was trying to do this militarily, but other parts of his government wanted to surrender. They wanted to negotiate with the Nazis through Mussolini in Italy, and Churchill was torn.
Instead, what he did was speak with the people who were in the city of London and ask their opinions. When he asked them what he should do, they all said, “Fight. Fight to the end. Never give up.” So he took that and used it in his closing speech, which was just amazing.
Get Into The Zone…
That's what I want to talk about. How can ordinary people help you find your zone of genius? Well, there are five things that I want to layout that will help you delve into your zone. These are:
- Know Your Strengths
- Know Your Weaknesses
- Take Counsel
- Ask For Help
- Be Alive And Thrive.
First, know your strengths. Churchill was a great orator and an excellent speech writer. One of the characters in this movie was a woman who came in and had to type up all his speeches. In the first scene, she was taken aback at the way he was. He was rude, and crude, and mean, but eventually she stuck with it. And he knew his strengths. He knew that he could get good speeches out but he couldn't type them, so he had to get somebody to come in and help him.
The other thing you have to know is your weaknesses. Churchill was a heavy drinker. He was not very personable in any way, shape, or form, but he knew his weaknesses. He knew he needed people there to support him.
Number three, he took counsel. He met with the King. The King said, “Every single Monday we're going to have lunch.” But not only did he do that, he met with the queen. Not the Queen of England, but his queen, his wife. He asked for her advice, and he got it. Winston was deeply in love with her, and it showed. He knew that she knew him better than anybody else would or could.
Ask For Help
The next thing is you have to ask for help. At one point in the movie, he spoke to FDR, the American president, and he said, “Sir, we need your help, we need to purchase things. We need to do something.” And FDR said, “I'm sorry, we can't help you because we're in a neutrality agreement. We can't do anything.” Churchill replies, “But if you want to get the planes that you purchased, you could walk them across the border into Canada and get them that way.” He tried. He also knew that the only way he was going to save his soldiers in Dunkirk was not through military action. Instead, what he did was ask for help from civilians in boats to go across the English Channel and bring back 300,000 troops from France to keep them alive, and they did.
Be Alive & Thrive
And the last thing you have to do is be alive and thrive. You have to have confidence in the fact that you know the outcome, that you're going to be positive, that you know exactly what you're doing is the right thing, and give it your best.
The Big Leap
To build on this a little bit, I want to talk about a book called The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. I'm sure you've seen the four quadrant boxes with urgent, important, not urgent, not important. That's Eisenhower's Principle. This book is very similar to that. He breaks it down into four sections.
Zone of Incompetence
The first one is the zone of incompetence. In this zone, you're engaging in something that you just don't understand or are not good at. An example for me would be cars. I suck at motors. Yes, I know nothing about them. I know how to put gas in and take them in to get the oil changed. Another area where I'm kind of incompetent is writing. I suck at it, so I hire somebody to help me. By doing that, it makes me better and I don't have to worry about it. The goal here is if you don't do it well, get rid of it.
Zone of Competence
The second one is the zone of competence. In this zone, you're efficient at it, but you recognize that many other people can do it too and it doesn't really make you stand out or distinguish you in any way. This is something, again, that you want to get other people to help you with. In my case, it's graphics. I'm not a great graphic designer. I can do it, but I'm better off paying other people to do it.
Zone of Excellence
The third zone is the zone of excellence. In this zone, you're doing something that you are tremendously skilled at. Often in this zone you can achieve excellence. This is something that, over time, you achieve a level of expertise. One of those things, for me, is audio editing. I'm good at this. I can edit like nobody's business. But again, by doing it, it holds me back. I'm sure that I could find somebody else who can do it just as good and still get fantastic results.
Zone of Genius
Now we get to the zone of genius. In this zone, you capitalize on the natural abilities which to you are innate. That means that you are doing something that has ceaseless inspiration, that gives you the opportunity to soar above the crowds. It's the place where you're at your best, where you exceed what other people can do, and that's where you got to spend the vast majority of your time focusing. Because if you're incompetent at it – get somebody else to do it. If you're competent, you can always find somebody else to do it. If you're in the zone of excellence, you should only be doing that if it brings you joy and pleasure.
And the thing you need to focus on is the one thing that makes you stand out from the crowd. That is your zone of genius. How did Winston Churchill find that? He went out into the crowds and had a talk with the real people, and they told him what his zone of genius was. By being alive, and thriving, and living it, he ended up winning the war.
There was one scene from this movie that I will never forget. While Churchill was running away from the press, he gave a victory sign, but he turned his hand around. When his typist saw the picture in the newspaper, she told him, “If you do it this way, it means victory. But when you turn your hand around, it means up your arse.”
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Comment below and share your thoughts, ideas or questions about showing the concepts presented. Have you had to overcome any of the presented concepts? What worked and what did not live up to your expectations? Do you have any ideas or advice you could share?
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