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Commitment & the Zone of Genius

What it means to stay in motion and find what fulfills us.

Where to live; what to do; who to love; how to do more.

These are the fundamental questions that might fill the idle moments inside an introvert's head. It's a feeling of being stuck between an abundance of optionality and a paucity of commitment. (I'm committing to commitment .)

These questions sometimes have no answers and may present themselves unexpectedly. Recently I've had conversations for myself and others around the idea of making a decision at a crossroads. And when I say crossroads, think less Robert Frost's two roads and more Marquette Interchange.

So what are some tools to decide how to commit?

Asking friends, peers, and mentors is a surefire way to proceed. There are a few helpful perspectives too that offer mental models that revolve around one thing: commitment.

Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin explained on a podcast: "Take the opportunities where you can and be as authentic as possible; when those two things interact, then you take a step. Sometimes that step leads you to a good place and sometimes it doesn't."

Quite wholesome and optimistic, but by living true to yourself and not worrying about the idea of something — the idea of working in tech or living in a certain city — you will end up closer to your true path, just as Josh Rogin did as he found his way into journalism in Japan and around the world. At least by making a move — even a wrong move — he was okay. Hang on to the good decisions for awhile, consistently tweak, and the zone of genius can be reached.

The Zone of Genius

The Zone of Genius is the apex of the four zones of function that Gay Hendricks identifies in his book The Big Leap - the Zone of Incompetence, The Zone of Competence, the Zone of Excellence, and the Zone of Genius. **

The Zone of Competence (zone two of four) is where you do what you're good at, but it doesn't give you energy. The founder of Twitch speaks about founder/CEO friends who operate in this zone. They feel like they have to do it as part of their job. They feel trapped, beholden to investors.

It demonstrates that even at high-performing or high-paying jobs it's possible to be unfulfilled. The CEOs do what they are efficient at, but don't get energy from. For that, you need to step into the Zone of Genius.

The Zone of Genius is about doing what gives you energy. It is doing that which you are naturally gifted at, that you have consistently worked at over time. You capitalize on natural abilities and find yourself in the state of flow to unlock the innate genius in every individual.

How does this relate to commitment?

"Commitment is the gateway to the zone of genius. Ultimately I want to see people spending 90% of their time in their zone of genius, but you've got to start somewhere and my recommendation is to start with ten minutes a day,” Gay Hendricks writes.

Reaching the zone of genius starts with the individual. He recommends making a commitment to blocking out ten minutes a day to devote to cultivating genius. Then build and make decisions to follow that feeling.

He offers three questions:

  1. "What work do you do that doesn't seem like work?"

  2. "In your work, what produces the highest ratio of abundance and satisfaction to the amount of time spent?"

  3. "What is your unique ability?"

By answering these questions, we can see the road ahead, make commitments, and step into the Zone of Genius.