Is Hard Work What’s Holding You Back From Success

Hard Work Might Just Be Our Worst Enemy

by Nichole Kelly |

It seems counterintuitive doesn’t it? As children we are taught that if we work hard, we can achieve anything our heart desires. I’ve taught my own children this very lesson and would argue that all of my success in life has been the result of hard work. But is it really? Was it the hard work? Or was it finding something that I am the best in the world at?

These are the thoughts I’m exploring in my own life and I’d love to share them to get your perspective.

The answer to success isn’t hard work

Key to SuccessPerhaps, our success in the past and the future isn’t about hard work. What if success was really about finding the things that we are the best in the world at? What if those things were effortless? What if the things we have a true competitive advantage at are the things that come easy? What if the things we should be focusing on are the things we can do absolutely hung over and at the end people are still in awe at how we did something so amazing?

What if hard work is getting in the way of us finding the things that put us square in our zone of genius. Gay Hendricks revealed four zones in his book, The Big Leap. The Zone of Incompetence, the zone of competence, the zone of excellence and the zone of genius. You can read a review of the book and an explanation of each zone here. For today I’m going to focus on the zone of excellence and the zone of genius.

Hard work is found in your zone of excellence

What if you could generate even more success by removing hard work from your vocabulary?

What if I told you that hard work is found when working in your zone of excellence? In your zone of excellence you will find things that you are really good at, but after you do them you’ll find that they have actually reduced your level of energy.

This is where most of us have found the most success in our lives. We push and push and push and ultimately we realize that the harder we push doing the things that are in our zone of excellence the more we get rewarded. But at the end of the day we find our energy is drained. Our resources are depleted and we need to replenish our energy. This is what most of us recognize as success.

But what if there was something better? What if you could generate even more success by removing hard work from your vocabulary?

Brilliance is found in your zone of genius

The talents you will find in your zone of genius are literally effortless

When you are working in your zone of genius you will notice that afterwards you have more energy than when you started. You feel passion and rejuvenation within the work that you are doing. The talents you will find in your zone of genius are literally effortless. They come easy and at the end you are left scratching your head because people are amazed by what you did. They can’t understand how you did it and they will tell you they are ground breaking, genius and brilliant. You don’t understand why it’s so special because for you it was…well…effortless.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find my zone of genius. What I’m realizing is that the effort of trying to find my zone of genius is the exact cycle I’m trying to break and trust me; this is a really hard to come to terms with. I’m literally trying to unlearn everything I’ve ever been taught about success and failure. It’s not easy to fight the urge to fall into our old patterns.

I’ve realized that this is kin to finding your soul mate. Have you ever experienced the desire to find the “right” person and looking everywhere and coming up empty? Then the minute you stop looking you suddenly meet them. That is what I’m working on. Letting go. I’m trying to let go, lay back and relax so that my zone of genius can find me.

I’ve always thought my zone of genius was in finding ways to create revenue. I’m damned good at that, it’s what I’ve built my entire career on. But I half suspect that finding ways to create revenue are fueled by my desire to solve complex problems with simple solutions. As such, I’m hoping some really complex problems will come my way so I can test my theory. I will figure out how to solve them and then I’ll measure my energy level. If it gives me more energy, it’s definitely in my zone of genius. If it doesn’t I’ve likely found passion in my zone of excellence.

What would happen if you worked in your zone of genius all the time?

The key to your zone of genius is that you are literally the best in the world at what you do

What would happen if you could work in your zone of genius all of the time? Your energy would be higher than it ever has been before. You will probably make more money than you ever have before. You see the key to your zone of genius is that you are literally the best in the world at what you do. Others can’t do what you do and frankly can’t even begin to understand how you do it. As a result, people and companies are willing to pay you a lot of money for it.

The biggest benefit I see in finding my zone of genius and staying there is that it no longer is a conversation of work life balance. There is no balance. At that point it is just life and my…what a fulfilling life it would be. If we could surround ourselves with only the things that raise our energy rather than deplete it we would have the energy to continue to create and expand amazing things and hopefully leave a mark on the world that no one else could. This is something I’m truly passionate about and something we encourage all of our employees at SME Digital to find for themselves.

Because just imagine what would happen if we had an army of people who worked squarely in their zone of genius. Imagine the power and creativity it would bring when solving our clients problems. To me, that is the biggest gift we can bring to our clients and to the world.

Have you ever paid attention to the things that bring you more energy? Do you think you are working in your zone of genius or your zone of excellence most of the time? Share your thoughts in the comments below and let’s have an inspiring conversation about what is and isn’t working in your career and life.

Hear more about my thoughts on zone of genius in this interview on The Work Talk Show with DJ Waldow and Nick Westergaard

About the Author

Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly is the CEO of Social Media Explorer|SME Digital. She is also the author of How to Measure Social Media. Her team helps companies figure out where social media fits and then helps execute the recommended strategy across the “right” mix of social media channels. Do you want to rock the awesome with your digital marketing strategy? Contact Nichole