I often listen to the podcasts that Srinivas Rao posts on his website unmistakablecreative.com. Srinivas does a fantastic job interviewing his guests, getting them to talk about their journey to where they are today doing what they like while earning a good living doing it. In the process you get to learn from the podcasts and takeaway few lessons that can help you in your own journey doing what you would like to do. I certainly do and that is how I came to know of Laura Garnett.
In one of the episode, Srinivas interviewed Laura Garnett, CEO of Garnett Consulting, who has developed a framework and a roadmap called the Zone of Genius that helps people get energized and satisfied doing what they truly enjoy.
When I was listening to the way Laura was describing what she does in helping people reinvent themselves, I could not help but relate to the book, "The Flight of the Phoenix" by Elleston Trvevor that I had read a while ago. (Note, there have been two Hollywood movies based on this book, one in 1965 starring James Stewart, Richard Attenborough and Peter Finch, and one more recently in 2004, starring Randy Quaid and Giovanni Ribisi.)
In the book, there are passengers who routinely fly on a Skytruck plane from oil wells in Northern Africa to cities nearby without ever worrying about anything ever going wrong. Unexpectedly on one trip, the plane runs into a sand storm and has to make a crash landing in the Sahara desert.
Wait for someone to come rescue them before they run out of time, or design and build something from the wreckage and fly out and save themselves. These were the two hard choices that the surviving passengers were faced with.
Rescue was not going to be fast since the plane was way off course due to a broken radio. To save themselves, a passenger named Stringer, a toy plane designer, comes up with a brilliant idea to build a plane from the wrecked plane since the parts they needed to build a plane could be salvaged. The remaining passengers buy into this idea and work tirelessly in building a plane that could fly and ends up saving the surviving passengers.
Undoubtedly, building a plane from a wreckage was not easy but doing anything that you have never done before is ever easy. It would have been easy for the surviving passengers to wait for someone to come and rescue them and return to their comfortable life that they had. This was not an option for the passengers of the Skytruck and, unfortunately, it is no longer an option for many of us today in the job market we are in. Some of us do need help to reinvent ourselves based on our innate talent and our deep passion to extricate ourselves from the desert of disparity.
She has done it herself. She had all kinds of jobs right after college, including jobs at companies like Capital One and Google, but it wasn't until she was laid off from a startup that she made a decision and a commitment to work hard to create her dream job. She spent few years working on this and wanted to create a job that would utilize her innate talent and her greatest passion. Ultimately she discovered that her dream job was to help others find their Zone of Genius like she did herself through trial and error and even some tribulation.
Let's face it, most of us have jobs and don't have a lot of time, patience or talent to find our true Zone of Genius. To get it right without wasting a lot of time, Laura can help you find what you really were meant to do that will make you energized, happy and fulfilled.
After listening to Laura on unmistablecreative,com, I still had few lingering questions, so I reached out to her, and she immediately replied and asked me to email the questions and would get them answered as soon as she had some free time in her schedule. I am very thankful that she took time out of her schedule to answer the questions below.
If you would like to know more about Laura Garnett's why, how and what, please visit her website lauragarnett.com.
Are there any external factors (outside one's control) that can affect one being in her Zone of Genius (ZoG)?
There are many variables that are out of your control, such as unexpected incidents, major employee issues that arise, anything that is unplanned and these are more pronounced the more people you have working for you. The key, however is to be aware of what it is that creates these Zone moments for you (leveraging your talent and purpose) and making an effort to insure that this is also part of your work experience. Once you are out of the weeds of unplanned problem solving, you can get back to doing the work that drives you.
Once you get into the ZoG, does one remain there or does one have to constantly work hard to remain in her ZoG?
It's similar to keeping a car on the road. You need to be aware of the key drivers that keep you in and out of the Zone. I created a Zone of Genius Scorecard that my clients use weekly to monitor how they are doing on these five drivers of keeping in the Zone: Focusing on the process not the outcome, Impact, Challenge, Mindset and Commitment. It's about being aware of why you are not excited about certain elements of your job and what’s causing it so you can be pro-active versus re-active.
What are some of the negatives of being in the ZoG? Is there such a thing where ZoG could easily fall into the "Zone of Insanity"? I am referring to people like Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, Bernie Madoff, etc.
I don’t think that these individuals suffered from leveraging their Genius too much, what they suffered from, I can guess, is an inflated ego. When you are operating in your Zone of Genius there is no ego. I say that because a key element of it is your purpose. If you are clear what gives you purpose and you are aligned with that, your ego takes a back seat because you have nothing to prove anymore. I would guess that these individuals were leveraging their talent (obviously) but were not connected to their purpose, which can lead to insane behavior.
Can companies succeed in aligning their current employees to the companies' Zone of Genius (if it exists) or do companies have to hire new employees who are already aligned? Are Zappos and Google good examples of this?
I believe that it’s the individuals responsibility to align their Zone of Genius to the organizations. The organization needs to be clear on theirs and communicate it clearly so that individuals or potential employers can easily see if they are a fit. It is absolutely possible to do this retro-actively; however, it may mean that some people are in the wrong roles, which would require some role flexibility or commitment to employee mobility on the companies part. As for Zappos and Google, they are clear on their talent and their purpose, which is the first step. It’s hard to comment on a company’s ability to have this align with their employees without being a current employee. I worked at Google 6 years ago but company’s change with time, I couldn’t tell you if they are focused on this now.
What challenges do people face in finding their Zone of Genius as they get closer to their 40s, 50s and beyond?
It has little to do with age, more so to do with one's ability to see that her core strength is valuable. I think from that standpoint it can be easier as you age because generally you are more accepting of yourself. The main challenge with identifying your own Zone of Genius is objectivity. You can’t work with yourself so you struggle to see your strengths as easily as someone like myself. Which is why we are all so fascinated in anything that will give us insight into ourselves. Which is why you should invest in the opportunity to get support in this area but make sure it’s someone who will support you to see your authentic self rather than “tell” you who you are.
Five books that have influenced Laura Garnett's thinking:
"Flow" by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi
"Stumbling on Happiness" by Dan Gilbert
"The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg
"Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing" by Po Bronson, Ashley Merryman
"The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs" by Carmine Gallo
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