Entering the Zone of Genius: What this means for you and for me

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‘Don’t try to squeeze into a glass slipper.

Instead, shatter the glass ceiling’

– Priyanka Chopra

If you follow me on any of the social media sites (I’m on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn!), you may have noticed quite a few changes, decisions and ideas taking shape recently.  It’s been an exciting and exhilarating few weeks as I settled back into work and started the implementation of my plans to achieve the goals I have set for the coming year and beyond.

You may also have noticed that The Swan Doctor has recruited a new team member – no less than Mr Alan Anderson aka ‘The Sales Doctor!’ (and Big Al).   Alan will support the development of this blog and coaching venture whilst I keep all my plates spinning and I couldn’t be happier to have him join me as my business development manager  and sales coach.  We both have a noticeable spring in our steps and have chatted into the ‘wee small hours’ about all that we can do and offer both independently and together.

Having now made the firm decision to focus more on coaching in the future I have been considering in much detail who I could serve best.

Two key questions needed to be asked and answered:

  1. Who would I love to work with (and conversely would love to work with me)?
  2. Who could I add value to and help the most?

I started to procrastinate about these questions (the biggest obstacle to progress known to man).  I pondered, thought and thought.  I then decided to record my rambling thoughts onto my iPhone whilst driving into work at 6.30am (yip, talking to myself!) and played them back later that evening to see what else could be prompted.  Then I wrote everything down; I still felt ‘foggy.’

I belong to a wonderful inspirational coaching group (Hunger Start Accelerators) and we often pose questions to each other in order to gain independent opinions, insights and clarity.  Here is some of what I posted with honesty to the group:

‘….I had a great chat with my daughter over dinner on Saturday evening. Both of our phones had run out of charge so we were ‘forced’ to talk. Sophia says she wants to be a heart surgeon and I used the opportunity to just let her know I was open to her doing whatever she wants to do when the time comes. Whatever brings her most joy and satisfaction. She goes to the same grammar school as I went to, and it’s very academic, so the expectations are usually to do medicine, law, accountancy, pharmacy, engineering and so on.  You are good at ‘these’ subjects, therefore you should become ‘that’ career.

At a very young age, before you really know who you are, your fate and destiny is sealed and decided.

But I know for a fact, as I am friends with people who feel like this, many wake up in their 40s, and think, “is this it, seriously?”

Their job and salary become their trap from which they don’t know how to ‘escape,’ so there they stay, until they retire on a reasonably comfortable pension.  Some accept this status quo.  Others don’t want to….and I need to find them.

The more money you earn and the more you go up the career ladder, the bigger a mortgage you get, the fancier a car, and financially you are no better off than a student really.

But you LOOK the part!…

And you just can’t get off the gravy train! Too busy trying to keep up with the ‘Joneses.’

Inside you want more.  You always wanted more, be it a different career, more opportunity and progress within your current career, perhaps your own business or a side line BUT you just don’t know how to step off that ‘hamster wheel’ and go get what you really always wanted.

You want to FEEL successful….whatever that means to you personally.

1. So, who would I love to work with?

I want to work with professionals with an entrepreneurial spirit or career desire that never left them.

On paper they LOOK successful. They don’t actually FEEL it. They want to FEEL it.

Healthcare professionals (pharmacists)?

Now, do I need to niche down more and target male/female? Do I target divorced? Or have they had other difficulties in life e.g. financial difficulty? Age-wise, like me in their forties, bit younger or a bit older?  Are they thinking “Is this it? There has to be more?” A parent? Maybe a single parent?

2. How can I add value?

I’ve been there! I’ve got the T-shirt!

I’ve done many things to date. I’ve experienced the lows and the subsequent highs as I fought hard to regain success and fulfilment. I’ve been a community pharmacist, hospital pharmacist, GP pharmacist, academic, lecturer, research fellow, project manager.  I have several degrees and certifications with more letters after my name than in my name…and in business I owned a coffee shop, did property development and rentals, ran a local magazine, had a chocolate wedding flavour business and now I blog and coach!  (I may have an identity crisis!)

Life crisis – I’ve done a few of these too!  Divorce, debt, single parenting, grief, chronic illness…I’ve never done anything in life by half, but I have used coaching and personal development tools to overcome these and came back fighting whilst retaining my values and always remaining true to who I really am.’

Upon submitting this extensive post to the group, I subsequently received multiple comments from our coach Lewis and also from within the group; one particular comment from a member really resonated and she absolutely hit on what I was trying to express.  She said:

“I might have some input for you at point 1. I’ve given talks about how people with a good career can move from their zone of excellence to their zone of genius. The zone of excellence – it’s when we have the job we’ve always dreamed about, when we make good money, where our parents are proud of us and our boss and the company wants us to stay in that position. This normally happens in the late 30s or 40s and it’s very hard to get out of. The zone of genius is where we can create most value in a very short time. When we work on something and we are in the flow, we forget about time and space.”

I immediately purchased the book she recommended on this topic (The Big Leap) and listened to it in the car to and from work over the following days.

I could write extensively about the contents and themes of this book.  In terms of the zones, at any one time, we can occupy any one of four zones:

  1. Zone of Incompetence; we all know what we aren’t great at doing, but for various reasons, attempt to do these things anyway.
  2. Zone of competence; we are competent at a number of tasks, but so too are many other people.
  3. Zone of excellence; at a certain point in our career we will enter this and potentially stay there feeling we are meeting society’s and our own expectations, but possibly not fully realising our potential and working towards our ultimate dreams and goals.
  4. Zone of genius; this is where the magic really happens but most of us don’t know how to enter here and don’t want to risk the consequences of breaking through our upper limit often referred to as the ‘glass ceiling.’  We often have a habit of self-sabotaging when we reach our upper limit.

‘Discovering your Zone of Genius is your life’s Big Leap. Everything up until now has been about hops, not leaps. Hopping, though it seems safe, is actually hazardous to your health. If you confine yourself to hops, you run the risk of rusting from the inside out’ – Gay Hendricks, The Big Leap

Upon reflection I realised that I have the potential to enter into the zone of genius and operate within optimal flow when helping others find solutions to problems, and also when writing.  This is in the context of either my pharmacy career or in the context of blogging and coaching as The Swan Doctor.   This is when I move through from my zone of excellence, smash my glass ceiling and enter my own zone of genius.

It all centres around success and living on purpose.  Success is a word I have reflected on extensively in this blog, what that means personally to me and to you, and the feelings of fulfilment associated with achieving that success.

Releasing the potential to enter your zones of excellence and then genius is the value I now explicitly knew I could add to the people I would love to work with.

I took my new findings and thoughts back to the group and then Lewis worked with me on the final niche.  For some reason, I had experienced much resistance during the process but I think this was borne from the fact I was coming to the realisation I wanted to help people just like myself!

My mirror image, but maybe a few steps behind me or dealing with difficulties and obstacles that I can empathise about.

To be more specific, ‘I help unfulfilled female pharmacists unlock their full potential, become aligned with their core values and achieve true success without the stress.’

I have to be honest and say I am feeling very excited about the future and really look forward to working with these women.  If anything resonates with you or you think I can help, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Let’s explore your life purpose, find your zone of genius and smash your glass ceiling together.


The Swan Doctor

(Success Coach :-))







Photo credit:  Wedding shoes by John O’Neill, Sperrin Photography