One of the core values of the Whitney English team is creativity. This means that everyone on our team is constantly coming up with new ideas, and we all have several projects going at once! In addition to my role as a graphic designer for Whitney English, I have my own line of wedding stationery (and some other fun things in the works)!
I fell into entrepreneurism thanks to a recession and the slow demise of print. I quit my corporate job in 2011 because, after 6 years of working my graphic design side hustle while working full time in the publishing industry, I couldn’t juggle both, raise a three-year-old, be a decent wife, and have a social life.
I spent fifteen years as an entrepreneur in the event industry. I designed custom wedding invitations and sometimes helped with event design, so not only were first impressions an important part of my client work, the overall experience of a guest was important. I’ve co-owned a wedding publication and a stationery business, explored the life of a painter, and now I work primarily as a graphic designer.
Somewhere along the way in my entrepreneurial journey, I picked up the phrase “Zone of Genius.” It most likely came from a business coach working to uncover my why. I always dreaded that question: “what’s your why?” I didn’t think I needed the question, because I thought I’d already discovered my Zone of Genius (graphic design), and I’d successfully figured out how to make it my career—on my own terms.
If you want to dive deep into Zone of Genius, Laura Garnett wrote a book on it, but full disclosure: I haven’t read it. The book focuses on how your Zone of Genius can further your career. I do not fully utilize my Zone in my career, so I speak from a broader view in identifying your own Zone. How you apply it to your life is solely up to you.
What is Zone of Genius?
Zone of Genius pertains to that thing you can do so well and so effortlessly that it often leaves others in awe. For many, the phrase pops up when discussing business or career, but I believe your Zone of Genius doesn’t have to be something you monetize. It can simply be something you enjoy. And it can be ever-evolving. We grow. We learn. We experience new things. Because of this, our Zone of Genius is sometimes right in front of us, but we don’t recognize it because, honestly, it’s likely we’re not ready for it yet.
To explain that idea further, in Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert introduces a theory that “ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest.”
To summarize the theory, ideas come to you and one of three things happens:
- You completely miss it.
- You say yes to it.
- You say no to it.
This theory in itself is one that I find myself exploring deeper each time it pops into my head, but I mention it to remind you to be gentle with yourself if you suddenly realize your Genius has been with you all this time. I should also mention that I did not finish Big Magic, so I don’t know if she goes on to talk more about it in the book. I read that nugget of information and closed the book for good. I got everything I needed from that excerpt.
Graphic design is something I excel at. But—it’s not actually my Zone of Genius.
My true Zone of Genius is something I only just discovered. It’s been right in front of me for years, but it only hit me a few weeks ago. In the middle of a discovery zone with a potential client a few weeks ago: lightbulb moment!
At first, this realization frustrated me: I’ve owned my business for over fifteen years, and I’m just now figuring out my Zone?! But as I looked back at my years in business, I realized that I had been tapping into my Zone of Genius the entire time. Utilizing my Zone looked in different ways at different stages of my career.
My personal Zone of Genius is what many call the Customer Journey or User Experience. I’m able to walk through each stage of interacting with a client or customer and identify key touch points where that experience can be made more enjoyable, memorable, and personal.
Things I Love
I love systems and processes and client touchpoints. I love giving thoughtful gifts. I stand firmly behind the help-me-help-you mentality. What can I do to support you and help to push you forward?
With that said, it shouldn’t surprise you that I’m an Enneagram 7 like Whitney, which means I’m an Enthusiast. I want you to have a wonderful time. I want you to feel appreciated and considered. I want to surprise and delight you. And I want to cheer you on as you make progress!
I’m also a fine artist, which means I cannot stick to one medium. I need to create. I need to experiment. I need to dream. My husband once described our relationship as a kite—I could float and wander and explore up in the clouds, but he grounded me so I didn’t get lost. Thank goodness for a very sturdy string.
The artist piece of me is what’s keeping me from making a career out of my Zone of Genius right now. Currently, I don’t have the attention span to contractually help someone build their customer journey to fruition. I’m still chasing creative ideas at midnight. I know I wouldn’t be able to serve clients at my highest level.
But because I’ve identified my Zone, I can utilize it within my own business, as well as utilize it in my personal life—my process of thinking is the same no matter the situation.
Finding My Zone
How did I reach a stage in my life and career where I could make a statement about my Zone of Genius with an exclamation point and not a question mark? I began examining my everyday behavior. My mind bursts with ideas when someone mentions an idea they’re excited about. Automatically, my mind begins mapping out all the high touchpoints in the customer journey and how to add value to those points.
If my daughter’s soccer team is headed out of town for a tournament, I immediately begin to think of ways to make this trip memorable, even if the team won’t remember any of the games they played.
That discovery call I mentioned, where I had my Zone of Genius lightbulb moment? Without realizing it, I began talking through ideas for their customer experience—downloads to create, packets to compliment their services, blog posts to write, leave-behinds after home visits, and follow-ups after appointments. I started brainstorming the name and client experience for a boutique they hadn’t even dreamed up yet! My brain wouldn’t stop. That’s when it clicked: this is my Zone.
Finding Your Zone
Alright—now that I’ve shared my journey to discovering my Zone, I’ve got a few questions to help you find yours! Remember, your Zone of Genius is where what you enjoy doing, what you’re good at doing, and what the world needs intersect. When identifying your zone, you want to consider your Talent, your Passion, your Skills, and your Value.
- My talent: what am I best at?
- My passion: what do I want to share with everyone, even if I were only paid in high-fives?
- My skills: what life experiences and assets complement my talent?
- My values: what matters to me most?
These questions feel very open-ended, but as you begin to dig—and you will need to dig well below the surface—you’ll begin to hone in on your Zone of Genius.