The following is adapted from my new book, Breakout Blueprint.
Everyone has natural talents, and often the key to career success is finding where those talents and a job intersect. This is your “zone of genius,” the abilities you’re innately good at—the area of expertise where you can become a master and command a master’s salary to match.
Your zone of genius largely determines your earning potential because the higher the degree of your expertise and mastery, the higher the value to your customer, and the higher you can charge.
Identify and further enhance your natural talents, and you can leverage them to climb the career ladder in your chosen field, where earning potential is practically unlimited.
Finding Your Zone of Genius
Before you can leverage your zone of genius to advance your career, you need to define it. Fortunately, this process is simple: to find out what you are good at, all you have to do is ask the people who know you best.
Here’s a simple piece of advice from New York Times bestselling author Keith Ferrazzi, who wrote Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back:
“Call, text, or email at least ten people and ask, ‘What is the one thing in the world you think I’m best at?’”
When I first heard this tip, I hesitated to follow it, afraid that what I thought about myself was wrong. But I overcame the fear and emailed past colleagues, friends, classmates, and clients. To my surprise, they all came back with similar answers.
All of the replies centered around marketing, communications, and small business. People said they thought I’d be running my own digital agency. That feedback encouraged me to pursue my zone of genius further, and ultimately contributed to my decision to found my own agency.
When you solicit feedback from the people in your life, the opinions you hear will likely make sense. They’ll “feel right” because the things you’re good at relate to your natural talents. By pursuing a career within your zone of genius, you’ll put yourself on the path to mastery and drastically increase your professional value.
How the Zone of Genius and Mastery Determine Your Value
After you identify your zone of genius, you can pursue a career where you can bring the most value to clients. Mastery and specialization in your chosen field is critical to increasing your earning potential.
To put mastery in perspective, let’s consider a familiar situation: going to the doctor.
At the onset of symptoms, you typically see a general practitioner. They will do their assessment, and if it is severe enough, they’ll send you to get an x-ray, which is performed by an x-ray technician, who specializes in body imaging. They send the report to the radiologist, who determines the severity of your illness. If it is bad enough, you are then sent to a surgeon.
As you can see, as you ascend through the process, you start working with people who have more training and expertise. People are often rewarded for their expertise for one simple reason: their advice and decisions have greater consequences.
If the general practitioner misdiagnoses your condition, you will likely return in twenty-four to forty-eight hours. If the surgeon makes a mistake, you could die.
To maximize your earning potential, you need to become the surgeon of your field. Master your zone of genius until you can provide high-consequence services to your clients, and you’ll be worth the high salary you command.
Never Stop Improving Your Skills
Your zone of genius describes your natural talents, but to become a master of your field, you need to put in the work. There is no true top of the career ladder, and there’s always room for further improvement.
To continually develop your skills, look for jobs that give you the opportunity to learn and hone your zone of genius. This might involve changing jobs frequently to expose yourself to different industries and roles, but do so with intention. I’m not suggesting you job hop, only that you recognize the value of new opportunities.
If possible, gain this experience throughout the middle of your career. You’ll have a broader perspective of your field and be better prepared to run your own business when you’re ready to take that step.
Stay Focused on Your Area of Expertise
Once you’ve identified your zone of genius—your area of expertise—stay focused on it. Don’t be distracted by “fun” job opportunities that don’t leverage your natural talents—you won’t thrive in them.
Many failed entrepreneurs make excuses: lack of access to capital, lack of access to talent, or simply bad luck. But the honest truth? They weren’t good enough.
Your goal is to find a career that excites and fulfills you, and that also falls within your zone of genius. If you can combine passion with expertise, there is nothing keeping you from reaching the top of your chosen field, leveraging your talents, and earning the salary of your dreams.
For more advice on building your business, you can find Breakout Blueprint on Amazon.
Doug Foley is a media entrepreneur, podcast host, and digital pioneer who is known for pushing the boundaries of digital platforms to create unique solutions that drive growth. He’s an innovator with a drive and a passion for helping others thrive, succeed, and think outside the box. As the host of the hit podcast The Happiness of Pursuit, he teaches listeners how ordinary people followed their passions to create extraordinary lives. He launched two six-figure agencies in less than 18 months, and he’s now using that experience to help others find fulfillment through a lifestyle business.