What is The Zone? It’s when your mind is focused so precisely that you don’t even think about the task at hand. You simply perform. The mechanics are lost in the sheer feeling of the action. You feel your way through the task instead of think your way through it. Anyone who has felt the elation of a well-executed presentation to a big client knows The Zone.
I remember when Eddy Anderson joined my team at Novell. We traveled together to the UK to present to a client, Santa Cruz Operations. Eddy had put in weeks of hard work and forethought, and even prepared a software bundle as part of his presentation. As he began to speak, I felt the energy pick up in the room, and saw the board members nodding their heads in agreement. He was perfectly polished and charismatic. As he left the conference room everyone commented on how impressed they were with his high-quality work. He had hit a home run. He was in The Zone!
Obviously, you can’t live your entire life in The Zone. Most of life will actually be spent setting the zone up, just like Ed did with his weeks of preparation. You have to pay for success up front. So go get ideas, do some research, make a plan, and practice, practice, practice! After you’ve gone through the process, however, you must learn to let all of it go and trust your preparation. You simply need to enter your zone and perform.
There are two kinds of work: hard work, the kind that requires all of your focus and amazing amounts of energy, and zone work, the kind of work that leaves you feeling exhilarated and energized. Zone work usually follows hard work.
The feelings you experience in the zone will sustain you in critical moments. If you let it, your zone will always be in the background as motivation. You will crave that energy and that fulfillment. The thing is, the more you experience The Zone, the more your confidence will
grow! Your performances will improve, and you will be able to enter it at will. Getting into their zones is why people love their work.
A few years ago, in the foyer of Thanksgiving Point Golf Course, there stood a glass case that housed a short iron used by the golf great Johnny Miller. He must have used it for years, because on the middle of the club face there was an indention about half an inch deep. It came as the result of tens of thousands of golf balls being hit in the same spot on that club face over and over and over again. Clearly, Johnny found the sweet spot with that club and once he found it, he made the most of it—it was one of the clubs he used to win the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont. The lesson here? Get the most out of your passions and talents, and don’t let up!
Porter’s Points – The Zone
- Prepare. Make sure that when you arrive for the performance, you’ve put in the time and sweat necessary to feel confident and competent.
- Don’t feel intimidated by clients. Big name or not, they’re asking for what you have to offer. Fear damages your ability to get in The Zone.
- Have faith in your skills and the value of your smart, focused work.
- Keep a mental image of the last time you were in The Zone. Vividly remember the excitement your felt—you can experience it again.