In Search of Greatness: Finding Your Zone

Last night Tom Petty was in town and I was lucky enough to get a last minute opportunity to watch him perform.  Chuck Berry – at age 83 – was the opening act.  He moved and grooved and belted out his tunes with just as much energy and passion that he did fifty years ago.  And then TP and the Heartbreakers took the stage.  They rocked the house.  People were out of their seats from the very first song and transported to a place that transcended time and space – where worries, tension and stress simply melt away.

I love to watch people who have mastered their craft enter their zones.  They are mesmerizing.  Uplifting.  Inspiring.  Fascinating to watch.  And their energy is contagious.  They have the ability to connect with people they’ve never even seen before and somehow leave them in a better state than they were before.  Their impact on us remains long after we have parted ways.

It’s easy to see this state of grace in people who perform – like musicians, actors, athletes, speakers, dancers, etc.  But any of us can get into a zone that allows us to experience a state of flow, where we become one with the work in such a way that it can feel effortless and transformational.  And that can have a powerful impact on everyone around us as well.

As I watched Tom Petty perform, I noticed  three major things about him that I believe are key to finding your zone – no matter who you are or what you do.

(1)  Don’t take yourself too seriously.

“It’s all right if you love me.  It’s all right if you don’t.”  Classic line from a classic Tom Petty song.  I imagine the first time he performed, he probably cared a lot about what people thought of him.  Most of us have gotten hooked into worrying about the opinion of others at one time or another.  Wanting to win approval and admiration isn’t a crime.  And there is nothing wrong with desiring success.  But getting too attached to it can have adverse effects.  It’ll trip you up and keep you from entering your zone.  There is a sweet spot that Tom Petty and other great masters of their crafts have found – one that allows them to play at success without becoming preoccupied with it.  The paradox is that letting go of the intense need for success seems to have a way of somehow unlocking the gates for it to come in – and it makes everything a lot more fun.

(2)  Be WHERE you are.

The timeless place Tom Petty transported his audience to was largely a product of his own ability to completely immerse himself in what was taking place around him in each moment.  He could not have been more present.  In this state, we do not fret over things that happened yesterday or worry about what might happen tomorrow.  We simply allow things to unfold around us in such a way that we can remain tuned in and turned on.  We connect with our intuition.  We act on our insights and learn to improvise.  Rather than waiting for the “right opportunity” to do what we love, we begin where we are and allow everything that we do to be an expression of love in and of itself.  And we create a space that connects us to others in profound ways.

(3)  Be WHO you are.

Tom Petty’s voice is distinctive.  And so is his style.  Maybe he found it immediately.  Maybe, like many of us, he started out by emulating someone else before he discovered that what came naturally to him worked better than anything else he tried.    Great artists often learn by studying and duplicating the work of other artists.  But the best of the best eventually break out of the mold and find their unique form.  The same is true for each of us.  We begin our lives by learning from and  mirroring others, but at some point the time comes for us to step into and embrace our uniqueness.  Gradually, we learn to trust that the gifts we have each been given are there for a reason and find ways to put them to use.  As we believe in ourselves and our ability to contribute to something greater than ourselves, our work – like that of Tom Petty and Chuck Berry – becomes an inspiration to others.

As I was leaving the stadium after the concert had ended, I noticed a man on the street playing his heart out on a tenor sax.   Taped to the pole he was standing next to was a large cardboard sign on which was written in bold black letters the words:

“YOU HAVE GREATNESS WITHIN YOU.

SHARE IT WITH THE WORLD.

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND YOUR DREAMS

AND THEY WILL COME TRUE.”

I couldn’t agree more.

My new book, The Pinocchio Principle ~ Becoming Real: Authentic Leadership for the 21st Century is about unleashing your greatness.  It will be released on January 11, 2011 and will soon be available to pre-order.  Stay tuned for more information and subscribe to my free monthly ezine at www.DianeBolden.com to hear about free upcoming events, videos and teleseminars.

Though comments are currently closed, please feel free to email me at Diane@DianeBolden.com with your feedback, questions and thoughts.  Have a specific challenge you’d like to see a post written about?  Let me know.  I’d love to hear from you!