Finding Your Zone: Three tips for stepping into your brilliance

I had the good fortune of seeing Tom Petty in concert a few years ago. His opening act was Chuck Berry. At age 83 , he performed 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. The very first song brought people out of their seats and transported them to a place that transcended time and space and leave all their worries, tension and stress behind.

I love to watch people who have mastered their craft enter their zones. They are captivating, uplifting and inspiring. And their energy is contagious. They have the ability to connect with people they may never actually know personally, and somehow leave them in a better state than they were before. Their impact on us remains long after we have parted ways.

music-musician-rock-soundIt’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 and oneness with our work that feels effortless and transformational.

As I watched Tom Petty perform, I noticed three things he did that I consider pivotal 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.” A classic line from a classic Tom Petty song. I imagine there may have been a time when Tom Petty cared a lot about what people thought of him. Most of us have gotten hung up on worrying about others’ opinions at one time or another. Desiring approval and admiration isn’t a crime. And there is nothing wrong with wanting success. But getting too attached to it can have adverse effects. It’ll trip you up and keep you from finding 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 burning need for success seems to have a way of somehow opening the gates so that it can come in – and it makes everything a lot more fun too.

(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 the moment. He could not have been more present. When you are present, you don’t fret over things that happened yesterday or worry about what might happen tomorrow. You simply allow things to unfold around you in such a way that you can remain tuned in and turned on. You connect with your intuition. You act on your insights and learn to improvise. Rather than waiting for the “right opportunity” to do what you love, you begin where you are and allow everything that you do to be an expression of love in and of itself. And you 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 right away. Maybe, like many of us, he started out by emulating someone else before he discovered that what came naturally to him was better than anything else. Great artists often learn by studying and imitating the work of other artists. But the best of the best eventually break out of the mold and find their unique style. 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 our unique gifts are there for a reason and find ways to utilize them. As we believe in ourselves and our ability to contribute to something greater than ourselves, our work – like that of Tom Petty and ChuckBerry – becomes an inspiration to others.

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





I couldn’t agree more.

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