Serving In The High Impact Zone
The comfort zone (and the need to expand it) is a cultural myth that encourages men to be in-Effective
Merriam-Webster defines the comfort zone as the level at which one functions with ease and familiarity. Standing alone, there is nothing particularly negative about that idea. Who wouldn’t want to function with the most ease and familiarity possible? It would seem to be the place where a person would be the most highly productive.
Maybe so, but the prevailing cultural notion of the Comfort Zone is something quite different from a place of high productivity. Instead, it is the province of those too fearful or selfish to expand their own horizons. This gloomy view of the Comfort Zone is reflected in one of Merriam’s own usage examples: I need expand my comfort zone and try new things. Thus, by implication, the unexpanded Comfort Zone is a narrow and negative thing, something that must be escaped or expanded.
Well, the culture contends, it is for one’s own good—for the purpose of what Maslow called self-actualization, which he summarized as what a man can be, he must be. From this perspective, clinging fearfully to one’s Comfort Zone would mean self-consignment to a life un-actualized where one is not all one could be (to borrow from Army recruiting lingo of decades past).
Or, the culture likewise contends, it is for the good of the everyone else—for the purpose of what Maslow called self-transcendence, which he related to holistic levels of human consciousness outside of oneself. From this perspective, camping out selfishly in one’s Comfort Zone denies the world the benefit of your best efforts.
Oprah herself (as in Winfrey) has a ready made Oprah Bomb reinforcing this cultural view: I believe that one of life’s greatest risks is never daring to risk. In other words, the fear and selfishness that keeps a man from trying new things leads him to risk not being all he could be and failing to help the world all that one could.
F3’s counterpoint to this view is that not only should a person not depart from their place of highest productivity (where they work with the most ease and familiarity), but that they should actually seek to work more deeply within it. What one (in fact) actually does by voluntarily departing from their place of highest productivity is to risk reducing their IMPACT. Instead, what a man should do is to increase his Skill within his place of highest productivity through Practice.
This place of highest productivity is the High IMPACT Zone (the HIZ) where a person’s forcible contact has the strongest effect. It is where a man is most Effective because he is working at those few Skills that he is hard-wired to perform best. Outside of his HIZ he will find himself mired down in the greater universe of Skills that he is not hard-wired to perform well. By definition, he is less Effective there—but that is exactly where the culture is encouraging people to go by urging them to get out of their Comfort Zone.
Why would the culture want people to be less Effective? The reason is that Goo (the philosophy of universal Happiness) has infected the culture. Instead of focusing on helping people find Joy (the permanent state of deep contentment unaffected by external circumstance), the culture is consumed with making them Happy (the transitory positive feeling governed by mere external circumstance).
To work more deeply within their HIZ a person must continually Practice to improve their Skill. One aspect of Practice is Preparedness, getting ready for the expected while being ready for the unexpected. That means that a man working within his HIZ is a Joyful Pro unaffected by the external circumstances he encounters.
In contrast, the man who is constantly trying new things to answer Goo Nation’s call to stay out of his Comfort Zone is an Amateur, ruled by reactive emotion rather than proactive Preparedness. Bouncing from thing to thing, he cannot hope to develop Skill at any one thing in particular or to acquire the Joy that comes from living Purposefully. Instead, his best bet is Happiness. And that runs with the wind.
Goo Nation cannot rest until everyone is Happy or, more ominously, everyone is equally un-Happy. When Goo Nation gazes upon Effective people working Purposefully within their HIZ it confuses their Joy with Happiness and compares them unfavorably with the un-Happy Amateurs hopping around outside of their HIZ. Goo Nation could encourage the Amateurs to turn Pro by finding their HIZ and Practicing within it until they obtain a level of Skill that brings them Joy. But instead, it tells them that their Amateurism is the proper state of nature and their resulting un-Happiness does not come from within, but is caused by the Pros and their stubborn insistence on living Purposefully within their HIZ.
If this seems too complicated to you, simply substitute fit for Pro and fat for Amateur. Goo Nation tells fat people that they are just great the way they are and that if they are un-Happy it is not because they are fat but because fit people have been fat shaming them through their fitness. That doesn’t induce more people to become fit, but (if successful) it will ultimately cause more people to be fat and lead to universal (and thus equal) un-Happiness.
In this same way Goo Nation seeks to push people towards universal in-Effectiveness through the cultural myth of the Comfort Zone.
A HIM’s Mission marks the boundaries of his High Impact Zone
Missionality is Service in the High Impact Zone. To Live Right, a HIM must exert the majority of his efforts to Serve within his personal HIZ, the boundaries of which are defined by his Mission.
Mission is the course of action taken to achieve an articulated Purpose. The course of action is comprised of the individual Tasks the HIM undertakes to bring his Purpose into fruition. These Tasks are not random, but are the outgrowth of the Skills for which he is most suited, the things that he does with the most ease and familiarity and constantly improves through Practice.
A man’s Task is formed by what F3 calls his Dolphin and his Daffodil . The Dolphin represents each man’s unique gift, the thing he does better than anything else and better than most other people can do it. Because it comes from his hard-wiring, a man can improve his Dolphin through Practice but he cannot change it. F3 chose the dolphin to symbolize man’s unique gift because it is a mammal that was born to swim but cannot do most of the other things that mammals do. The dolphin’s Dolphin is to swim. It does that better than anything else it can do, and better than most any other mammal can.
The Daffodil represents the people-category that a man is born to Serve with his Dolphin. Like the Dolphin, a man’s Daffodil is a matter of hard-wiring. There are men who continue to coach soccer even after their kids have stopped playing. I love kids, but not like that. My Daffodil is elsewhere. In fact, it happens to be Accelerating Men , which explains why I am writing this book rather than coaching soccer or volunteering at a homeless shelter. The HIM loves all of mankind equally, except for his Daffodil. He loves his Daffodil more, because that is who he was born to Serve.
The HIM has a good grasp on both his Dolphin and his Daffodil, and spends most of his time working at the point where they intersect, which we call the D2X . The D2X is the sweet spot that is at the dead center of a man’s High Impact Zone. It is where he will have the most IMPACT if he acts with Deliberatude and lives in dangerous disregard of the risk of Failure and embarrassment.
The HIM uses Preparedness to resist straying from his Mission
The powerful results a HIM produces working within his HIZ creates a challenge to his Missionality. His IMPACT within the Groups he Serves will soon result in requests that he undertake Tasks that range far outside of his D2X. No matter how compelling the underlying need sounds, the HIM should quickly and firmly decline to do so.
Here are the four reasons why:
1) He will disappoint the asker
When an excited well-meaning person compliments the HIM on how fantastic his efforts are within his D2X, he should be ready for the next sentence, which will sound something like this: “so, I got to thinking how perfect you would be for this critical, challenging life-changing opportunity to do the same thing (although differently) for this other (wholly unrelated) group of people.”
The asker reasons that the HIM’s success within his D2X arises primarily from him being a successful person, rather than being the result of his disciplined Missionality. Ergo, to the asker, the HIM will succeed at everything else regardless of its relation to what he does well. There is a certain logic to that, but the HIM knows the truth. He knows he can’t possibly perform outside of his D2X the way he does within it and that the asker will inevitably be disappointed. Sure, the asker will also be disappointed when the HIM declines the offer, but not nearly as much as he will be when he ends up mailing it in on the new thing, the asker’s thing.
And that’s what we end up doing when we take things on outside of our D2X, we mail it in.
2) He will deny service to his own Daffodil
When a HIM succumbs to the temptation of the well-meaning asker and takes on something outside of his D2X, there will be a consequence to his own Daffodil. Every minute he spends mailing it in outside of his D2X is lost to the time he has available for his own Daffodil. It’s hard to calculate the opportunity cost on that. Particularly when you consider how much longer it takes to mail in mediocre performance than it does to dynamically provide a great performance.
3) He will box out the right HIM
A man once asked me if he ought to marry a certain woman. I asked him why he was asking me (or anyone else) that. The reason, he said, was that while he was sure he loved her, he wasn’t sure he loved her the way some other guy might. But, he admitted, she really wanted to marry him and he was afraid of losing her. He asked me to give him a reason that he shouldn’t marry her. All I could think of was this: while you are married to her, she’s not free to marry the guy who really loves her, loves her the way you think someone ought to love her. Even though you don’t know who he is, you are effectively boxing that guy out.
That is how it goes when you start doing things outside of your D2X. There is a guy out there for whom this thing you are doing poorly is in fact his Dolphin. Because you are doing it badly, he can’t do it well. Or, even if you are doing a pretty darn good job at under the circumstances, that guy would still do it better because it is a D2X thing for him but not for you. But he can’t get to doing it because you are boxing him out.
There is one major exception to this that we call a Diaper Changer, which is a Task that must be done but is not within anyone’s D2X (or at least anyone who is around at the moment). A HIM doesn’t let one of his kids run around with dirty diapers because he doesn’t want to box out the guy (or his wife) who has that in their D2X. Nobody has that in his D2X and yet it has to be done, so somebody has to do it. Sometimes, you are just going to be that somebody. The key is knowing the difference between a Diaper Changer and succumbing to a temptation outside of your D2X.
4) Ultimately, it will be a Joyless experience
Unless you are the kind of man who does the hard things first every day, you probably do what you love to do first and leave what you hate until later in the day (at which point you ultimately blow it off or try to get somebody else to do it). But eventually you end up having to do those hated things, and it is always Joyless drudgery.
Tasks outside of your D2X will be like that. They will be the last thing you do every day, at a point when you have already used your prime time and energy on the things you love, the things inside your D2X. Couple that drudgery with the disappointed asker, the denied Daffodil and the guy you boxed out and you’ve got a deluxe Joy-free-festival. All of which could have been avoided by simply saying “no thank you” to the temptation to work outside of your D2X.
Saying no to Tasks outside of one’s D2X is an act of discipline in the face of significant external pressure to do otherwise. The HIM (because he knows it’s coming) gets Prepared for it like a Pro. He expects to be tempted by the flattery of the asker and besieged by the guilt of having to decline. He also knows better than to be distracted by the Oprah Bombs that he expects Goo Nation to continually throw at him to “expand” his Comfort Zone.
But, because he’s a Pro, he also stays ready for the unexpected—and that is the pressure from within that is generated by his own pride and ego trying to convince him that even though this is not a job for him, he is the only man who can do this job—even if it kills him. The timing and virulence of this self-generated messiah complex cannot be expected, so the HIM has to stay ready for it. He does so by having his Shield Lock primed to whisper three magic words into his ear when they see his pride taking over: get over yourself.
The graveyards are full of indispensable men and yet the Earth keeps turning. Just say no. Stay Missional.