In this Wisdom Note, we want to move toward the trails of life that will best utilize your God-given talents. We are all unique and have a place in the various areas of life that are best suited for us. As King David wrote in Psalms 139:14, “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it.”
The trails that we will explore are mapped out in a book called “The Big Leap” written by Gay Hendricks. In this book, Gay plots the zones or trails that will help us to conquer fear and take life’s trek to the next level. This is possible but only if we are willing to make the changes needed.
I realize that there are circumstances and situations in our lives that we have little control over that may limit how high we can hike in this life, but more often than not, our limitations are ones that we place on ourselves. Those choices become weights that we have strapped to our own feet. We all have limiting circumstances that grow out of poor choices or a wrong attitude, but we have the ability to unstrap those weights and to rise above these limitations.
Think about his analogy. In the early days of the steam-powered train, respected scientists urged the engineers to limit the speed to thirty miles per hour because they believed that the human body exploded at speeds faster than that. Finally, some brave people risked going beyond that limiting belief and found that they did not explode. The crew of NASA’s Apollo 10 moon mission reached a top speed of 24,791 mph relative to Earth as they rocketed back to our planet on May 26, 1969. Someday we will reach speeds much greater.
Are you limiting your potential of what you can become? Do you have a negative and fearful attitude that restricts your ability to live the rich and satisfying life that Jesus spoke about in John 10:10?
Think about it this way. As we pass by a tiny acorn on our trail, we realize that under the right conditions this tiny acorn will grow into a mighty oak tree similar to the one it fell from, which can live for hundreds of years and withstand the fiercest of storms. If that is the case, don’t you think that God will provide you what is necessary to reach your full potential since you are made to be the bearer of His image?
You can reach your full potential, but that is tied to the choices you make and your commitment to those choices. You attain your worth and dignity by the multitude of decisions you make each day. The hard decisions require courage. Most of us are content enough with our lives that we never reach our full potential.
There are four trails where we choose to spend every moment of each day. Those trails are:
- Trail of Incompetence
- Trail of Competence
- Trail of Excellence
- Trail of Genius
The forth trail is hidden to most of us because it is concealed at the upper limits of the other trails. It can only be reached as we push through the other trails. But, many are too fearful or lack the ambition to hike on the Trail of Genius.
Most of us are content to hike on the trails that are not challenging, and therefore, we are really not engaged. Keep in mind, though, one person’s trail of incompetence and competence may be another person’s trail of excellence or genius. So, be careful not to judge another person by the trail you are on.
We will explore the first two trails this week and the final two next week.
Trail #1 – Incompetence
The Trail of Incompetence includes those activities or tasks that you are not very good at. It may be that they are not challenging, so you don’t care enough to be engaged. It may be that it is not something that your personality or skill set is a good match for. You could probably do the task, but is it not your strength. It is better to leave these tasks to someone else with this particular giftedness.
As an example for me, while I like to have physical or electronic filing systems structured and detailed so it is easy and convenient to find the information, I would not be the best person to set up and maintain such a system. So, this would be a trail of incompetence for me. Paula, on the other hand, is very good on this trail, so it would be a different trail for her.
Trail #2 – Competence
The Trail of Competence is a comfortable trail for you. You are able to complete these activities or tasks about as well as others. Since this trail is no longer challenging for you, it may not be a trail that you choose to hike because you have no real desire to do this type of task on a long-term basis.
Some of you may choose to remain on this trail because you do not want to be challenged and you are okay with mediocrity in your life. This trail really does not utilize your God-given talents to their fullest.
Take, for example, this personal Trail of Competence for me…While I can easily maintain a bookkeeping system and do a good job at it, I do not have the insistence or desire to make sure everything is coded exactly the same every single time. Paula, on the other hand, is probably the most detailed bookkeeper that I know. Every penny must be accounted for properly. So for Paula, this task would be a different trail. This example is just one of many reasons why Paula and I are able to work and live together 24/7 and enjoy it. We both recognize and accept our individual strengths and weaknesses.
Trail #3 – Excellence
The Trail of Excellence is where most proficient and successful people hike. This is a trail that you can excel on. On this trail, you are more successful than most other hikers who attempt it, and you are rewarded for it. This reward can be monetary, like in a job or business situation, or it can be recognition from others for your particular giftedness.
While you may have a sense of satisfaction on this trail of life, it is also easy to become too comfortable on this trail. Although you may be compensated and recognized for your achievements, there is a gnawing sense that you’re not making the kind of impact you want, and you live on a plateau of tolerance. You are on the brink of breaking through into genius, but you have to take that leap of faith and venture out of comfort.
A personal example for me would be the remote technical support work that I do for one of our clients. I have excelled in this field and enjoy the work most days but feel that I am on a plateau and desire to break through to the Trail of Genius. While I feel that God still wants me to use my gifts on this current trail, this blog, my podcast, and some of the other business changes that we are moving towards will help us to move upward to the final trail.
Trail #4 – Genius
The Trail of Genius often requires a bold decision. Your friends and family will question you because you are leaving behind what, to them, seems like success to pursue something speculative. You will require courage and faith to make this transition. Friends and family will come along later.
Finding your Trail of Genius takes some work and introspection. Chances are that you’ve already been given subtle or not so subtle clues throughout your life, but have ignored them or tossed them over the cliff. Your Trail of Genius may be something idealistic that you’re hesitant to admit to for various reasons.
5 excuses that will prevent you from hiking on your Trail of Genius:
- It’s a bit out there and risky.
- It would mean you’ve been wasting your time on other trails.
- It might require making drastic, painful changes in your life.
- It might be embarrassing to admit and share with friends and family.
- It’s against social norms or conventions.
4 questions for finding your Trail of Genius:
- What do you love to do most? (You love it so much you can do it for long stretches of time without getting tired or bored).
- What activities, tasks, or work do you do that doesn’t seem like work?
- In your activities, tasks, or work, what produces the highest ratio of abundance and satisfaction to the amount of time spent?
- What is your unique ability or gift? What unique ability of yours, when fully realized and put to work, can provide enormous value to you and/or your world?
Reaching your Trail of Genius requires that you break through your current upper limit. Just like we discussed how fleas are trained in a previous blog, we can easily become programmed to think there is a false plateau and that we can scale no higher.
Reaching and staying on your Trail of Genius is going to require that you say “no” a lot to current routines so you can say “yes” to new opportunities. Get good at saying “no” to self-limiting opportunities that take you off of your Trail of Genius.
Don’t allow yourself to concoct false beliefs for why you can’t be on your Trail of Genius. Break through that upper limit, and move beyond your current plateau. Your Trail of Genius will allow you to live a rich and satisfying life.