Finding “The Zone” in a Tough Economy





Every top performer — in whatever the industry — knows there is a “zone” they sometimes achieve when everything is rolling … a state of mind where success comes easily.  They can seemingly do no wrong when they’re in the zone. 

Many business owners I know have talked to me about being in the zone.  Usually “the zone” in business has a lot to do with operating in a frothy economy or in a white-hot industry.  Certainly it is easier for us as business owners to find the zone in a hot market.  But let’s face it, we ALL find ourselves in a challenging market at one time or another, even if we’re not all in the challenging market at the same time.  For example mortgage brokers might be up while repo men are down and vice versa.  You get the idea.

So, how do we as business owners find “the zone” in a tough economy? 

There’s no doubt that marketing expertise makes it easier to find the zone in a tough economy, but I want to focus on a characteristic that can quickly help anyone find the zone (even in tough times) if they’re willing to embrace it. 

I call it “Disciplined Optimism.” 

Disciplined Optimism is a combination of positive attitude, tenacity and hard work.  It requires the business owner to: 

  • Constantly think positively (read Peale’s Power of Positive Thinking)
  • Tenaciously pursue the success you have envisioned; and
  • Work hard to remove obstacles, always believing you will achieve that success (google “Jim Collins Stockdale Paradox” for more on this) 

I believe Disciplined Optimism is the heart of entrepreneurship.  Unfortunately some small business owners are not entrepreneurs — they have not cultivated Disciplined Optimism.  And that’s too bad.  Because business owners who possess this trait are able to find the zone, even in tough economies … while those business owners who do not possess this trait struggle mightily to find the zone, especially in a tough market. 

If you’re finding yourself bogged down by the negativity surrounding you, I can’t recommend highly enough Peale’s book and Collins’ writings on the Stockdale Paradox.  I also recommend you follow the advice my Dad taught me many years ago.  It’s amazing how the power of positive thinking enables business owners to work tenaciously toward their goals… and find the zone that makes success come easily.

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Clate Mask, CEO of InfusionSoft About the Author: Clate Mask is the President and CEO of Infusionsoft. He loves to turn small businesses into big businesses. In addition to running the day-to-day operations of Infusionsoft, Clate also writes at the Infusion Blog about marketing and entrepreneurship topics.

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Clate Mask


Clate Mask Clate Mask is Co-Founder and CEO of Infusionsoft, a fast-growth software company that helps small businesses convert more leads, save time and manage more with less with its web-based software. He also is co-author of the New York Times best-seller Conquer the Chaos: How to Grow a Successful Small Business Without Going Crazy.

16 Reactions

  1. I am a firm believer in positive thinking in not only business but personal life too. I know a few people who are constant negative thinkers and they just can’t ever seem to get their lives in order. They are constantly being drug down by only looking at the negatives which hinders them from being happy, content and moving forward. They are always stuck in a rut of doubt. Staying positive helps me stay clear and focused on my goals and aspirations.

  2. Daily Picture Trends

    Thanks, I will buy the book soon. 🙂

  3. Great article. I agree it is crucial to have a positive attitidue and continue “business as usual” in though times.

    One thing I’d like to add: I think you also have to work proactively to adjust your business according to the economy, because just forging ahead with a positive attitude, while your business is failing, may not be enough to keep it afloat.

    But a positive attitude is a MUST no matter what. Business owners can’t afford to have a dismal outlook, or that outlook will certainly come to fruition.

  4. Good article Clate, Peale’s book has been a favourite of mine for a long time. I also agree about working hard instead of spending your time wishing business would improve.

  5. It’s all about the attitude. I’ll go out on a limb here as well by mentioning the fact that I believe we all manifest our realities for ourselves. I truly believe we are, indeed, capable of doing so. And it all starts with our thoughts. When your “in the zone” you are generating loads of positive energy. Energy that has a way of manifesting itself into your reality through visualization tactics, journaling, planning, making affirmations, etc.

    I listened to Clate’s Small Business Trends Radio interview and he quoted something his father used to say that struck me profoundly. And that was, “Thoughts lead to words, words lead to beliefs, beliefs lead to actions, actions lead to habits and habits lead to success – or failure, if you started the process with negative thoughts -and reveal our ultimate character.”

    That about sums it up . . .

  6. Martin Lindeskog

    Where could read more about the “zone” on the internet?

  7. Very True!

    Today I was called into a meeting on a topic for which there was little good news.
    To solve our problem we need to spend about $8,000 on infrastructure.

    Our CEO started the meeting off by saying “I don’t want to hear about all of the problems and all of the bad news. I want to hear about the progress we have made and your proposed solutions. That’s all I want to hear.”

    That’s an example of an attitude that in my opinion fosters the proper environment that is required before any business can truly find their zone.

  8. I believe too in optimism and added the value of discipline in business. What a perfect match!

  9. Positive thinking is the fuel of any accomplishment in life. Nothing happens by chance. I have never heard the idea of “finding the zone in the business”, but I recognise it’s extremely right!
    great post 🙂

  10. Great post!

    To expound on what you have written, sometimes people aspiring to have their own businesses should not only focus on what the ‘in’ thing is. If it is ‘in’, that market would already be flooded and you would have to fight nail and tooth to be able to secure a place in that market. There are times when it is better to find a place in a ‘challenging’ market just because there’s still room for another entrepreneur.

  11. Your post is dead on!! While the economy is definitely on a downward trend, I find myself “in the zone” for one of my companies. I’ve questioned exactly how the world around me should impact my future expansion, etc and believe your “disciplined optimism” is the best explanation of what I’ve felt thus far.

  12. The zone. I remember it well from my days as a youth sandlot stud (as opposed to an arthritic old gizzer of today). Interesting interplay between being “in the zone” in athletics and business. Athletes often say they have tunnel vision when in the zone. Everything slows down and they focus with perfect clarity on the baseball, football, their opponent, et ceteria. But what happens when a businessman gets tunnel vision reaping profits ferociously from the bounty staring him the face? He gets blindsided by events speeding down upon him from the periphery of his vision. Perhaps one in the zone ultimately and inevitably gets run over when market forces change.

  13. Clate, Really Great Post, Thank You.

    After leaving Corporate America and starting a small boutique apartment management company, Urbane Apartments in 2003 to pursue my plans to create wealth, there have certainly been times of drifting in and out of The Zone. I have attached a great quote below that I reference often, and believe to be absolutely true. I have had this written down for a long time, and do not know the original author, but it has worked true for me.

    Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.

    All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

  14. I attended a meeting of business owners earlier this week. The discussion was focused on improving business but the meeting tone and dialogue was all about the bad times everyone is facing. Lots of negative energy – some of which, I believe, becomes self-fulfilling. I like the label ‘disciplined optimism’: it provides a narrow focus.

  15. Great insight about the combination of positive attitude, tenacity and hard work.
    The basic idea is that you have to be continously moving, like a
    shark who needs to move in order to breathe.

  16. And yes, In addition DanGTD – we have to think positively as it is said to be that it is what is sent to the universe. “Thought becomes things!”

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