Embracing Limits

Much of leadership content these days is about hustling, doing more with less, increasing productivity in general, and on and on and on. There is even discussion about “side hustles,” “plus time,” or “google time.”

The reality, however, is that no one can do everything.

Conversely, have you noticed that there is a natural rhythm to life? Day becomes night, summer turns to fall, fall turns to winter, and eventually —eventually? —winter gives way again to the rebirth of spring. What’s true in nature is also true in human beings. Human beings develop, grow, age, and eventually pass away.

Limits are part of life.

This probably won’t be one of the most popular posts I have written because limits remind us of our fallibility. We, unlike God, cannot go on without limits because we are human. We get tired, are mistake prone, and have a host of other issues when we push past natural limits. This is why we need to embrace limits for our own health, and the health of our organization.

I have come to realize that my lack of respect for limits is due to my distrust of God’s goodness and provision. If I am not chasing “more,” regardless of what “more” is (work, leadership, parenting, etc.), I feel like a failure. So, I am tempted, and often give in-to the temptation of, blowing off the natural limits set before me. This means I work extended hours, blow the Sabbath off, and suffer health issues because of all this. But "more" is never "enough."

More problematic to my leadership —and being someone, WORTH following (my emphasis) —I become short with people, and even unloving when I blow past limits. If leadership is awakening the possibility in OTHERS (my emphasis again) than my leadership suffers when my refusal to embrace limits impacts how I treat others. To that end, I have been asking myself lately whether my demeanor, attitude, and attentiveness to other people is characteristic of someone I would want to follow? While this may sound like a lot, remember that leadership is always a privilege and it always comes with a cost. Leaders should be held MORE, not less, accountable for their actions. And we should also be more focused on other people than we are on ourselves.

This brings me back to the statement two paragraphs above about my lack of respect for limits being tied to my distrust of God’s goodness and provision. Regardless of your belief in God, the lack of adherence to limits points to something deeper happening inside the heart of an individual. Could it be that you, the leader, are blowing past natural limits by working more hours, more days, absorbing more content, and overall doing more simply because something inside you is not content? Is it that enough is simply not enough?

While I cannot speak for you, the truth about me is that I blow past limits because I have low self-esteem and am an “achieve-a-holic.” I distrust a loving Father who assures me that he will provide what I need when I need it. Notice that this does not mean my wildest dreams will come true. I may never shoot under par consistently, write the New York Times’ Best-Selling Book, or have a hair like Brian Urlacher (just kidding, I want to stay bald). It also might mean that I am unrecognizable in the injection molding space, our business is good but not great, and I am largely forgotten in fifty years.

The contemporary advice continues to be “blow past limits” so that you assure the things mentioned in the last sentence are not true of you.

Limits, however, are necessary because blowing past those limits, as good as your intentions may be, eventually cause irreparable damage to you, others, and especially those you love most (family and friends).

It simply is not worth the cost.

Hence, I am embracing limits, embracing less, and letting the chips fall where they may.

I am also increasing my trust in God and his provision.

Even if that last statement does not jive with you, I am imploring you to consider the natural limits in your own life and leadership.

My conclusion for this post is that in order for you to be someone WORTH following, you need to embrace limits so that you have the emotional health to positively impact the lives of other human-beings. Leadership is always about doing this work, the work of enhancing lives of OTHERS.

We can only do this through the embracing of our natural limits.

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