Know your limitations

After coming back from Adelaide watching The Tour Down Under and participating in the Be Active ride I’ve learnt a couple of things.
Phil Liggett is an absolute gentleman. Thank you for signing our hats and having your photo taken with my wife.
The riders in the event are phenomenal sportsmen (and women in the companion races). This was held over 5 days, of which 3 were the hottest 72 hour period in Adelaide in 70 years (3 consecutive days of 40+ degree heat, measured in the shade, and these guys are riding on black bitumen roads!)
Finally I’m getting wiser.
I entered the Be Active ride. 154 km over the same course the riders rode. I made 147 km before I pulled out. I was so close to the end I could almost see it, but I was overheating so badly that I couldn’t cool down, and the conditions were too hot to safely continue. It would have been over 45 degrees on the bike, if not more.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about my decision. Why didn’t I just go on ? I mean, I probably could have pushed myself, I wasn’t particularly physically fatigued (my legs and back were fine), but even so I ended up sleeping on the tiled floor of the kitchen that night to keep cool and was pretty woozy the next day.
What made me give up then ? Impending fatherhood ? I really don’t know, but I do know it was the right decision, as disappointing and difficult as it was. At the end of the day, I had to put aside my personal pride and ambitions for a larger goal (not being sick for the 3 days left in Adelaide, stressing my wife and friends who were also there).
So, why don’t we do this on projects ? When a project is going pear-shaped why do we continue to say “it’s ok”, or “if I just work a bit harder it will be ok”. Or even worse when a project is started say “sure, I can do that”.
I appeal to everybody out there. Know your limitations. It’s not weak, or incompetent to admit them. It’s professional behaviour. It’s strong, responsible and appropriate to put your actions in context and understand wider implications.
The next time you’re put in a position that you know has “impending doom” written all over it, do your best to professionally ask for assistance. You’ll be surprised how often people react positively to your actions. Also, if you’re a manager reading this blog, when your staff are asking for help, reward them for their honesty, this is a very difficult thing to do, and they need to feel comfortable so things work out well.
7km – not far, but not worth hospital.

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2 thoughts on “Know your limitations

  1. Jon, well done for making 147km and good on you for stopping when you did. It takes a big man to make the right decision and you did just that. Better to stop and walk away to your wife and friends than to spend a few days in hospital.
    BTW Phil Liggett a gent? That’s two Scouse gents you’ve met now 😉

  2. Different levels of committment. You’ve got a committment to health, family and friends. The riders that push through at the same stage you withdrew have another level of committment – committment to achievement at nearly all costs.
    We copped the same at the Audax Alpine Classic. A combination of luck, preparation and being single allowed me to continue on.
    I think the same is with projects. The project leader has a very different view of what constitutes success. In many cases, like generals in World War 1, managers are prepared to sacrifice employees for few small actual gains, but large perceived gains by those higher up. “We lost 300,000 men sir, but we advanced another 3km.”
    I’d be wary of getting people to admit to limitations early. You learn a lot more when you don’t know your limitations and fail, rather than knowing them and not trying. Sometimes, what you think your limitation is is only your perception.
    Perhaps a better suggestion would be from Raymond Feist – “…and still wiser to know when it is unachievable, for then striving is folly”

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