Learning Limits

 At some point, we're all going to have to suck at something to get better. 


I've certainly had my fair share of sucking at things. I am the queen of realizing I made a mistake and aggressively researching how to fix it. But maybe not everything has to be fixed. 

One of my not-so-new-years resolutions was to get better at curbing my perfectionism. There's an old joke that when people ask what your greatest weakness is at job interviews, the best answer is "I'm a perfectionist." The real joke is thinking that being a perfectionist is a humble brag. I think perfectionism is different from standards. Having standards is good. Having standards means understanding how much you can do. It stands as a quality check to your work and forces you to reach further. Perfectionism, on the other hand, is an unrealistic expectation of how much you should do. I find that it kills productivity and hobbles creativity. When I lived in San Francisco, one of the most common sayings was "Fail fast, Fail forward." The idea is to find out what doesn't work quickly so you can course-correct.

In HBR's 10 Must Reads on Emotional Intelligence, emotional intelligence is divided into 5 elements: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. I felt that if I leaned strongly into one of the components, it would be self-awareness- the hallmarks of which were confidence, candor in admitting failure, and understanding their limits. The last gave me pause. I tend to think big picture, and my parents raised me to believe I could do anything. I have definitely taken on projects for the sole reason that people told me I couldn't do it, and I have definitely taken on projects to big for me at the time. I always grew into the project, but there was often a cost, such as sleep or health or confidence. I'm starting to learn that confidence and knowing your limits might be linked. When looking through my motivations for taking on more than I'm comfortable with, a good half of projects were taken on because I wasn't evaluating myself correctly and therefore wasn't prepared to do what had to be done. 

I won't say that I'll completely stop taking on projects beyond my scope. In some circumstances, I think it can be good. Rather, I'll look more carefully at why and how I'll be doing it.

Hanna Davison