16 April 2024

Know your limits - and how to use them

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To dream up something bold and new, you must reject limits - but to make your dream come true, you must accept limits.

To dream up something bold and new, you must reject limits – but to make your dream come true, you must accept limits. Image: Kasanoff.

Bruce Kasanoff lists the five different roles that have to be mastered if an individual is to be capable of extraordinary achievements.

The most extraordinary human achievements require an individual to be able to handle five different roles. Unfortunately, most people are good at just one or two of these roles, which is why most don’t produce extraordinary achievements.

However, a tiny minority invest the time and effort to master all five roles. They rise above what’s easy or natural for them. They make an intentional decision to start playing to their limits.

The main difference between the top of this ladder and the bottom is how you deal with limits: At the top, there are no limits; at the bottom, there are many limits.

It’s fair to say that the better you understand the positive and negative aspects of limits, the better your ability to thrive in this world.

At the top of the ladder is the Creator of Worlds. This role is all about unleashing your imagination and envisioning possibilities that seem impossible. It’s about dreaming big and bold, without getting bogged down by limitations. In this space, you let go of limiting beliefs, unnecessary attachments, biases and even your own ego. It sometimes requires meditation, stillness, experimentation and altered states of consciousness.

One step down is the Whisperer of Possibilities. This is where you integrate visions you encountered at the top stage and start introducing them to others. You inspire others to pay attention and perhaps collaborate with you. Think about an entrepreneur pitching a concept to early-stage investors, and you get the idea.

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In the middle is the Architect. This role is about taking your big ideas and turning them into a concrete plan. You are bridging the creative with the pragmatic. It’s about being strategic and systematic, breaking down your vision into actionable steps and plotting the best course forward.

Next is the Builder. This is about assembling resources, forming a team, designing processes and workflow. You take big ideas and translate them into smaller, more actionable ideas.

At the foundation is the Worker. This role is all about discipline and diligence. You produce a certain amount of work, in a set amount of time, to a certain level of quality, for a pre-determined price.

Please don’t confuse these labels with your job title. You can be the president of a multi-billion dollar division who accepts so many limits on your authority and creativity that you are essentially functioning as a Worker.

In addition, this may not be a bad thing, if your acceptance of such limits is what enables you to reliably generate billions of dollars of economic value, year after year.

In a similar manner, you can be a university dropout who moves through the world like a Creator of Worlds — examples are Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.

To twist one of my favourite sayings from master business coach Marshall Goldsmith, what got you here won’t get you there.

If you are a detail-oriented, analytical person you accept limits and even embrace them. You probably think of them as being clear, focused and specific. You want to know exactly what we are talking about and why. You want to see the data.

All of these qualities enable you to be highly successful — except that if I ask you to spend some time in the Creator of Worlds role so you can help dream up the next big idea, you may cringe at the thought of being so “vague” and “unfocused”.

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At the other end of the spectrum, I know some incredibly brilliant and creative people who come up with genius-level ideas, most of which never amount to anything tangible.

This is because they thrive without limits, so much so they can never make the myriad of decisions necessary to transform an idea into reality.

Will the flying car you envisage hold two people or eight? Will its range be limited to 100 kilometres or 1500 kilometres? How much will it cost?

Are you willing to freeze the car’s design and start the 36-month process of gearing up to launch an assembly line?

To make something, you must embrace limits.

To dream up something bold and new, you must reject limits.

For me, this isn’t just an intellectual exercise. This year and beyond, I am on a journey to get better at all five roles.

It’s already taken me to some pretty weird and wonderful places. At times, I have felt untethered and confused. At other times, I have gotten so deep into the zone that my productivity has soared.

Anyone else want to come along with me?

Bruce Kasanoff is the founder of The Journey, a newsletter for positive, uplifting and accomplished professionals. He is also an executive coach and social media ghostwriter for entrepreneurs. He can be contacted at kasanoff.com. This article first appeared at kasanoff.com.

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