Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on January 15, 2019
People often share with me the real and perceived limitations they face in pursuing their goals. As we enter 2019, I would like to share with you this look back at an article I wrote in December 2015 headlined “Advice for the New Year: Push through your self-perceived limitations.”
Why do people experience various degrees of success over the course of their careers? During my career, I have observed many successful people and those wanting to achieve success. There are those who succumb to their self-perceived limitations, and those who find a way to push through them.
The proverb, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right,” is ascribed to Henry Ford. Your attitude and your ability to push through self-perceived limitations play key roles in how successful you will be.
A friend at my gym drove this home for me a number of years ago. I had been doing assisted pull-ups on an exercise machine that uses counterweights because I believed I did not have sufficient upper-body strength to do a pull-up without them. My friend came up to me and said, “I know you can do pull-ups unassisted.”
I told her that I hadn’t done unassisted pull-ups since high school and I couldn’t do them now. She egged me on, challenging me to do just one. By now, a crowd was gathering, and I felt huge peer pressure to try to do one pull-up. I walked over to the machine without counterweights and, with my friends watching, nervously jumped up six inches and grabbed the pull-up bar. To my surprise, I was able to do two!
I never used the counterweight machine again. Over the subsequent three months, I pushed hard and worked my way up to three sets of 10 unassisted pull-ups. I learned a valuable lesson from my friend: You are only limited by your own self-perceived limitations. Thank you, Patti Morris!
Sometimes it takes a friend, colleague, coach or mentor to inspire you to the next level. When you move to that next level, you never look back – you only look forward. As leaders, our job is to inspire others around us – to help them move to that next level.
To me, one such individual is Seth Godin, the author of “The Icarus Deception,” who writes about Icarus, the character in Greek mythology who flies too high and too close to the sun. His wings melt off and he crashes into the sea.
Godin writes: “It is far more dangerous to fly too low than too high, even though it might feel safer to fly low. You settle for low expectations and small dreams, and guarantee yourself less than what you are capable of. By flying too low, you also shortchange not only yourself, but also those who depend on you, or might benefit from your work.”
People fly too low due to fear and self-perceived limitations. If you fly too low, you are not preparing yourself for a time that may come when your job or profession becomes obsolete and you must re-launch your career. So, during your career, be sure you don’t fly too low. Take risks and fly high, and if you crash, you will pick yourself up and fly again.
Get out of your comfort zone and take on new challenges. Albert Einstein once said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” You differentiate yourself among your peers by trying new things, sometimes failing, but moving forward. This trait will help you land your next job. Employers, hire those who embrace change, rather than those who don’t.
The type of company at which you want to work should value employees who are not afraid to innovate, embrace change and, yes, occasionally make mistakes and learn from them.
Your attitude, which is apparent to everyone you interface with, plays a significant role in your success. Be a person who sees a world of abundance and possibilities, not one who sees a world of limitations and scarcity. Push through self-perceived limitations. You never know what the future holds or where it will take you.
Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership, and is the former CEO of PQ Corporation. He is a speaker, advisor and nationally syndicated writer on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. Silverman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and an MBA degree from Drexel University. He is also an alumnus of the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com. Follow Silverman on LinkedIn here and on Twitter, @StanSilverman.