Testing My Limits

Testing My Limits

I have been under lockdown. Just like you. Lockdown rules have meant that I have clear limits to where I can go and how close I can get to anyone else. Masks limit how much of my face you can see. These are physical limits. Limits that can be seen and noticed. Testing my limits in these cases is not a good idea. 

But there are limits all around. Ask an astronaut who is confined to a bodysuit for days. If that is too stratospheric an example, check in with a regular commuter of a Mumbai local train who finds comfort in less than a square foot of space. From prison cells to apartment complexes, from ranches to countries and from planets to galaxies, there are limits all around. Incongruous at times and well pronounced at others.   

The other limits.

Limitations to movement are amongst the more pronounced. The cradle and the coffin are great examples of objects that limit movement for very different reasons. Between using a cradle and a coffin, there are thousands of other limits that our minds spring on us.   Somewhere between the cradle and the coffin are the limits that disease begets. I recall my dad saying ‘I am imprisoned in my own body’ as Parkinson’s Disease consumed muscle after muscle like a marauding army. 

My dad’s last bastion was his mind. In there, he could escape the confines of his dysfunctional muscles and take flight to a different world. His black and white stare into the sky often hid the richness that resided in his extraordinary mind. A mind that fought till the very end. 

He taught me a thing or two about the most beautiful aspect of our body: Our mind.

Closed minds housed in able bodies leave the world poorer and bereft of life. The gates to our minds start as short cuts to thinking. They start out as shortcuts to thinking and then go on to become beliefs and then identity! They come in the way of imagination, action and the good stuff that every moment offers. 

Let me give you one quick example. The number of people who have tested their own limiting beliefs in their kitchens as the lockdown came down on us, is quite a number. From “I can never cook” to “I made mango soufflé today” in a couple of weeks is some story. There are other examples too. Managers who would summarily dismiss suggestions of ‘work from home’ as late as February, are now wondering what they were thinking then! These are limits in the mind that the limitations of the lockdown tore down. 

Testing my limits. 

Let me get one thing clear. Limits are not bad. They have utility value and help keep order. They define the box and then create the space for the ‘out of the box’ thought to spring. 

The unconscious limits that come up in our minds when we are busy doing other things is something else. They need to be examined often. It is illuminating to do so. Sure it takes some courage, oodles of imagination, drive and such else to do it. But do it we must. We have to do it by design. Sometimes our constraints force us to do so. 

Take the case of Jyoti Kumari, the feisty young lady who started off on a road trip of 1200 kilometres on a bicycle. With a sick father seated behind her and no money on her, she pedalled away on highways to escape a lockdown induced starvation. 

I was possessed by her story for a couple of days. One evening, as the Sun set beyond the high-rises, a new realisation dawned on me. My marvelling at her feat exposed the limits to my boundaries of what I thought possible.

Two Questions For You.

I started brooding over it for a couple of days as I tested my limits of being able to sweep and mop the floor at a better speed. I hit upon two questions to ask myself. Here they are. Grab a pencil and have a go at them. I had some mighty meaningful answers for myself from here. 

1. What are the aspects that I am certain about myself that I cannot do?

2. What lies beyond that certainty? If I was less certain that I cannot do it, what new possibilities emerge? 

Remember, I said ‘less certain that I cannot do it’. I filled two pages out. The lockdown induced limits have helped in testing my other limits. 

Sure, the virus cannot be locked down. But human imagination and what we can do with our mind will prevail in the long run. I am positive. I just finished testing my limits! 

The OWL Despatch. Edition #58.

For every edition, I share with you five interesting pieces that I reckon you will find interesting. Here are the five for edition #58

This is an intense period for leadership to stand up and communicate well. What are the key aspects of that communication that we must all bear in mind? Here is a brilliant piece from MIT that caught my eye. Take a look.

Staying with the topic of communication, what is the most effective sign-off line that gets people to act on your email? Research has a few pointers. Here they are.

As the world gets battered by COVID 19, there are some countries that have been able to withstand it all well. Mongolia hasn’t been a country that I have read about often. I haven’t verified the facts here, but even if they were less than true, offers us important pointers. Read here.

I thought I will leave you with one long read and one super short one. The super-short one is a tweet. Here’s a tweet that holds within it finish times of marathoners. Notice the drop between the number of people who finished in 3.59 hours and 4.01 hours. What do you think explains it? 

Finally, a long read. A book in fact. “Talking to my daughter about the economy” by Yanis Varoufakis is a fascinating book that simplifies economics. I have been having great fun with it. Here is a review from The Guardian. “Varoufakis does equip his readers with the beginnings of a new language and punctures myth after myth. If he can do that in nine days, imagine what he could write in 90. Perhaps that could really be the economics text a new generation is looking for.”

Readers Corner.

Dharm Parikh sent this in. “A Swedish company that has created a website for usual sounds which you hear during office hours. If you are missing the office environment, browse this site”. This website helps me get into the groove when I need it. Like Monday mornings! Check it out.

Like the last edition, Deepak sent in a picture for this edition too. It brought a smile on me.

That’s that for this edition. Stay safe. The curve may or may not have been flattened but the virus is still around somewhere. There are things that you can do like examining your limits. I am going to do more of it for testing my limits has helped me know which ones need change.

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