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Knowing Your Limitations

Some days, I am reminded of the words of Saint Eastwood, in his guise as the Avatar Callahan:

A man’s got to know his limitations.

Other days, I am reminded of a saying that Paul Tevis told me years ago:

When you argue for your limitations, you get to keep them.

At a glance, these might seem to be contradictory statements, but the more I think about them, the more I Get It. Together, those two statements are about keeping yourself — no, scratch that, keeping me — away from two extremes. By knowing my limitations, I remind myself not to take on 12 hours of work every goddamned day. Especially on days like today, when I woke up feeling groggy and haven’t completely sorted myself out. It’s when I don’t know (and by extension don’t respect) my limitations that I fall down, being useless to myself and to those I’m working for.

And by remembering not to argue for my limitations, I don’t embrace my failings. I don’t just sit back and beat myself up over those limitations that I feel hold me back. I look at my limitations, and see how I can adapt to cope with them, to fix them, or to learn how to accept those I cannot right now change. This is pretty key, because I have that fucked-up work ethic beat into me where I think “Hey, I’m not going to bed until around midnight. That means I have 14 hours to work today, right?!?” This mentality is as much a limitation as everything that seems to keep me from achieving it, if not more so.

(I’m also one of those people who sees “needing sleep,” “needing socializing time” and other “being a human” sorts of things as frustrating limitations. Maybe one of these days I’ll entirely accept those limitations, but I am still young and foolish.)

Not much more to post about here. I was inspired to write this because I’ve seen friends and colleagues either not know their limitations or argue for them. Figured it was time I paid those lessons forward.

– Ryan

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6 Responses to Knowing Your Limitations

  1. Matthew D. Gandy says:

    Well put. For similar reasons, I have the Cult of Done Manifesto (http://www.ikiw.org/2009/03/04/the-cult-of-done-manifesto/) post on my wall at work. It’s worth *considering*, but not simply accepting at face value as The Truth.

  2. jessecoombs says:

    good post.
    more like this.

  3. Jason Pitre says:

    Wisdom. I think part of the problem with us creatives is that we tend to immerse ourselves in the works of others. We see others getting things done and a variant of keeping up with the Joneses stops us from relaxing. We get the impression that “a few more long nights and I will catch up”.

    This is moreso of an issue for myself as I am new to the game relatively and working full time beyond my game design work. There is a certain Zen to realizing that it will get done when it is done, and I think that helps us stick to our limits.

    Thank you for your post.

  4. Paul Tevis says:

    You know what I love about this? I say the first all the time but I have no memory of the second. And I quote people that way all the time.

  5. Brian says:

    Limitations? Feh … they are just “constraints on creativity” ;)

    In all seriousness, though, good post.