Recognize your limitations

Alfred de Musset said, "Perfection does not exist; to understand it is the triumph of human intelligence; to expect to possess it is the most dangerous kind of madness." It was 10:45 a.m.
By Raymond Dreyfack February 1, 2000

Alfred de Musset said, “Perfection does not exist; to understand it is the triumph of human intelligence; to expect to possess it is the most dangerous kind of madness.”

It was 10:45 a.m. and Project Supervisor Rick Daystrom was frustrated and depressed. The deadline for the budget estimate was fast approaching. He wasn’t going to make it. The information he needed to complete the report was some place on the internet. But where?

Daystrom eyed the clock nervously. He already had spent hours and tried a succession of search engines in an effort to find what he needed. He hadn’t even come close. Blasted computer! He hated it. Daystrom kept punching the keyboard. With each failed attempt, his frustration grew.

It was now 2:30 p.m. The phone rang. “Where’s that report?” Plant Engineer Stan Bentley wanted to know.

Daystrom confided his problem and frustration to the plant engineer.

“Tell Dave what you just told me,” his boss advised. “Do it now.”

About 20-min later, Senior Engineer Dave Klein handed Daystrom a printout with the data he needed. He completed the report, hours late instead of days.

Question: In the plant engineer’s shoes what, if anything, would you tell Daystrom?

Bentley’s counsel: Bentley summoned the project leader to his office. “Rick, I don’t like to preach, but I hope this is a lesson to you. You’re a great supervisor, in fact, I think that you’re one of the brightest and sharpest guys in the department. But you don’t walk on water. My point is, we all have our limitations. Sometimes it’s more important to recognize them than to try to overcome them.

“You excel in most aspects of your job, but mastering the computer appears to be one of your weaknesses. Had you accepted this limitation, you probably would have sought help early on instead of wrestling this long with an adversary you just couldn’t subdue. Dave doesn’t match your expertise in a half dozen other areas, but everyone knows he’s a computer wiz. Recognizing a limitation may take one’s ego down a peg at times. But it’s one of the best strategies I know when it comes to meeting objectives.”

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