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Adii Pienaar

Now working on Receiptful. Co-Founder & ex-CEO of WooThemes. Author of Brandiing. New Dad. Ex-Rockstar.

Accepting Limitations

I'm naturally limited in my abilities, aptitude, thoughts, ideas and opinions. And I'm okay with that. In fact, I don't do much to try change that and instead I make the decision to accept my limitations.

I'm 29 years old tomorrow and if there's one thing that I have learnt about myself, it's that I'm most definitely not superman. Regardless of my inherent, natural ability and the achievements that it has sprouted, I can't change the fact that everything I ultimately have is finite.


Last week I was out on a run and I was thinking about how I was going to achieve my goal of running at least 1000km's in a calendar year (last year I set the goal, but only reached 60% of it having spent 5 months not running due to injury). Fact is that I twice injured myself last year due to over-training, which meant that somewhere I was attempting to push beyond my body's natural ability and limits.

Thinking about this, I realized that if I were to achieve that goal this year, I needed to come up with a new plan that would enable me to pursue my goal 12 months of this year (and not only 7). Part of this plan hinges on the fact that I needed to accept my own limitations and work within the framework that it naturally creates.


Limitations suck; especially if you have even a little bit of a rebel's spirit like I do. Much of my life, I've been able to motivate myself purely by challenging any status quo and the limits that normally surrounds it. So changing my mindset to the extent where I'm actually willing to accept limitations (without question) and working within those is a big change for me.

I think this is important, because we're inherently flawed as human beings and a constant, exclusive pursuit of going beyond natural limits will just result in a mindfuck, because we will fail more often than we succeed. This is why Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-Step Programs have adopted the Serenity Prayer:

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference."

We're not meant to try change or control everything. Sometimes, some limits are actually a good thing and accepting that has it's benefits:

1. It forces you to ask for help (and learn from that)

If we had the natural ability to do absolutely anything and everything, we'd never ask for help or Google an answer to something. We'd just be this perfect vessel that had all the knowledge and abilities to execute on anything.

Accepting your limitations though means that you need to ask for help, which presents you with the opportunity to learn something new.

2. Constraints breeds creativity

I absolutely love this principle and it's something which I've always applied to bootstrapping the startups I've worked on. There's a magic in accepting limitations and figuring out a way around them (and not through them).

This approach involves working towards your strengths and mostly ignoring your weaknesses (something advocated in Strength-based Leadership). What this does, is it forces you to be creative about how you can craft the outcome you are after regardless of the inherent limits (or trying to defy those limits).

3. Nurture Smart Collaboration

Implicit in the acceptance of limitations is the acceptance that whilst you can probably learn to do anything, it's probably not always efficient to do so. What this means is that we are required to collaborate with people that are both smarter / better than ourselves and people that compliments / covers our weaknesses.

For me, this means working smarter and not harder. I enjoy challenging myself and learning to do something new, but I also know that it sometimes simply doesn't make sense for me to do so and that the better answer is to pay someone else to help.


"The enemy of art is the absence of limitations." ~ Orson Wells

I've not changed my mindset about life: I'm incredibly passionate about self-improvement, learning and making new mistakes.

But by accepting at least some limits in my life, I will get better at picking the right battles and not mindlessly walking into unwinnable wars.


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