Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pushing the Limits

That is a question, I recently started to ask myself. I believe it is a early sign of midlife crisis. Nevertheless, the question is a good one and I thought I can share that with you.

How far have you gone testing the limits of your mental and physical capacity ?

On a lighter note, much earlier, a friend asked me the same question. I was messing up with some obvious easy stuff. He commented - "come on, God did not ask you to save all the brain he gave to you. Spend some." The question, put otherwise, how much did I spend ? Or how much did I try to spend ? Do you know your limits ?

It is wrong to expect that you will emerge tomorrow as the saviour of India's debacle in England test series. It is hardly expected that you will beat Vishwanathan Anand in rapid chess. Those are your perceived limits because probably you have tried your hand in at least one form of mental experiment and one form of physical one. But, did you try to excel in that ? According to Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point), one needs to put at least 10K hours in a chosen field to shine (link). How hard did we work to see the limit ?

The same question is explored in other forms when someone talks about "competing with yourself" or "pursue excellence". That is a continuous process like the 10K hours of practice. What I am missing is the stress-testing equivalence. Like, one doing a marathon or one attempting a known hard problem. The problem with stress testing is that, you never know your limits until and unless the long hours of practice is put to it. That often deters us from entering the field itself. We somehow combine our likeness with the demands of a specialization. If we like to do it, we continue.

Thus, we are in a chicken-and-egg problem. We do not know our limits in many fields. We do not try many fields simply given our constraints such as economic independence, life span etc. On top of that, what dazzles us are the sideeffects of a profession. We associate fame with film and nerdiness with technology. In truth, this veils disappear. All the people of extreme calibre probably derive the same joy in pushing their limits.

Still the hope remains.

Actually, ordinary people like many of us, surprise themselves when they discover that they are beyond their perceived limits. Like, Fauja Singh.

And then, suddenly, they become extraordinary.


  1. good comeback
    Sarvo :)

  2. Update: Just learnt that the hero of this blog-post is all set to participate in Mumbai Marathon -