How Do You Know? Over Your Head or Just Within Reach

“…just let me skip this and go to the next one,” I was frustrated with a NY Times math puzzle and wanted to skip ahead to puzzle 5. Ironic, right? The puzzles increase in difficulty, yet,I wanted to skip ahead. After another 15 minutes, I finally solved the puzzle and could go to the next in which I solved in 3 minutes. But, the ability to finish so quickly was based on the approach I figured out from the previous puzzle. Yes, there was a method to this madness.

It reminded me of times I skipped ahead and it did not end well. You have to walk before you run rings true. Yet, people put themselves in positions they have no business being in. Is it because we don’t distinguish between out of your depth and a stretch?  A stretch is going beyond what you normally do, but you have an idea or training to push further. Out of your depth is no knowledge or training on what needs to happen to get to the end.

When I trained for my first half marathon, the longest training run was 10 miles. The race was13.19 miles, a stretch, but attainable due to preparation and a steady process of build endurance and increase mileage. And yet, I knew a week later, a “stretch” would not be to run a full marathon, that would be out of my depth. 

My current role is to coach people for a technical professional certification. I work with candidates to determine their certification level and to build the application. When I get someone who insists they are ready and they aren’t, I have the hard conversation and reset expectations. For others tis is a stretch and I am able to coach them to success. This is the importance of trusted advisors. These are people who can  encourage and coach you for a stretch, or who can say, stop, back up, you are out of your depth.

To succeed at something mediocre is worse than to fail at something great.

Jamaica Kincaid

 How do you navigate between mediocre and a stretch? This week, consider the nuance of a stretch, out of your depth and who are your trusted advisors.

1 beyond one’s knowledge or ability to cope.

2 Jamaica Kincaid on How to Write

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