Photo Credit: Grace Covenant
This expression “leveraging our limitations” is brand-new to me. Fresh as today, in fact. Best-selling author Jeff Goins talked about it in this week’s e-newsletter (worth your subscribing for his wisdom as a writer but also in tackling any challenge).
Before I jump into Goins’ take on leaning into our limitations, Let me describe the situation today where my limitations all but glowed.
Last Fall, (to give context), I took a course through the non-profit Embrace Richmond. Wendy McCaig, executive director of Embrace, taught the course entitled Mission Shift: Assets-Based Community Development (ABCDs). Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig
“ABCD builds on the gifts, talents and passions of neighborhood residents and strengthens communities from the inside out.” – Embrace Richmond
Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig
Through a Communities in School (CIS) program in a local county, I was able to become a mentor for a high school student trained on how to interview and gather information from various members of a community. Their answers would add to a body of work on both what residents love about their neighborhood and what they wish they could change. This listening project will hopefully culminate in a “dream team” of neighbor influencers, potentially including this student…all who could participate in engineering a plan for change if needed.
It was a joy for me to enter into the experience of adult neighbors and their like-culture student interviewer. Even the time we needed out of their day seemed a thing gladly given. We all want to be heard…and for these several minutes, the student and I were listening with full attention.
I was both wholly in the experience and also observing the experience. The women interviewed were so gracious. Children in tow sometimes. Their responses were so insightful and authentic. Even speaking with strangers. It was surprising and lovely. These women clearly were influencers in their own right…in the small sphere of their world.
The one man we interviewed was the most surprising. He had just gotten home from work and his wife was leaving at the same time (I didn’t understand if it was to her job or for something personal). He still invited us in for the interview. Still holding his lunch bag, and his supper prepared for him and getting cold on the table, he answered our young interviewer’s questions. This man was so elegant and articulate. I could see him, in a different life situation, capable of being a town mayor or other community leader. Without English as a first language and an immigrant in this country, his opportunities to lead have been diminished. I hope through this project, he (they) can have a voice at the table.
This, for me, was hopefully the first of many such afternoons, accompanying a high school student engaging her community in a very different and deeper way.
For me it was extraordinary.
Finding this eletter from Jeff Goins on arriving home, its timing couldn’t have been more perfect…and what he had to say about leveraging our limitations…enthralling.
Part of his message today:
“How often do we think something cannot be done until someone else does it?
Sometimes, the trick isn’t to work harder. It’s to recognize the opportunity in the obstacle.
These days, I think of limitations as leverage. My greatest breakthroughs come not when I ignore my challenges or even try to overcome them, but when I learn to use them. Turns out, this is a pretty good strategy for doing work that’s worth noticing: Don’t be better, be different.
How many limitations am I not leaning into?
How many obstacles am I trying to overcome when really I just need to own them?
You see, for some time now, I’ve wanted to figure out how to confront the staggering problems of poverty and race relations in our city. How could someone like me help in a healthy and sustainable way? One person with so many limitations.
- Being an outsider.
- Having little influence myself.
- Not knowing the language (Spanish or Mixteko – the two languages in the neighborhood of our listening project).
- Nor the culture.
- Nor having the experience of an immigrant.
- Only a beginner’s understanding of ABCD.
Photo Credit: Angela Lee Duckworth, Thriving Intentionally
Leaning into our limitations…leveraging our limitations can make us more authentic and approachable. More determined to not let our limitations to define us or hinder us.
Did I want to quit several times this afternoon? Absolutely. Did our amazing high schooler? Totally. Today we didn’t quit…hopefully we won’t. We construct our comfort zones to protect our limitations… to not have to face them. It’s not conscious necessarily, but it just is.
So here’s to leveraging our limitations. Ready to lean in…another day.