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Limits and Luck

A colleague of mine owns a boat.

I've never been on it, but picturing him being on it makes me smile.

The other day, I was asking him some questions about it and we got to the topic of speed.

The boat he owns is a sailboat that also has a motor, so it has two sources of power.

On the topic of speed he shared something that I found very interesting.

I asked how fast his boat could go on a really windy day.

He said, no matter how windy it is or how powerful his motor is, his boat is designed to go no faster than 6.5 knots.

Sidenote: A knot is a nautical mile, which is equivalent to roughly two kilometers. So his boat can go no faster than about 12 kilometers per hour.

He also said there's one exception.

If the water happens to be choppy and there are a lot of waves, when he's surfing a wave — coming down the wave — he may gain 0.5 knots in speed and go up to 7 knots, or if he's climbing a wave — going up the wave — he may lose a knot in speed.

Alright, context set. Time for a metaphor.

Well, a few metaphors.

The motor and the design of the boat

Have you ever been in a rush and also needed to use an elevator at the same time? Or needed to cross a road (at a proper crossing) that requires you to press a button?

If you're a human being, in that situation you've likely clicked the elevator or crossing button several times.

Your belief is that the speed of the elevator rising or the lights changing is obviously correlated to how many times you press the button.

The system was obviously designed to be aware of urgency.

Sadly, it was not.

The motor and the boat is a beautiful metaphor for effort and its limits.

The key here is to be aware of the limits, so that you can apply your effort accordingly.

Just click the button once.

The waves

Sometimes, we get lucky.

The elevator happens to be on the same floor we are on, the light is perfectly timed with our click of the button.

Sometimes, our regular-sized effort gets an outsized reward.

In most cases, we are just passengers experiencing this stroke of luck.

The real magic happens when we recognize this stroke of luck and take advantage of it.

Everyone can experience a good wave, and only those who know how can actually surf them.

dark blue background with white waves and a blue ball

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