“Know contentment, and you will suffer no disgrace; know when to stop, and you will meet with no danger. You can then endure."Lao Tzu
During my last quarter of undergrad (around the time I created the Personal MBA), I pushed myself to the breaking point.
I was taking 22 credit hours of classes across three subjects: Business Information Systems, Real Estate, and Philosophy. Almost every class that I took had some kind of senior capstone project. Two of the courses I was taking were graduate level, and required writing two 20+ page papers on very complex topics to pass. I had a lot of work to do, and not enough time to do it.
By the last two weeks of the quarter, I was an absolute wreck. I was sleep deprived, run down, and stressed beyond belief. Everything got done, but the workload took its toll, and it took me a few weeks of doing nothing after graduation to fully recover.
The Benefits of Reaching Your Breaking Point
Even though it wasn’t pleasant, I’m glad I found my breaking point. Here’s why: now I know how much I’m capable of doing, and how much is too much. I know more about how my mind and body react to stress, and I’m better able to identify the warning signs of taking on too much before things get out of hand.
As a result, I’ve been able to keep myself running at about 90% capacity, which is enough to get a lot done without burning out. Right now, I’m working on a book, consulting with my clients, and working on a few interesting side projects. A few weeks ago, one of my friends told me, “you’re looking pretty good for being in the middle of writing a book." It’s true: in contrast to my college experiment, I’m handling everything that’s going on pretty well, and knowing my breaking point has made it much easier to know when to push and when to slow down.
The Breaking Point Experiment
It’s impossible to know how much you’re capable of until you decide to push your limits. As long as you stay safe (i.e. experiment with things that won’t kill you or do permanent damage), you can learn a ton about how you work by stretching yourself to the limit. The knowledge you gain will help you make better choices in the future about what projects to take on and how much is too much.
Have you ever reached your breaking point? What did you learn?