Have you ever run out of gas? I have. I did it on purpose.
I was in my early 20s and home from college for the summer in Vermont. It seemed like knowing how far your car could go on empty was a valuable life lesson. Did E Really Mean E? Or was the needle on the fuel gauge of my 1982 Ford Escort just the little needle who cried E? Inquiring minds want to know.
On a warm June morning, I planned my knowledge-seeking pilgrimage. I called a friend and told him that I expected to run out of gas somewhere along my route that morning. I gave him a specific time to come look for me. And to bring some fuel.
Then I left my parents’ house and drove down a quiet country road in Vermont. And if you have ever been to Vermont you know that a quiet country road in Vermont is a redundant statement. Or maybe a redundant redundant statement.
About 5-miles into my trip, I ran out of gas and rolled to a stop on the side of the road. Minutes later my friend arrived with some spare gas. I gave the car 1 gallon of petro from the classically red gas can. I fired the car back up, and drove it to the nearest gas station a mile or so down the road and filled the tank with 12 gallons of gas.
How Low Can You Go?
As I climbed back into my car, not only was my tank full of gas, my brain was full of new knowledge. I now knew how far my car could go on empty. I knew what my car did after it drank its last drops. I knew that a good backup plan minimized the impact of running out of gas. And I knew how far I could safely push things in the future. Or as Salt N’ Peppa said, I now knew I could push it real good.
I have applied this same limit-seeking approach to other areas of my life. Because I want to find my real limits. Not for limit’s sake. But so that I know what the possibilities are. I want to know how far I can really push myself before I can’t go any farther. Most people never do this. But we all should.
Explore your outer bounds. You should know where the real limitations are. Know when your car will really run out of gas. But also know your real limits are for strength, work, endurance, and pain. Find the edge. It is the only way to know how much you are truly capable of. It’s more than you think.
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