Writing I Love — The Big Leap

The writings on this site are all around #OpenLeadership. Having worked for many years as a leader and with leaders in all kinds of ways, I endeavour to look beyond typical writing and thinking on the topic, and often for me that means looking within, to self-leadership.

This week’s writing I love is an eminently readable book full of relatable stories and case studies that support self-leadership. A little on the book, then some thoughts and tips from me around the lessons given.


What limits do you place on yourself?

Take a moment please over this question.


I said take a moment, quietly.


I hear you.. “I don’t place limits on myself !”

Yes, you do… we all do, to at least some extent.

Gay Hendricks captures this as the “Upper Limit Problem” in his book The Big Leap.

We all have one or more of the four hidden barriers.

First, WHY do we have these?

Gay Hendricks :

“Each of us has an inner thermostat setting that determines how much love, success and creativity we allow ourselves to enjoy. That thermostat setting usually gets programmed in early childhood. And, once programmed, our Upper-Limit thermostat setting holds us back from enjoying all the love, financial abundance and creativity that’s rightfully ours.

The four Upper Limit barriers are :

Feeling Fundamentally Flawed

Disloyalty and Abandonment

Believing That More Success Makes You a Bigger Burden

The Crime of Outshining

For an excerpt from the book that explains the Upper Limit Problem in depth, including each of these barriers and ways we express them, visit this blog. A concise and powerful read.

Oh, and what are my own barriers? I’m aware of all four at some level playing a part, and am always alert to where I am limiting myself, and the first one is definitely the most prominent!

For you as a reader, I offer you now a story, then three tips to identify when you may be limiting yourself.

The story first.

When acting as a coach, part of my role is to bring insights, and through that to bring awareness and support brave transformation.

One of the most powerful areas for this is to have my radar always attuned to what “upper limit problem” the client may have. Not only does that “thermostat” limit them, but it also inevitably limits the success and thriving of their organisation and those they lead.

I write more about this in a post that identifies the clients I work with, called “Are you a Ford or a Ferrari”, and one of the three types of “Ferrari” are those who are already thriving and successful yet don’t realise they are limiting themselves and could reach ever higher heights if they allowed themselves the awareness that they could turn up the thermostat.

One such client and now friend is one of the most stratospherically successful people in their field worldwide, universally respected and liked in all fields of life. However, they asked me to coach them as they felt there was a gap for them and they were open and wanted to explore what unconscious limits they had.

In coaching through this, it turned out that in childhood they had reached a level of national recognition at a young age that cast a shadow over a sibling, who then started to shrink back in life.

The “zone of genius” of this person came from combining their vast IQ with enormous and abundant EQ. However, in not wanting to outshine that sibling, from that point forward, they chose (consciously at first but it became unconscious over time) to “turn down” their EQ, their sensing, their emotional connection, their EQ, to others to what is a “normal” level, only allowing their full IQ to show up.

They then were hugely successful with “part” EQ and “full” IQ. However, when they unlocked this barrier, their upper limit disappeared and they now bring ALL of their EQ and IQ to the fore. The results have been amazing in terms of their own personal satisfaction as well as the success of the business they lead. That Ferrari now sings a beautiful song from all twelve cylinders!

What is your Upper Limit Problem then?

Though the article I linked to has quite a number, here are my but here are my top three tips on areas to focus on.


Be constantly vigilant around negative language. As Yoda would say “do, or do not, there is no try”. As my friend Frank Bastow would say, “Don’t be a Cant, Be a Can”. Frank is a super-positive guy, who is rarely a “cant”. Visit his website on this.


Having moved to the UK last year after decades in the Caribbean and working primarily in North America, the cultural trend to deflect praise in the UK is becoming a personal mission for me.

As I meet with and work with people, I love to catch them deflecting. Recently I facilitated a Q&A at an event where someone asked one of the presenters what tips they could give the audience to be as brilliant as they are (or words to that effect).

Now, that person IS brilliant, the are the absolute best I have ever seen anywhere in the world at what they do… yet this modest person immediately leapt into self-deprecation, deflection in their words, energy, body language.

As the facilitator, I then said “Ok, tonight we are NOT going to permit any false modesty. You ARE brilliant, please share with us some of your secrets”.

They then relaxed into #flow and fully stepped into their zone of genius, sharing abundantly of their gifts with the audience.

Focussing on areas of weakness

As an eldest son and first child of an eldest son and first child of an eldest son and first child, all of us “high achievers”, whenever my oldest son (or any of my three sons, to be honest) received a school report, I would always immediately scan it for weak points.

“Could do better” were words on almost every school report from my own school days, so I unconsciously allowed this pattern of looking for weaknesses to be my focus.

Here’s the thing, though. My school reports were always excellent, they simply had a few “areas for improvement”, yet the generational repetition, amplified by the focus of school teachers on “could do better”, left me with a lifelong pattern of “needing to prove” how smart I am, as, yes, I have the “Feeling Fundamentally Flawed” barrier well entrenched.

A number of years into being a school parent though, something switched on in me. As my guide Ed Percival taught around public speaking (he was THE best I’ve ever seen at this!), forget the “cold spots” in the room, focus on heating up the “hot spots” to supernova… their heat will then radiate out and warm up everyone in the room.

For my own children then, I always make sure to recognise and acknowledge their achievements, supporting them in seeing their unique “onlyness” (as Nilofer Merchant puts it), their brilliance and genius. By focussing first on strengths for ourselves and others, we raise the upper limit “thermostat” level and make it possible and real to raise the level of both our strengths and our gaps!

Sure, we all have “areas for improvement”, but I believe in focussing on strengths first and foremost. Oh, and this area of thought is really gaining momentum in organisations and people development in many ways.

Focus on your strengths and amplify them. Your weak areas? Yes, improve them to a level where they don’t detract from you applying your unique gifts, but if you are genius artist and terrible at maths, learn the basics then focus on your genius, don’t try to learn differential equations at the expense of your art.

Originally published at Tom McCallum.




Sounding Board for Visionary Leaders ready to make a Massive Impact. Daily posts here, or https://tommccallum.com/newsletter-sign-up/

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Human Abilities Every human has his own abilities

Looking for wisdom

The chicken or the egg, which came first?

When you feel you always knew

Wisdom: when you hear it, you feel you always knew it

The Shroom Diaries: Nature Trip

How to Make Wise Decisions.

Self learning is the gaining of knowledge and understanding in a certain topic on your own .

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Tom McCallum

Tom McCallum

Sounding Board for Visionary Leaders ready to make a Massive Impact. Daily posts here, or https://tommccallum.com/newsletter-sign-up/

More from Medium

Own Your Value

The Truth About the Expression “What You Focus on Grows”

Unhook From The Unwanted Reality You Live In

How Staying Alert in Your Life Keeps You From Being Bored