Setting New Limits by JMO Recruiter Joel Junker

Setting New Limits by JMO Recruiter Joel Junker

Dan Gable was a legendary wrestler at Iowa State University winning the NCAA wrestling title in his weight class each year he competed, and achieving an amazing 182-1 record. He also dominated the 1972 Olympic Wrestling event, winning the gold medal in his weight class without a single point being scored against him. After retiring from competitive wrestling in the mid-70’s, Dan became the head wrestling coach at the University of Iowa. Under his guidance, the University of Iowa wrestling team won nine consecutive NCAA team titles from 1978 to 1986.

When asked his key to success, Dan responded, “When I trained, I did not just train to maintain my skills. I worked hard to push myself to a new limit every day. I kept pushing that limit back and back, and I became a little better than I was the day before. At the end of every day, I wanted to be physically and mentally tired, to know that I had been through a hard day. If I did not feel this way, I felt that I must have cheated somehow, so I would stay longer and re-double my efforts.”

The people who wrestled against Dan Gable always commented that his mental strength and physical endurance allowed him to accomplish things that others could not. He was on the offensive all the time, always attacking, and always pressing his opponents. Most good wrestlers could push themselves at the end of a match to overcome the pain barrier. Dan was good enough to push himself at the start and throughout the match, knowing full well that by doing this, he would test the limits of his capability. This is the type of courage that allowed Dan Gable to set new limits for himself. He was able to raise the level of his performance beyond any of his opponents, even in the face of tremendous challenges.

In both the military and business careers, this type of courage is a rare, yet critical, leadership quality. It takes courage to push the limits of your capabilities and to continually face the problems and challenges that come with a professional life. Society and average people around us negatively influence this type of courage. It is hard to keep trying to be your very best when others around settle for mediocrity. Negative people frequently tell you things cannot be done and virtually never encourage you to go for it. It is easy to be negative because it usually involves the safe road and avoiding the risks associated with the unknown. On the other hand, it takes courage to be positive about new challenges because it is usually unpopular, dares us to differ from our associates and stand alone on our own principles, and forces us to test ourselves to break through barriers.

The world has too many examples of talented people quitting on their goals or careers for the wrong reasons. While there can be valid reasons for switching careers, don’t run from your problems and challenges. Remember, professional lives are a series of tests. These tests are an opportunity for you to push back barriers and set new limits for yourself. The worst thing about quitting in the face of these tests is that it is habit forming. Once you start quitting, it is hard to stop. Leaders don’t do this either. They separate themselves from the average performers by testing their will and by taking that extra step when they are tired or disillusioned. Great leaders derive little joy, if any, when their abilities go untested.

Champions like Dan Gable would say that pushing yourself and stretching your limits is also habit forming. Being proactive every day to identify ways to test yourself is habit forming. Facing challenges and adversity with the “cup half-full” attitude is habit forming. Great leaders in business and the military have these habits.

What are you going to do in the next week, month and three months to test yourself and establish new limits?


Career Warefare: 10 Rules for Building a Successful Brand and Fighting to Keep It. As with my other book recommendations, I am recommending books that you would necessarily find on various business best seller lists yet offer excellent insights into business concepts and career management. David F. Allasandro wrote this book and published it in 2004 when he was the CEO of financial services company John Hancock. He provides excellent common sense tips about managing your career. This book will benefit you whether you are just starting your business career, years into your business career or just contemplating a transition from the military to business.


“You must be the change you want to see in the world.” Mohandas Gandhi

Cameron-Brooks and I would sincerely appreciate any suggestions you have for books or quotes we should include in future Career Tip e-mails. We are avid readers and committed to lifelong learning. We learn so much from our client companies, alumni and candidates. Please e-mail me at with any suggestions or ideas for improving our Career Tip Email.

Joel Junker

Copyright 2010. Cameron-Brooks,Inc. All rights reserved.