Lesson 073: Announcing your limitations
TV Series: Star Trek - The Next Generation
Season/Episode: 3/2 ('The Ensigns of Command')


Data, an android, is surprised to find Capt. Picard and Dr. Crusher waiting in attendance for his upcoming violin recital.

Taken slightly aback by their unexpected presence, Data suggests to Capt. Picard and Dr. Crusher that they attend a later performance of the same recital, when someone else will be performing his same violin piece, as his (Data's) performance may not be as good for it lacks 'soul'.

Dr. Crusher tells Data that announcing he is going to fail before he attempts something is never wise.

When Data responds by asking if honesty is not always the preferred choice, Capt. Picard advises that excessive honesty can be disastrous, especially in a commander and that knowing your own limitations is one thing, however, advertising them to the crew can damage credibility as a leader.

Data understands how this could lead to the crew losing confidence in the commander.

Dr. Crusher delivers the most cogent point of all by pointing out that the risk of constantly predicting potential self-failures before they happen is that one may actually begin to lose confidence in oneself.


Successful leaders and managers must always recognize and admit to themselves their own limitations. To deny one's own limitations is to invite failure whenever the boundary conditions of the limits are encroached. Only through an understanding of one's limitations can one ever hope to surmount them and exceed beyond their current capabilities.

However, publically predicting failure due to one's own limitations is never advisable. It disillusions and destroys confidence in all concerned.

Great leaders through out history may have recognized the inevitability of defeat in their immediate battle due to overwhelming odds and superior fire power, however, from General George Armstrong Custer at Little Bighorn to the allied soldiers in Bataan during World War II, defeat, was never pronounced before the fight.

On an even more personal basis for everyone, it is never a good idea to express one's insecurity when approaching someone new, in whom we are interested, for the first time with the opening line 'You wouldn't really want to go out with me, would you?'

Although pure in his quest for absolute human honesty, Data is well advised by Capt. Picard and Dr. Crusher to not let honesty be mistaken for a lack of confidence.

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