What if your limitations don’t exist?

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I am always impressed by what people say they can and cannot do or achieve. I believe that life is determined by the boundaries we accept within it. Meaning that my dreams, accomplishments, or even financial budget are the product of what I believe I can or cannot do in this world. Let me share with you a story of my life as an example.

My wife is an amazing and lovely women whom I love very much, so last year I decided I wanted to try and go over the top with her birthday present and get an original painting from her favorite artist, George Peebles. Money was tight, as always, so we could only budget $50 for birthday gifts. The type of painting I had my eye on sold for around $4,000. I was waaaaaaaay out of my league.

Instead of giving up immediately, I decided to put some brainstorming into it. I talked with a few people wiser than myself and decided I would attempt a mini-fundraiser with our friends and family as well as try to contact the artist and see if there were any discounts he could offer. I thought maybe, best case scenario, these ideas could get my wife a small painting worth about $500.

I moved forward with the idea despite the nagging thought that no body would care about this as much as I did and that the odds were stacked pretty high against me. I was particularly convinced that a well established artist whom I had never seen or met would likely not even talk to me, much less offer me a discount.

After a few weeks of many phone calls and emails, my mini-fundraiser was having great success (to the credit of our wonderful family and friends) because I had pledges for $700. I was thrilled! I began to think that I might be able to get a painting even without the artists help, but then the artist contacted me back.

He told me that, with him being in Michigan and us being in Colorado Springs, if I could get him “representation”, I could have a larger painting for a discounted $1,000. I, not being an artist on any level, had no idea what he meant so I talked to a local artist friend who told me that he was asking me to find him a gallery in the Colorado Springs area to take and sell his artwork. My friend gave me fair warning that this was going to be a close to impossible task as most galleries strictly use local artists and my artist was half way across the continent.

Instead of letting the situation say “no” for me, I told myself that I will keep pushing forward until every art gallery within 20 miles said “no”. I put on my best suit, put together a whole portfolio for George including making business cards for him, and spent the better part of my day off visiting every art gallery in Colorado Springs and the surrounding area. After a few hours of driving and talking, I got my first 10 “no” answers and I began to question my sanity. Who in their right mind decides to do something like this when they have absolutely zero knowledge and experience doing so?

What I had to discover in this process was that the only person intimidating me was myself. Yes, I was given credible opinions about what my odds which were bleak, but no one was haggling me from the sidelines telling me I was wasting my time. No one was getting in my face and telling me to back down. It was just my thoughts, slowly and consistently stealing the wind from my own sails. I was so close to giving up simply because I thought I was wasting my time and effort. Call it insanity or persistence, but I kept pushing forward in spite of my discouragement and I was joyfully surprised.

Gallery visit number 14, almost the last on my list, was willing to talk to me for a while and actually expressed some interest in the George’s work. I spoke to the gallery owner who was a wonderful, yet shrewd, business woman in Old Colorado City who was not to be trifled with. I was encouraged when we had finished talking, but knew it was still a long shot for everything to work out because George would have to meet some very tough and specific standards in order to be accepted. At this point, it was all out of my hands, so I had to sit and wait…and wait. Then the fateful day came.

In our communication, George had never used more than the absolute minimum amount of words to get his point across. One day I got an email from George that said, “Scott, we are good. – George”. After I conformed with him what the heck he meant by that, I was ecstatic! I had actually pulled it off! This job that I had absolutely no experience in, and was close to impossible to achieve, was successful! Soon after, George let me know that he would not even charge me the $1,000 price tag for his painting. He gave it to me for free.

I had gone from hatching an idea that was laughably beyond the scope of what I thought was possible to having a huge custom painting for my wife’s birthday from her favorite artist for free! This is the lesson I walked away with: Your life is defined by what limitations you accept, not what limitations exist.

Now, some limitations that we accept are actually healthy for us. For example, it is a great thing that I accept the limitation that I can’t jump off a sky scrapper with no parachute, eat poisonous food, or punch a stranger because these things would very likely cause some major issues for me. Yet even here I have a choice, and that choice depends on if I am willing to live with the consequences of my choice. Another example: one limitation I have accepted for myself is that I cannot eat junk food all the time because I am not willing to live with the consequence of major health issues that it would cause me.

We all spend our lives accepting, rejecting, or overcoming limitations. Thus, the question is not “why was I given this limitation?” but instead “will I accept this limitation or not?” The challenge I pose to myself and to everyone who reads this is to comb through our lives and ask that second question in as many areas a possible.

As always, comments, ideas, or questions are always welcome.

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