Saturday, July 26, 2014

Unlearn Your Limitations

A while back I tweeted two simple sentences that popped into my head while I was scrambling eggs:

Know your limitations. Then shatter them.

Yes, that could easily have been one sentence, but the eggs told me to use a period instead of a comma for dramatic effect (see my post on commas). This morning I sat down with my cup of coffee and had every intention of writing the next scene in my fourth novel (which is a sequel to my first novel), then I opened the blinds and looked out the window and recalled those two sentences.

Can you really shatter your limitations?

We all have factors that limit us. Some of us are not athletic and couldn't excel at sports no matter how hard we may try. When I was in high school I was smaller than most of the girls (yes, even the girls) in my class, so it would have been suicide for me to try out for the football team. Yes, I suppose I could have been like that kid Rudy and dedicated myself to making the team, but I didn't even like football (I didn't even like the movie they made about Rudy). Like it or not, we all have true limitations, but most of us probably never get close to bumping up against those because we also have learned limitations.

Learned limitations are constraints we place on ourselves, most likely branded on our brains when we were kids. Like sitting in the back seat of the family car when you are so young you barely remember it, and having your father tell you he is ashamed to be seen with you because you are ugly. He tells you to stay in the car. You do. You remember. Reinforce that description of you with an entire childhood of equally hateful adjectives (stupid and worthless come to mind), and you emerge into the adult world so screwed up you can barely function around people.

Learned limitations.

Sharon and I live on about thirty acres of land in the middle of nowhere. We have goats to help keep the weeds down. Goats, by nature, like to browse. They don't stand in one spot and eat until the grass is gone -- they wander, eating a little here, a little there, so you have to confine them to the area you want them to maintain.

Electric fences are fairly inexpensive and easy to erect. They are also easy to move, which we do quite often. They also only work if the goats fear them. Once they get zapped a time or two they know the fence will hurt them and they stop trying to cross. But electric fences are also prone to fallen limbs and are easily broken by other animals that wander into them (like deer and dogs). They break a lot, and since the strand is one long wire charged by a single device, any break renders the entire fence useless.

But the goats don't necessarily know that. As I type this, our fence has been unplugged for weeks, yet the goats stay happily within bounds, because they have learned the fence will zap them. At this point, the fence is a learned limitation. Easily shattered.

Shatter your learned limitations. Unlearn. Don't allow yourself to be fenced in by the actions of others.

I write novels about people dealing with their limitations, real and learned. I hope, in the process, to also entertain. To learn more about my novels, and for links to purchase (or sample) them, please visit my website at

AND for a look at a cool YouTube video my son and two of my grandsons made for me, look here, or here.

Side note: I used the picture of the wintertime fence because it's hot outside, and we rarely get snow in Mississippi, and because I love that picture and have wanted a reason to post it for a long time.


  1. A good post, Carl. I'm a sucker for a good goat story; lots of salient metaphor going on here, too. My present novel is also about limitations (physical, psychological, and metaphorical) ... the titles says it all: Max, the blind guy.

    1. Thank you, Mark. And may I compliment the very smooth manner in which you plugged your book. (seriously, that was pretty good). Writers these days have to excel at marketing and promotion as well as writing (I tried to create a new word here but auto-correct kept "fixing" it for me so I gave up). When can we expect Max?