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Redefine the Limits

We are constantly told “no” throughout our lives.

The “no’s” are meant to help us—at least most of the time–by setting limits on what we can and can’t do.

“No, you can’t have that cookie before dinner.”

“No, you can’t drive the car: you don’t have a license.”

“No, you can’t date him or her.”

These are reasonable limits. Good boundaries. Well-meaning boxes to save us from stomach aches, tragic accidents, and traumatic relationships.

We need people to set these limits because we often don’t know what is good for us.

Societies need limits, or we are lawless and savage. Laws keep us all safe:

“Don’t steal.”

“Don’t kill.”

“Don’t drive drunk.”

All good things.

But what happens when the limits placed around us aren’t good, beneficial? What happens when well-intentioned people place walls up, thinking it’s helping you while it’s actually keeping you back? What does that look like?

Here are a few I hear a lot when talking with skaters, artists, and entrepreneurs:

“You can’t ride that board—you might fall and die.”

“You can’t be an artist. Get a real job. That’s just a hobby.”

“You can’t open that restaurant. They all fail. You will fail. Find a real job.”

Good limits protect us.

Bad limits crush us. They confine us to jobs and tasks that enslave us. We’ve all worked at jobs or studied subjects not meant for us. They placed a cap on what we can do and experience in life.

Once upon a time, I had an elderly woman of some renown tell me I would never make it as a writer and artist. I was in my early thirties at the time, and she told me very coldly that my life was over. She said my only hope was to pray that my children advanced beyond me.

I’ve since forgiven her: she was tired, sick, and disillusioned with her own life. She was just projecting her issues on me.

Recently, I was told that skateboard decks and eCommerce were “hard grinds.” They softly told me to quit.

When someone tells you to stop doing the very thing burning in your heart, when that thing is good, faithful, and beautiful, when that thing only benefits others, push back. Go against it.

Redefine the limit.

I’ve decided to turn bad limits into stepping stones throughout my life. They became what I used to climb over the wall erected in my path.

I now make a living as a writer. I am working towards adding to that living as an illustrator, first with Red Panda Skateboards and then beyond.

I am determined to see this company succeed.

How about you? What limits have others set up for you to obey?

Please hear me: keep the good limits.

Don’t eat cookies before dinner.

Don’t drink and drive.

Don’t drive 120 miles an hour when the speed limit is 60.

Stop dating that boy or girl if things are toxic, unhealthy, abusive.

But the bad limits, redefine them. Get creative. Use them as ways to develop your gifts and talents.

You love to paint, but others are saying stop? Do it more. Do it in your free time. Shut off the phone and paint. Find every second of the day you can without ignoring your family or life, and paint.

Do you love writing poetry? Write it more. Do it during lunch breaks at school and work. Stop wasting time on meaningless movies at night and write. Ignore the warnings that there is no future and make it happen. There are far more outlets for it now than ever before. Find them and get the word out.

Do you love to draw or skate? Go for it. Make it your own. Don’t let the negative Nellies in life keep you from expressing yourself in a positive, good, true, and beautiful way.

No’s will never go away. Every new endeavor you attempt will have someone telling you to stop. But as Shia LaBeouf says, “Just do it.”

Just Do It.

Just keep going. Use the adversity to move you one step closer each day. It won’t all happen at once, but if you chip at it, you will reach your goal.

Think of Andy Dufrane in Shawshank Redemption. He used a small rock hammer to tunnel his way out of prison.

An old friend once asked me: “How do you eat an elephant?”

I looked at him, confused and annoyed. I had just complained about not getting anything done, ever.

He smiled and asked that question.

I was pissed and didn’t have an answer.

He laughed and said, “Never at all at once. Just take one bite at a time.”

So, right now, take one bite of that elephant—that limit in your life. And watch the limits vanish over time.

Christopher F. Dalton

Christopher F. Dalton is a writer, author, illustrator, small business owner, but more than that he is a follower of Christ, a husband, a father of three stellar sons, and friend in need. He and his wife run Huck&Dorothy, an entertainment company.

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