Boundaries

“Don’t ever let somebody tell you . . . You can’t do something, not even me. All right? You got a dream, you gotta protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want something, go get it. Period.”  Chris Gardner, author of a New York Times Best Sellers book, The Pursuit of Happyness

Our backyard in Birmingham, Alabama was quite long, with the ending border tangent to the alley where our garbage can was placed. In the left corner near the alley was our small vegetable garden. At the upper end of the yard closer to the house was my mother’s flower garden, anchored by a plum tree. Our playing field fit perfectly between the two gardens. Whiffle ball (a version of baseball played in confined spaces) and kickball were among the games we played.

The unmarked imaginary boundary lines determined whether a kicked or batted ball was fair or foul; and naturally, ensuing arguments about fair and foul balls were part of the game — sandlot ball, you could say. In our youth, most of us enjoyed such group sports at family gatherings or church picnics.

You can imagine that without a referee or officially marked boundary lines, rousing arguments were inevitable – friendly arguments, generally; although, I can recall a few instances when uncompromising competitors created an unpleasant debate.

Aaaah!  City league sports to the rescue with authoritative referees in command. And the boundary lines were actually visible!  Games need it. Life requires it. Commitments and agreements with others entail some boundaries – lines we do not intuitively cross. Do you agree?

As much as I respect the purpose of perceived or formatively imposed limitations, I do not wholly accept some seeming conventional restrictions in all areas of life’s activities. Many of the most important inventions of our world were created by pioneers who, when leaping over established boundary lines into a new frontier, were ostracized by the masses, including family and friends. And yet these life-changing visionaries, through hard work and determination, make a global difference.

When was the last time you stepped outside of your normal routine? When have you crossed over a line you thought would never be possible? When did you last work momentously on something with an outside the box mindset? Continuously throughout life my stride has purposely and confidently ventured outside the proverbial box. And yes, there were some failures along the way, but success prevailed, resulting in a magnitude of enormous victories.

With excessive personal debt and five hundred dollars borrowed from one of my sisters, I crossed all kinds of financial boundaries and normal safe thinking to start Hackbarth Delivery Service (HDS).  A strong element of conventional thinking forewarned me, ‘DO NOT start this company at this time!’

In fact, this cautionary advice was vehemently voiced by a volunteer with SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives of the Small Business Administration) with whom I was seeking assistance in establishing my business plan for HDS.  Even some of my own family members expressed reservations about my ambition . . . my mother and hero, whose influence has mentored me for life, could not restrain her concern.  And, yes, even my partner for life, Carol, expressed a few of her own apprehensions. Notwithstanding my respect for their advice, I forged ahead anyway.  Today, HDS has grown into 42 locations within 10 states.

Some of the most important and biggest goals of your life will incur tremendous resistance from others. And yes, some of the challenges may come from those closest to you. Your dreams may be met by statements such as:

You can’t do that.

It will not work.

You do not have what it takes.

It’s not the right time.

It’s a terrible idea.

It reminds me of those backyard games and the cry of “Foul ball” for all those maneuvers that were wide of the invisible boundary lines in our game.

The regrettable result from self-imposed boundaries is a detour away from the needed effort for that special dream, the purpose we were always destined to achieve. The one single goal that matters the most is lost. And suddenly, one day we discover that the infiltration of limited thinking has affected even our normal day-to-day living. We may end up living a safe life – one with fewer risks – but at the cost of missing out on our main mission – to be the best at what we were meant to be.

Sadly, the greatest risk in life may be in not taking a risk.

When we arise each day, we are faced with many limitations. Some restrictions are there for good reason and need to be followed. Others are in place because we allow the constraint. Artificial frontiers that we created. Just like our kickball games of long ago past, many of these boundaries are invisible. They exist in our own thinking – a mindset that has the power to be the most dominant umpire in our life. Our own internal compass. Our own decision as to where we draw the line. What matters most. What we are willing to do.

Where do you draw the line? What are your boundaries? What are your limitations? At this very moment in your life – at this critical juncture – do you need to make some changes? What will your life be like one year from now if you take action on a new chance at meaningful success? What will your life be like if you do not take that risk?

“There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.” Stephen William Hawking, physicist and author of The Theory of Everything

“Foul ball!” shouts my neighborhood friend as the ball rolls past first base.

“It’s out of bounds!” he asserts. “Not so!” I confidently reply.

Today, there are no boundaries.