Most Limitations are Self-imposed

by Edward Henkler on June 4, 2013

Nearly every one of us has the potential to accomplish great things.  Fleet Admiral William Frederick “Bull” Halsey, Jr., the Naval officer who commanded the South Pacific Area during the early stages of the Pacific War against Japan, once observed, “There are no great people in this world, only great challenges which ordinary people rise to meet.”  Some people may have an initial advantage through accident of birth but in the final assessment, we often accomplish exactly what we envision.  The outcome can be good and, just as easily, bad.

The following examples come from my passion for prevention of blindness and enabling technology for individuals with compromised vision but I assure you that similar examples arise in virtually every setting.

Lt. James Holman, The Blind Traveler

Unless you’ve read “A Sense of the World” by Jason Roberts, it is likely that you’ve never heard of Lieutenant James Holman.  James was born in 1786 and lived until 1856.  The Blind Traveler, as he was known, covered over 250,000 miles (more than the distance to the moon), mostly by foot or horse/horse drawn vehicle.  In total, he visited five continents and interacted with at least 200 distinct cultures, mostly without the assistance of anyone else.  Although he was completely blind, his descriptions of flora and fauna were so exacting that James Audubon included them in his observations.

It’s possible that you’ve heard of Daniel Kish, the Executive Director of World Access for the Blind.  He is also blind and uses echolocation (the same mechanism used by bats) to mountain bike.  Does he fall?  Of course…but then he gets back up and rides again.

Their seemingly impossible accomplishments are a reminder that most limitations are self-imposed, sometimes with society/culture in full collusion.  Envision success and success becomes much more likely.  Envision failure and you will likely realize that outcome….viewed another way, perhaps you’re succeeding in realizing your vision?

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