We typically talk about limits as if they're always a bad thing. Because of this, I've seen lots of organizations and even corporate and association meetings given names like "Without Limits" or "Limitless" or "No Limits!" It's the ultimate cheerleading motto. Abundance. Infinity. Ultimate Expansiveness. The World is Yours. No, the Entire Universe - And Infinitely Beyond!
The problem is that we all have limits. And if we don't know them and respect them, we get into deep trouble. The great Anglo Saxon epic Beowulf, one of my favorite books, is about a guy who bought the "no limits" hype in his own time, and thought he was immune to failure. And that, ironically, set him up for his ultimate demise.
In Mary Shelley's classic cautionary tale of success and failure, the novel Frankenstein, Dr. Victor Frankenstein doesn't know his limits, either, and a world-class mess ensues.
Consider the oldest human epic story, from 2,700 BC, Gilgamesh. It's only when King Gilgamesh - handsome, powerful, narcissistic, and insatiably hedonistic - discovers the most basic of his limits that he's transformed into a good leader and king.
The wise thing to do is to live creatively within your limits, and at other times, at your limits, or even on them, in something like a high wire existential balancing act. But to pretend they don't exist is both wrong and dangerous. Our limits give us form, and without form, there is no substance, no distinctive, individual existence. We can rhetorically dismiss limits or deny them, but we're impoverished and even imperilled if we don't know and navigate by them.
How about you? What are your limits? How can you recognize them, respect them, even embrace them, and act with them in mind while you, nonetheless, dream big, aim high, and accomplish the seemingly impossible?
I'm a fan of outrageous greatness. I believe in the extraordinary. We should reject and blast through any unhelpful and artificial limits. But I think that knowing our real limits and wisely working within them can alone get us to where we most need to be.
And any philosophy that doesn't see with this is far too ... limited.