Limit Breaking Innovation

I hate the phrase “It can’t be done.” Says who? I mean, those are flying cars in that picture, aren’t they? I’m a firm believer that limits exist only in our beliefs. We dream up endless factors that prevent us from doing things. And we don’t place these limits for ourselves alone, but attribute them to the world around us as well. We believe that because something has never happened before, it must not be possible. At some point in life, we stop thinking like children.

“The only limits are, as always, those of vision.”

– James Broughton

When I was a sophomore in high school, I was introduced to a book that changed my entire world view. Sophie’s World, written by Jostein Gaarder, is “A comprehensive history of Western philosophy as recounted to a 14-year old Norweigan girl.” (Newsweek). While this post is not a plug for the book, it’s contents serve as the jumping off point for what the post is about.

In the book, there is a hypothetical story – a parable, if you will – recounted to the main character. It goes like this.

One morning, Mom, Dad, and little Thomas, aged two or three, are having breakfast in the kitchen. After a while Mom gets up and goes over to the kitchen sink, and Dad — yes, Dad — flies up and floats around under the ceiling while Thomas sits watching. What do you think Thomas says? Perhaps he points up at his father and says: “Daddy’s flying!” Thomas will certainly be astonished, but then he very often is. Dad does so many strange things that this business of a little flight over the break
fast table makes no difference to him. Every day Dad shaves with a funny machine, sometimes he climbs onto the roof and turns the TV aerial—or else he sticks his head under the hood of the car and comes up black in the face.

Now it’s Mom’s turn. She hears what Thomas says and turns around abruptly. How do you think she reacts to the sight of Dad
floating nonchalantly over the kitchen table?

She drops the jam jar on the floor and screams with fright. She may even need medical attention once Dad has returned respectably to his chair. (He should have learned better table manners by now!) Why do you think Thomas and his mother react so differently?

It all has to do with habit. (Note this!) Mom has learned that people cannot fly. Thomas has not. He still isn’t certain what you can and cannot do in this world.

The author goes on to explain that humans lose their ability to think like children, and their belief that anything is possible disappears. It is from this occurrence that limits spring forth. Why couldn’t daddy develop the ability to fly?

Since reading this book, I have lost my ability to limit possibilities if I really stop to think. Sure, I fall susceptible to limited thinking just like anyone else. And I still have to remain rooted in the practicality of things (does it make sense to try to do that thing right now?). But in my world view, anything is possible.

For proof, and a good read, Ivan Farkas at offers us 5 insane pieces of science fiction that are being turned into reality by eccentric billionaires (foul language warning). Enjoy it for the laughs, but glean from it the truth that limits are meant to be broken.

By Jeff McNeill from Chiang Mai, Thailand (Moller Skycars) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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About the author:

Michael McNew
Web developer, marketing innovator, technology enthusiast, and founder of Visceral Concepts, Michael McNew has developed a passion for delivering value to small business, turning his creativity towards image and reputation building for small business owners.