Lessons from Buzz Lightyear

Thinking beyond limits…

I am a member of the Toy Story generation. Yes, I vividly remember a time when toy aisles were stocked floor to ceiling with cowboys and spacemen and the catchphrase of the day was “To infinity and BEYOND! 

The magic of the movie, aside from the fact that Andy’s toys could walk, talk and get out of virtually every dire circumstance, was the notion that there was an “infinity” and there was something beyond that. At a crucial point of the movie, when Buzz recoups his confidence after breaking a wing, losing an arm, and being dubbed Mrs. Nesbitt, he speaks the famous words: “To infinity and BEYOND!” The words are powerful because he believes them. When faced with a barrier, Buzz doesn’t say, “Well, it’s too bad I am just a toy and not a real space ranger. It would be really nice to be able to stun this Sid guy with my laser beam and fly out of this joint. But I guess I am stuck playing tea party with his kid sister, because, after all, I am just a toy and toys can’t really fly.” Now that would have been one really terrible hero.

 Buzz’s attitude is the perfect example of the difference between saying that anything is possible and believing that anything is possible. There is an assumption that people with disabilities are limited in the possibilities that are available to them. In actuality, they are only limited by the general public’s preconceived notions of disability. I was one of those people who was holding others back from achieving their dreams, without even knowing it. It wasn’t my fault that I had certain assumptions, just the effect of culture and history asserting itself on my understanding of ability. 

Working at Tangram has taught me to think beyond limits and I encourage you to do the same. Buzz will be happy if we all embrace “infinity.”




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