Doing the impossible

What is regarded as impossible is someone else’s opinion forced on us as the truth. Quite often, the impossible is another person’s frustration presented as a fact. Impossible is others’ assumption that we have come to believe as our reality. Those who change the world never believe that anything is impossible. It is those who dismantled the myth of impossibility that moved the world from the Stone Age to the current level. Every good thing the world enjoys today was once clad with the garment of impossibility. It took some non-conformists to rip the garment and opened up a new frontier for mankind to soar. Time was when the belief was that human beings could not fly because the sky was meant for birds, but the Wright brothers put a lie to that with their airplane. It was once believed that mobile communication devices were beyond the capacity of humans to produce but today, the world cannot survive without the devices. So, to accept that anything is impossible is to put a lid on your potential and a ceiling on your capacity.

There is absolutely no problem that the human mind cannot find solution to. Just consider this; man has conquered the moon, the ocean and the desert. Similarly, man has tamed the wildest of beasts. So, nothing is beyond the ability of man to handle but the problem is that a mindset has been allowed to develop concerning some issues which are now seen as impossible. When the mindset changes, what is currently regarded as impossible will come within the possibility realm.


Roger Bannister broke the jinx

For over 4,000 years, it was believed that no human being could complete the one-mile race under four minutes. Many who wanted to break the jinx relied on tiger milk and other performance-enhancing drinks and food to achieve the dream but the harder they tried, the more they failed. But Roger Bannister, then an Oxford University medical student, broke that record on May 6, 1954, finishing the race in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. Bannister, who was the favourite to win the gold medal in the 1,500m race at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952 but failed to clinch the gold medal, had resolved to make history by being the first human being to complete the one-mile race under four minutes.

And he did. Interestingly, less than two months after he achieved that feat, two other people were able to complete the race in less than four minutes. Since then, thousands of athletes have completed the race in less than four minutes. This was something nearly everyone had believed was impossible for thousands of years. The impossible myth is shattered when there comes forward someone who is determined enough to take up the challenge.


How to do the impossible

Those who achieve the impossible are usually driven by certain factors. Here they are:


They are inspired to change the world

Those who do the impossible are usually inspired to change the world. The change they crave may be local or global but they are usually not content with the way the world around them runs and they seek something better. This makes them to see the world differently. They travel to the future, see what is possible in the future and begin to work towards its realization.

Elon Musk has contributed immensely to the improvement the world has witnessed lately. He is the CEO of Tesla, the electric vehicle manufacturing company, whose focus is to produce environment-friendly vehicles in order to protect the world from the effects of global warming and other environmental challenges. He is also the CEO of SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company with the goal of reducing space transportation costs to enable the colonization of Planet Mars. While speaking on why he invests his intellect, energy and other resources in these areas, Musk said, “The thing that drives me is that I want to be able to think about the future and feel good about that. We are doing what we can to have the future be as good as possible, to be inspired by what is likely to happen and to look forward to the next day.”

Those who are not inspired to change the world can never have the will to attempt the impossible.


They challenge the status quo

The status quo is the height of accomplishment currently. To rise beyond that point and conquer new grounds requires challenging it because the current reality is the enemy of the future possibility.  . Those who want to do the impossible say to themselves, “Everybody believes this is the best, but what if they are wrong? What if there are better things that we do not yet see?” “What if there are better ways to do what we are doing?” With that they go on putting question marks on what is popular so that they can do what is regarded as impossible.

The questions those who do the impossible never stop to ask include “Is this the best we can get?” “Can’t we improve on what we already have?” “Is it not possible to do things differently?” The questions open up a new vista of possibilities and what was hitherto believed to be out of reach comes within grasp.

Challenging the status quo achieves one of two things; it either proves that a completely different route needs to be charted or that an improvement is required for what already exists. Either way, questioning the status quo leads to achieving the impossible because there is nothing so good that it cannot be improved upon. Nothing ever gets to the level that it can no longer get better. When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1875, it looked like the ultimate in communication. But if the man were to come back to life now he would doubt that Apple 11 is a derivative of his invention. The creative spirit will not thrive and innovation will not flourish without the courage to question the status quo. The known is the enemy of the possible. Those who do the impossible go beyond the known and thirst for the possible. They challenge the known to get a better result.


They reframe the problem narrative

An issue is deemed impossible because of the narrative built around it. If you are guided by the story built around the problem, changing the situation becomes herculean and doing the impossible is made impossible. But once the narrative about the problem is reframed, the thinking about it changes and it becomes possible to see through the labyrinth. No problem can be solved by the same level of thinking that created it. So, to do the impossible, change how you see what is termed impossible.

When St. Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city after Moscow, was being laid out in the eighteenth century, the officials in charge had a challenge with removing heavy boulders which a glacier from Finland had brought to the city. There was a particular huge rock which covered the path on one of the principal routes that had been planned. The officials asked contractors to submit bids for its removal. The amount demanded by contractors to remove the boulder was prohibitive. While the officials were contemplating on which of the bids to approve, a peasant approached them with a lower bid. Initially, the officials thought he was a joker but one of them said there was no harm in giving the peasant a trial since his own bid was the lowest. So, the peasant was asked to go ahead with removing the rock.

The following day, he appeared on the scene with other peasants who were holding shovels. They dug a hole close to the rock. When it was wide and deep enough to cover the rock, they used timber props to roll the rock into the hole, covered it with dirt and moved away the remaining dirt.

The peasant was able to get result where established contractors failed because he saw the problem from a different perspective. While others were engrossed with moving the boulder away from its location, he devised a means of burying it close to its location.

To do the impossible, reframe the problem narrative.


They are consistent

Inconsistency stalls greatness and aborts dreams. Many people who would have achieved the impossible never did because they lacked the discipline to continue when the situation turned tough. While intelligence is great and conviction is powerful, without consistency, failure is inevitable because achieving the impossible does not come on a silver platter. The impossible comes after sweat and doggedness. Those who can neither perspire nor persevere cannot expect to do the impossible.

Inconsistency often arises from lack of priority. Stephen Covey in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, counsels that first things must be put first. He adds that the key to achieving this is not to prioritise what’s on one’s schedule but to schedule one’s priorities. To be consistent, you have to decide what is important to you and do it irrespective of the challenges or difficulties you may encounter. People fail to be consistent in doing a thing when they lose cognizance of its importance.

Usually, failure is a consequence of consistent inconsistency. Aristotle said a person becomes what he repeatedly does, adding that excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. By inference, those who do not repeatedly do anything become nothing. This is simply because their inconsistence does not allow them to build impetus in a particular direction. The tide is never in their favour because each time they go off course only to come back later, they lose ground and are unable to keep the force. Invariably, they become a shadow of what they could have been.


They raise great teams

An African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go with others. This underscores the power of having a team. Nothing works like a great team because each member is supposed to make up for others’ weaknesses. Therefore, while individuals have weaknesses, a good team does not have any. So, the team is equipped to overcome every hindrance on its way to doing the impossible.

It is important to raise a strong and effective team because just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link so is the capacity of a team determined by its weakest member. If a team is comprised of people who are quite effective and efficient in their respective areas, achieving what is deemed impossible becomes possible.


Last line

Impossibility exists only in the imagination of those who are so comfortable with the status quo that they loathe change.


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