Friday, September 10, 2010

The word "impossible" is a fallacy

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Difficult things take a long time, impossible things a little longer. - André A. Jackson
My dear friend, Marie Blackstock Rhoades shared this quote on her Facebook wall a few weeks ago. It prompted a thought for me that grew into the foundation for a blog article. I typed it into my Drafts folder, fleshed it out a bit and then left it until today. I feel this is always a timely topic to ponder. I'm not saying this is true 100% of the time, but I will say that I have learned over my life that a great deal of the time, the word 'impossible' is a fallacy.

Years ago - back when computers were still be managed w/ DOS language (shudder), I worked for an environmental engineering group. Nightmarish conditions, because they hired a lot of retired engineers who had worked for 30+ years in Oak Ridge, TN (Secret City, Manhattan Project) and had been trained to be inefficient. So, here I was, working w/ these men and translating their daily instructions into Fault Trees for Nuclear Meltdown - building an inverted pyramid w/ the apex/tip of the pyramid being meltdown and the widening cone of the pyramid being all the individual points that had to first happen before meltdown occurred.

It was tedious work, using (at the time) a new software imaging program that wasn't user friendly or intuitive. The engineer I was assigned to would give me sheets of instructions to transfer into fault tree status and I'd work on it and return it to him. I'd argue and tell him he was asking for things that couldn't fit into a specific parameter and he'd ignore me and say he needed it by 5pm. Great, right? We've all worked in environments that weren't supportive and we all know that we have to swallow rude comments and lack of support and find a way to get the job at hand done. So, I'd go back to the computer and wrestle with it, get it figured out and accomplish what he asked for.
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Weeks into this project, a younger engineer came to me with the printouts I had worked on and sat down and said, "How did you do this?" I looked at the printouts - huge reams of ink plotted graphs - and thought, "Oh no, what have I done? Created something that really WILL kill a whole city if the instructions [for the Fault Tree] are off?"

His next comment: "Look, don't worry - you haven't done anything wrong at all. What you have done is actually not possible to create with that software package and we need to know how you did it."

Me: "What do you mean, it isn't possible? The engineer I'm working with told me it was."

Him: "He's an idiot and he KNEW it wasn't possible. He treats all his assistants that way. We've told him over and over to not do this to new people in his group; he always dumps the hardest stuff on new people and blames them when his deadlines aren't met. But this time, that didn't happen. He came in ahead of deadline. His written reports are flawless and extremely well written, AND these plot graphs are something that isn't supposed to be possible with that software package. We just want to know how you did it so we can take notes and create a new training system. You made the program do something it wasn't designed to do and the designer even told us today he'd never seen anything like this. He said the program shouldn't be able to perform in that manner."

I can remember just staring at him in confusion, then finally laughing. Little old me who knew zero about programming, coding or how to coerce a software program to cooperate had somehow circumnavigated the system, admittedly out of blissful ignorance, and created some landmark achievement that had nuclear engineers stunned and impressed. All because I didn't know that this feat was 'supposed to be impossible'.

So, in a long-winded manner, this is a good example of the above quote. I did something that, in theory, was impossible because I didn't KNOW it was impossible. All I knew was that I was given a task, a deadline and was working with someone who threw me off a cliff and expected me to fly with no warning. So, I found a way to achieve that. I still think of that, all these years later, when times are tough. I redefined 'impossible' and created a new version of 'possible'.

We're conditioned at a very early age to doubt ourselves. To not speak up when our intuition is telling us a better method of approach is available. We subdue our inner voice to fit in and become another mindless sheep in the vast herd. For some people, this type of existence works quite well and I am not slamming that fact, or denigrating those people. For me, simply existing isn't an option. I want to live my life out loud, knowing that I am constantly making waves, moving forward, conquering new goals and achieving new dreams. That moment in my past was another of those pivotal, Life Changing points. I learned that I have a much more agile mind than I gave myself credit for all those years ago. These days I listen to my own inner voice and I honor myself in the ways that allow me to thrive and flourish.

I seek experiences that other people warn me are not smart to try. I reach for goals that many delight in telling me that I'll never achieve. I ignore 'well meaning advice' because 99.9% of the time, that advice is being offered as a means to deter me or break my dreams apart. I know that within me is an incredible well of talent. There's a bright glowing core of energy pulsing and sending out vibrant streams of possibilities....and that core of energy is uniquely mine. I've had moments of accomplishment that underscore how important self belief is. I have strong intentions for more triumphant moments to occur. I say this because I know and repeat today that a great deal of the time, the word 'impossible' is a fallacy. The word 'impossible' is just a word.
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When naysayers get in your way with their dire warnings and predictions of failure and doom, I suggest you cheerfully ignore them and chart your own course. RETHINK IMPOSSIBLE. Create your new version of possible. How we choose to react to words and unexpected events, as I have said many times before, is what defines us. It's your life, after all. Your story to write, your canvas to paint...your doorway to step through.

I choose to continually define myself as that person who writes her own reality.
If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me at Healing Morning blog.