Have you ever heard the story of how Stephen Hawking solved several “impossible” math equations? It’s one of my all-time favorites, because it contains such a valuable lesson for success.
While he was in college, Hawking overslept and arrived late to an exam. Seeing four complex problems on the board, he immediately went to work. He solved two of them, but pleaded for more time when he couldn’t finish all four in the time allotted.
The professor explained that he wrote the problems on the board for show only. They were from the list of problems determined to be forever unsolvable by man. Imagine the professor’s surprise when he graded the tests, and discovered that Hawking had actually solved two of them.
Whether he would have solved them had he known they were “impossible,” we’ll never know. But just as I’ve seen how people who believe they can do something, do it – I have seen that most people who believe something is impossible don’t do it, and usually never even try.
Think about it…
Imagine if you and I were chatting in 1940 and I told you I was going to invent a machine that would take a photo and then develop it while you held it in your fingers. Or a machine that you could slide a letter through and it would print that letter at a similar machine at your friend’s house 3,000 miles away. Or a telephone with no cord that you could take with you and talk to someone from a boat at sea. You would have probably thought I was delusional and could have made a pretty compelling argument why these things were impossible.
But someone believed that the Kodak instamatic camera, fax machine, and cell phone were possible. And because they believed this to be true – it was.
The reality is, when you believe something is impossible, you’re probably never even going to attempt it. But other people who believe the same thing is possible will attempt it. And often prove that it actually was possible. I would wager that ninety percent of the time when people say something is impossible – it’s actually just difficult, daunting, or scary to attempt.
Whenever you come across something you believe is impossible, the best question you can ask yourself is,“But if it was possible, how would it be done?”
Do this often enough and you start to think in possibility terms, instead of impossibility ones. And once you begin to believe something is even possibly possible – you inevitably come up with a better solution.
Now I know some of you are chafing right now, thinking of something that really, truly is impossible. But if it was possible…