06 Jan

People who are willing to pursue something that has never been done before generally fall within one of two categories. The first includes those that stubbornly refuse to accept that something is impossible.  The second is that they have no other choice but to act.

The second category is much easier to describe and explain.  Allow me to do so by way of illustration.  Someone lost at sea might believe that their ability to reach land again is impossible.  They can choose to wait for death to overcome them, but it is much more likely that they will take some form of action to try to survive.  When they wash up on shore and are rescued everyone will say that they have achieved the impossible.  The truth is that their other choice was not very desirable and goes against every human instinct.

Those that refuse to believe that a task or goal is impossible are another breed altogether.  They display a level of passion and determination to disprove the world view that something cannot be done.  It does not matter if it is a somewhat simple task, like getting people to accept the use of a new technology, or somewhat more complex such as finding a cure for cancer.  Their commitment to the challenge, their unswerving faith in their ability to accomplish a goal might come form personal accomplish and fame or simply the desire to help improve the world. Whatever the reason, they find a way to stick with the quest through both success and failures.

I don't believe that these individuals come with a couple extra persistence or perseverance genes.  Nor do I feel they are totally crazy as some might suggest.  They are, however, blessed (or cursed) with some deep sense of gratification or meaning as a result of their pursuit of the impossible.  Every single step that produces a success and even every failure encountered is a part of the total experience.  Success in the eyes of others is not important as long as they feel they are making progress.  Success is often based upon continuing to significantly increase their own knowledge, or the world's understanding, about their passion.  It may also be based upon discovering what does not work.

Every single success achieved or brick wall encountered has a purpose.  Each is a step closer to accomplishing the possible. Consider the researcher whose life is guided by the clear mission of finding a cure for pancreatic cancer.  It is not just what he does that defines him or who he is.  It is his passion for changing the world.

This devotion to discovery will sometimes lead to astounding discoveries and dramatic changes in beliefs. There were many who believed that human flight was impossible. But there were several who believed that it was possible.  Several teams set out to try. Many were well funded and had considerable talent and resources at their disposal.  What made it possible for the Wright Brothers to be successful where others failed?   They also failed in their pursuit, but two factors made a considerable difference. One was that they truly believed and were dedicated totally to manned flight.  The second was their passion for pursuing the possibility.

This dedication, belief, and passion erased the belief that it was impossible to fly, and this quickly led to a number of additional discoveries.  Before we knew it, man was breaking the sound barrier, which ultimately led to Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon, that led to scientific discoveries that we are still experiencing today.  Once manned flight was established the world became open to endless possibilities.

Almost all of us hold in our hand another example, the Smart Phone.  Imagine the time before Alexander Graham Bell and his efforts to convince people that long-distance communication was not only possible, but it could be absolutely easy and convenient.  Telegraph was what people knew and anything else was...well impossible.  Sending voice and light, and data was not even a dream and yet it is extremely easy and convenient today.  We now even have clouds that contain our information. It starts with a need and a commitment to meet the need.  

But pursuing the impossible in whatever field or endeavor is not always about the end result or the success.  It may also be about the journey, what you can learn in the process, and what greater possibilities the results might achieve.  What might it take to achieve it?  What might be holding us back?  Do we have the capacity, the ability to accomplish the goal in the face of great odds?  

Again, allow me to illustrate?  I could study song and dance for years and practice daily for long hours. The fact is that I will never win a part in a Broadway play.  Many others will but I am convinced, it just will not be me.  You might say that this is limiting my belief.  I would say that it is not an issue of my beliefs, but of talent.  Part of the ability to achieve something is the knowledge and understanding of what is not achievable.

Achieving the impossible is rarely a solo act; it takes a dedicated team of individuals organized, motivated and led toward a dream.  We are familiar with the names of great men who had the visions and are credited with the successes but the fact is that they were great leaders first. Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence, but it is also about making sure that this impact lasts in your absence.  Kennedy was a great leader that we credit with achieving the impossible task of going to the moon.  He established the vision, but he also set in motion the forces that would accomplish the task.

What impossibility are you pursuing today?  Have you identified your passion and the abilities you command?  I believe that my role is to help create transformational leaders who will help their organizations rise to new levels, and accomplish even greater things.  Share with me your impossible dreams and let's talk about what we can do to achieve them.

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