What would you do if you believed that you could do the impossible?
You might think that question is an illogical one, because no one can do the impossible. The very definition of the word means not possible. But in reality, people have accomplished seemingly impossible feats.
One example is Wilbur and Orville Wright. In 1903, in the remote Outer Banks of North Carolina, the brothers successfully flew an airplane. They had no credentials to suggest that they could be aeronautical pioneers. They had no college degrees, no experience in engineering or flight, no friends in high places and no financial backing.
Absolutely nothing about their background or personalities would have suggested to anyone that someday they would change the world.
What they did have was an unyielding curiosity, the tenacity for deeply studying both birds and books, and a spirit that allowed them to continuously push forward with their ideas despite setbacks and failures. Sons of a clergyman, they were continuously encouraged to read and explore new ideas. Their father encouraged them to develop good character, to find a worthy purpose and to persevere.
The Wright brothers persevered through things that would have stopped others. Their planes crashed and broke. Adverse weather interfered with their flight plans. Often they had to stop their investigations and return to their bicycle shop to make more money in order to continue their project.
They persisted through ridicule and criticism. Even after they had successfully flown a plane, the media did not take much interest. The brothers did not seek the limelight, and had little interest in being famous. They were driven by something else, something held deeply within; they had a bold dream and an undying belief that they could accomplish what others had not been able to do. Their work was their labor of love.
What drives people to believe that they can accomplish something so incredible? When I read biographies, such as The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough, I want to understand the traits that people who believe they can do seemingly impossible things possess.
What made Neil Armstrong believe he could walk on the moon? What was it within Junko Tabei that made her believe that she could be the first woman to summit Mt. Everest? What gives Oprah the courage to challenge the rules and expectations for what a poor black child raised in the south can be?
Why does anyone do what they do? We all hold a set of beliefs about who we are and what we can accomplish. I suspect that most of us hold tightly to beliefs that limit us.
What would happen if we challenged ourselves to change those beliefs to be bigger and bolder?
Where might we take ourselves if we believed that we could accomplish the magnificent?
What would be the best and most masterful version of our lives look like?
The questions are intriguing, inspiring and terrifying.
Many of us play small because we fear the unknown. We like living in our comfort zone where we know that we are safe and secure. Playing small lessens our chance of failure. We aren’t willing to pay the costs-not only in money, but in time, labor, and emotional upheaval. We aren’t willing to put our reputations, our families or our lives on the line.
However, challenging ourselves to be better and do better does not always demand a drastic risk. The Wright Brother were successful by taking small actions, one after another, for many years. They saved up a bit of money, built a flying contraption, tried it out and failed. They read some more, adjusted something with the plane or with their process and tried again. Rather than taking one big and bold step, they inched their way to success.
Many of us struggle with the “go big or go home” mentality. Rather than risk it all, we back off.
Maybe we don’t have to do bold or audacious things. Maybe we don’t have to have superhero strength or death defying courage.
Maybe, what needs to be bold is our belief, and then, by taking small, regular steps, we can achieve dramatic things in our lives.
Mother Teresa, another person who changed the world, said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
Maybe, just maybe, doing small things with great love is how we change ourselves and maybe even the world.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.