What people really are saying when they utter these words is: “I don’t how how to do it.” Or, “it can’t be done the way we’ve always tried in the past.” Or, “it can’t be done according to the only way I can think of doing it.”
Here’s why “it can’t be done” is never an accurate statement, no matter what you are referring to
It is impossible to know anything, for certain, about the future. Given what we know we might be able to make reasonable predictions about the future, but we never know everything that might be relevant. Moreover, even if we did, things change all the time, making things that might have been very difficult yesterday relatively easy today
Many things that were considered impossible years ago have since happened. In fact, most “things” that exist today would have been considered impossible to someone living a couple of hundred years ago: airplanes, automobiles, television, space travel, heart transplants, and even indoor plumbing.
Actually we don’t have to go back that far. The personal computer, the Internet, video Skype calls to and from anyplace in the world (free), and cell phones would have been considered impossible even 50 years ago.
Any yet we are certain we are telling the truth when we say to others (and to ourselves): “It can’t be done.”
Steve Jobs Regularly Did The Impossible
Doing more of what we did yesterday isn’t very difficult. Even doing things a little differently or a little better isn’t very difficult. A lot of people do more, different or better every day. But doing something that has never been done before, that most people think is impossible isn’t that easy. It takes guts. It requires us to ignore the naysayers and not fear failure. Unfortunately most of us are all too willing to accept “it can’t be done” both from others and from ourselves.
Steve Jobs didn’t accept it. Ever. He transformed several industries (including mobile phones, the record business, and the personal computer) because he never accepted “It can’t be done” as an answer. And he heard that answer a lot because he was always asking people to do things that had never been done before. He insisted that it (whatever “it” was) could be done and, more often than not, the people who had told him that it couldn’t be done did it.
There are literally hundreds of examples of this from his career. One involves “gorilla glass,” the special glass used to manufacture the iPhone screen. As Walter Isaacson tells the story in his riveting biography of Steve Jobs: “Jobs decided it would feel much more elegant and substantive if the screens were glass. So he set about finding a glass that would be strong and resistant to scratches.”
Isaacson relates how a friend of Jobs told him about a glass that Corning had invented many years before that was exactly what he was looking for, but the company had never manufactured it. So Jobs went to visit the CEO of Corning, Wendell Weeks.
After Weeks told Jobs about the “gorilla glass” his firm had developed, Jobs said that he wanted as much as Corning could make within six months. Weeks responded: “We don’t have the capacity. None of our plants make the glass now.”
Issacson writes that Weeks “tried to explain that a false sense of confidence would not overcome engineering challenges, but that was a premise that Jobs had repeatedly shown he didn’t accept. He stared at Weeks unblinkingly.”
“Don’t be afraid,” Jobs replied. ”Get your mind around it. You can do it.”
“As Weeks retold this story, he shook his head in astonishment. ‘We did it in under six months,’ he said. ‘We produced a glass that had never been made.’”
The Lefkoe Belief Process—Possibilities
Some years ago after doing a lot of work in organizations I concluded that the most damaging belief in organizations was “I (or we) can’t ….” So I created a simple revision of the Lefkoe Belief Process that organizations could use to help employees quickly and easily eliminate “I can’t …” beliefs. Here is a link to a post I wrote that provides the actual steps of the LBP—Possibilities. https://www.mortylefkoe.com/get-rid-of-the-belief.
Creating Breakthroughs Can Be Fun
Many of us agree that we need breakthroughs in most of the important areas of life. In other words, what we are doing now doesn’t really work in government, in our educational system, in providing affordable health care for everyone, etc.
But breakthroughs, by definition, are something new, something that didn’t exist before. You won’t create a breakthrough if you only do things you know how to do. Unfortunately, for far too many people, anything that hasn’t existed before is considered impossible.
Breakthroughs always come for me when I try to do something I’ve never done before and that I don’t know how to do. I love to make promises that I don’t have any idea how I will keep, and then figure out how to keep them.
I did that with the first non-facilitated product we created. A friend of mine, Denis Hann, said to me that I would never really make a broad impact in the world if we only helped people eliminate beliefs in one-to-one sessions with people I had trained. No matter how many facilitators we trained, we’d never reach millions of people.
I agreed, but I had no idea how to create a product that would help people eliminate beliefs without a live facilitator. Denis said he would provide funds for a new company to create such a product if I could create it. It took over six months, but with the assistance of my wife Shelly and Denis’s friend and associate, Leszek Burzynski, I created a DVD product that helps people totally eliminates their fear of public speaking without a live facilitator
I also remember reading in a book about a fascinating distinction between reality and how reality occurs for us. I realized that most people never make that distinction between what actually happens in the world and the meaning we automatically and unconsciously give reality.
Shortly afterward I said to my staff: I’m going to create a course that will teach people how to make this distinction all the time and then easily and totally dissolve the “occurring” (the meaning we give reality). When they asked me if I knew how to do this, I replied, no, but I expected it would be a lot of fun figuring it out. (I did figure it out and the first course was a total success. We’re now in the middle of the seventh Lefkoe Occurring Course and the results improve every time we offer it.)
Good News and Bad News
I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that it is never true that “it can’t be done.” The only questions are how and when. The bad news also is that it is never true that “it can’t be done.” It’s bad news because people have just lost one of their best excuses for avoiding action.
If you really want to make a difference in the world and have fun doing it, commit to achieving some goals that seem impossible—that you don’t know how to accomplish—and then figure out how to achieve them. If you do that you’ll change the world and have a lot of fun doing i.
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