Is ‘Impossible’ a Fact or an Opinion?



Whether it has been in big or small situations, I believe everyone throughout life has witnessed situations where the word ‘impossible’ has related to a specific action or idea but sooner or later it has been proved wrong.

In the history, there are evidences that impossible is more an opinion than a fact and for the sake of this article, there are two great examples related to transport which are simply undebatable.

The airplane. A number of scientists and engineers confidently stated that heavier-than-air flight was impossible – the most famous statement came in 1895 from Lord Kelvin, the Irish mathematician, “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible”, only to be proved definitively wrong just eight years later. This one doesn’t need to elaborate further.

The Panama Canal. In 1534, Charles V, the Holy Roman emperor, ordered a survey to determine if the two oceans, Atlantic and Pacific, could be connected and a canal built for ships to cross. The surveyors eventually decided that construction of a ship canal was impossible. A theory that was also disproved. In January 7, 1914 the ship Alexandre La Valley completed it’s maiden voyage going through Panama Canal. Today 13,000-14,000 vessels pass through the Panama Canal each year, at a rate of about 35-40 per day and ships up to 1,050 ft (320.04 m) in length, 110 ft (33.53 m) in width can cross. It is an engineering masterpiece.

How many times have you experienced situations where your projects or ideas have been judged as “impossible to be accomplished”? How often have you witnessed circumstances originally seen as impossible but soon later a solution to surmount every single obstacle has been found.

As per Oxford dictionary, the word ‘Impossible’ means “Not able to occur, exist, or be done”

I have had a quite few of these ‘impossible situations myself, and for 90% of the most important cases I can recollect, where idea thought to be impossible, soon and with a little bit of devotion, passion and investigation, it was proven to be conceivable. Experiencing this, hearing the word “impossible” when my gut feeling says “yes, it can be done” became a derailer one of my derailers to the extent that in some cases, naysayers were put aside in order to deliver on a specific project. Luckily, it is today something I learned to be more conscious about, not to lose important stakeholders along the way but invest more time to get their support of even to become ambassadors.

Just recently I was reflecting on that and wondering how many opportunities are lost just because great ideas are stopped because someone said it is “impossible” and the following questions arisen in my mind which I brought to my coach Trevor Sherman (owner of this blog):

  • How can we coach our people (employees, peers and even superiors) to arouse the earnest desire to “WIN” and “can-do” mindset?
  • How can we coach our people to build an organization where “impossible” is nothing but a source of inspiration and motivation to find solutions that will place its organization ahead of competition?
  • What is the leadership style you can apply to prevent your organization from missing great opportunities?

The ‘Leadership Influencing’ competency framework of Leader of Others along with planned coaching sessions with Trevor helped me not only in answering these questions but also adjusting my leadership towards winning.

Arousing winning and “can-do” mindset in a team can be achieved through coaching. It is the leader’s responsibility to remain optimistic and to instigate such attitude in their team. A bold and seasoned leader knows how to extract the best of its team through coaching and encouragement even during crises and tough circumstances.

If you want to know more about leadership influencing, Ask Trevor.

Quote about leadership from Dr. Myles Monroe, Bahamian motivational speaker: “Leadership is the capacity to influence others through inspiration motivated by passion, generated by vision, produced by a conviction, ignited by a purpose.”

Using appropriate methods and interpersonal styles to persuade others to accept a point of view, adopt a plan or take a course of action that will advance business goals; adjusting own behaviour to accommodate values, priorities, goals and needs of people involved; overcoming obstacles and driving for positive outcomes.

Competency framework and key actions

  1. Seizes influencing opportunitiesRecognises and proactively seeks opportunities to advance business goals.
  2. Makes a strong caseStates outcome-oriented purpose; presents logical arguments; clearly explains relevant facts; presents a well-structured, convincing case.
  3. Adjusts approachAdapts influencing strategies based on the people involved and business purpose; negotiates with others using business rationale to influence decisions and handle concerns and objections.
  4. Questions for understandingUses open-ended questioning to explore, clarify, and gain commitment to operational and strategic needs; checks for understanding of needs and requirements.
  5. Advocates to business or organisational needsPresents ideas, suggestions, and recommendations in a manner that links to organisational needs and priorities.
  6. Drives to outcomesUses appropriate techniques to move others to action or to gain agreement; summarises expected outcomes; establishes next steps; delegates tasks; confirms accountabilities.

Positive outcome

People are clear about the value of your plans and ideas – You can test this by asking people: How does this idea link to the current business priorities (Must Win Battles)? How will this plan impact other teams and individuals?

People can explain their role in your plans and ideas – You can test this by asking people: What is your role in this? How do you see this benefiting you personally? How does this idea make you feel (emotional attachment)?

People become advocates for you and your proposals – You can test this by observing: The attention they give when you present your ideas – eye contact, nodding, asking purposeful questions. Their paraphrasing of what you have said when discussing the proposals with others. Their willingness to get involved and enrol others.

People feel attached to your plans – Here is what you will observe: They offer unprompted positive suggestions and ideas to add value to your concepts. They use language which includes themselves in your vision of the future.

People are committed to the success of your ideas – Here is what you will observe: They ask how they can help you, support you or enrol others. They use language which assumes your plans will be successful.

Albert Einstein, German-born theoretical physicist was quoted as saying: “The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

To comment about this article please use the ‘Leave a Reply’ box below.

One Reply to “Is ‘Impossible’ a Fact or an Opinion?”

  1. Very well written, Domingos! Having worked with you, I can only say that you have practiced all of what you have written herein and are a well accepted and respected “Leader”. More knowledge and power to you.

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