It’s Always Impossible

Until it’s not.

Do you remember when Tony Hawk landed his first 900? Millions of people, including myself, watched history get made in real-time during the 1999 X-Games when Tony tried and tried and tried again (10 failed attempts in all) to land the first 900 degree spin (that’s 2-and-a-half full rotations).

It was an impossible trick. Impossible, that is, until he landed it.

It’s worth watching again:

What is “impossible” for you?

For me, I thought running more than 4 miles was impossible. I would say things like “I’m not a long-distance runner”.

But in training for my first half marathon I found out that it wasn’t impossible at all. I just hadn’t practiced before.

In her insightful book Grit, Angela Duckworth points out that we keep ourselves from taking on challenges and becoming skilled at something by saying things like “that’s not me”. Other people are good at that because they’re “geniuses”, or they’re “naturals”, but not me. By putting them in an elite category, we let ourselves hook. In reality though, most people we admire acquired their talent through practice, they weren’t born with it.

Duckworth quotes Nietzsche, who says:

“Do not talk about giftedness, inborn talents! One can name great men of all kinds who were very little gifted. They acquired greatness, became ‘geniuses’ (as we put it)…”

If you look at something you’re not good at but would like to be, rather than saying “that’s not me,” maybe it would be more accurate to say “that’s not me yet“.

You’re not a book author yet.

You’re not good at remembering names yet.

You’re not a long-distance runner yet.

How did those with talent get where they are? The same way you will. One mile at a time. One failed 900 degree spin at a time.

Don’t sell yourself short. It’s not impossible, you just haven’t done it yet.

With thanks to Greg, for teaching me about grit, and reminiscing about that first 900 ;).