Impossible: Ban It from Your Vocabulary

The word “impossible” keeps many people from doing what they’re capable of. Along with many other words, “impossible” should be banned from your vocabulary.

Now, there are certainly things in life that are impossible, but you won’t know what they are until you try them and then try again. A lack of precedence doesn’t necessitate a reality of constraints. Biblical interpretation actually serves as a good example for explaining this point.

The fallacious statements of “It doesn’t happen elsewhere in the biblical text and thus can’t happen here” or “It never happens before this passage and thus cannot be the conclusion” are common mistakes in academic biblical interpretation. Such statements are equal in their problematic nature to “We can’t do that because no one has done it before.” (We know the history of innovation contradicts such statements.) In the Bible, these statements are ridiculous because they rule out God’s work and because they assume that the written record is all that happened in biblical times. Likewise, when we assume that a project (or project schedule) is impossible, we’re ruling out the possibility of God revealing something new or doing something impossible. We’re also keeping ourselves from doing something innovative or amazing–our psyche stands in our way.

Similarly, a friend of mine recently told me about a software developer who regularly had his research rejected. It came back to him with the stamp of “impossible.” Today, the software developer has created the program deemed “impossible” by his academic peers and is likely going to make millions from doing so. Why? He rejected what other people considered impossible and made it happen.

Michael Jordan was deemed too short to make the varsity basketball team in his sophomore year. Jordan ignored this “not good enough yet” status and went on to invent shots and accomplish many firsts in the NBA. As we know, he is arguably the best basketball player who has ever lived. What if he had lived with his status as “b-team”?

Impossible not only hurts projects–it hurts you. It’s a dangerous word. It can end the usefulness of lives if believed and deem us to mediocrity. It can also keep us from seeing God at work, which is a far greater price to pay than lost productivity.

When Edison began working on the lightbulb, the lightbulb was essentially useless. Without power in homes, it didn’t matter. So Edison focused on the system to bring light to homes. Everyone around Edison must have thought he was insane. “You really plan to run cables to every home?” He probably responded, “Yep.” I’m sure they shrugged their shoulders and walked away. (Impossible wasn’t in Edison’s vocabulary.) What if he had believed them? It’s possible that I wouldn’t be writing this on a laptop plugged into the wall.

What words shouldn’t be in your vocabulary?

One Response to “Impossible: Ban It from Your Vocabulary”

  1. Doug Mangum August 21, 2012 at 8:27 am #

    Can we still use “impossible” for things that are really impossible? For example, it’s impossible for me to fly like Superman off the roof of our office building.

    But on the whole, I agree that convincing ourselves something’s impossible can hold us back.

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