‘Impossible’ is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
– John C. Maxwell
I didn’t know this quote by heart. I was actually searching for the source of “nothing is impossible”, when I came across this quote. It’s much more long-winded (not unlike a certain blog you happen to read), but it also makes an excellent point: ‘impossible’ is a dare.
And a word of warning to anyone choosing to say “it can’t be done” to your manager: you better be prepared to back it up.
For the record, I’ve said “no”, “can’t be done”, “impossible”, and a host of other synonyms over my career to my managers, project managers, and even my clients. But before you say “Pot? It’s Kettle calling…” I’ll preface that with the following reasons:
- It’s sometimes easier to phrase something as being “too difficult” rather than explain in detail
- Often related to the cost to implement fully (e.g. “impossible within that budget”)
- Laziness (e.g. “I don’t want to do that”)
I neither endorse nor condone haphazard use of “impossible”, though I do recognise the periodic necessity of it.
That said, I still hear it and its synonyms as reasons for not doing something. And that bothers me. Not because of the words or their meaning, but because of the decision behind their use. It means that someone has decided that a given situation isn’t worth their time, their consideration, or their input. It’s a dismissal of a need. Let me throw another quote at you:
What we’re saying today is that you’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.
– Eldridge Cleaver
The context is decidedly different, but I echo the sentiment: Work the problem, don’t be the problem.
People — and I use the term very broadly as to indicate a general trend — are more apt to point out problems than they are to suggest solutions. I’ll bet you even do it yourself, unconsciously. What causes it, or what makes people want to act in that manner, I don’t know. And yes, I used to do this myself, too.
As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy than to create. And while criticism has its place, unbalanced criticism has no purpose other than to state an opinion. Telling someone that there is a problem without suggesting a possible solution is just that — criticism. The problem isn’t in giving criticism, it’s in giving
Go on, try. I double-dog dare you.