There’s the old saying “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t -- you’re right” from Henry Ford. I’ve thought about this more recently while reading the book The Rise of Superman Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance which talks about how athletes have performed so called impossible feats over the past few decades.
One critical thing these individuals have in common is to forget that what they want to do is impossible or to never know it in the first place. (There's more to the book, but that's for another day.) My favorite example involves skateboarder Tony Hawk and a child who was born the year Tony was the first person to do the 900 – or two and half revolutions. The 900 was considered an impossible feat, and Tony worked on it for ten years, but since then, a handful of others did it as well. The most remarkable was Tom Schaar, the baby born a few months after Tony’s 900. When Tom successfully did the 900 at age 12, he had lived his entire life knowing that it was possible. Within a year, he became the first person to do a 1080.
It’s not that I’m interested in skateboarding, but I love this story and many of the others about climbing, surfing, and more. In each of these sports, the impossible feat one day becomes the norm the next. Obviously, these folks had to work very hard, but they also believed they could do it.
In my own life, I love to do stairclimbing events. Back in 2007, I worked in the 42-story building where a stair climb event was announced. I had been running quite a bit back then, but I thought climbing 42 flights of stairs, if possible at all, would take an hour. One day, it was raining, so two of my co-workers and I decided to attempt the stairs instead of running outside. We couldn’t believe it! It took us just 17 minutes, and that was with taking a few breaks along the way. I soon found that it took me 15 minutes if I didn’t try too hard and could get up there in 11 minutes if I pushed myself. My time on race day was 10:10, and that was actually slow for my age group. Since then, I’ve climbed the Space Needle in Seattle, participated in The Bisbee 1000 Great Stair Climb in Arizona, and several local events. When I talk about stairclimbing, most people think it’s impossible to climb 40 flights of stairs, but they could do it too, if they just tried.
Not many people will accomplish something as spectacular as Tony Hawk or Tom Schaar, but there are often things that people want to do but don’t believe they can. Maybe that is writing a book, presenting at a conference, or learning skills towards a new career path. Believing you can do it is a big part of the battle.