One of the most powerful words you’ll ever hear as an entrepreneur is ‘impossible’. It can simultaneously lead you in your most negative and positive directions, depending on how you treat it. As an entrepreneur, there’s a good chance you’ve heard it a lot. People telling you a business idea is impossible. You telling yourself that your goals are impossible. Impossibility abounds around you.
A famous quote, by an unknown author, says that it “always seems impossible until it’s done”. Regardless of who said it, the quote has a lot of truth in it. There is a large list of modern ideas and inventions that were deemed impossible even by scientists and experts at the time they were conceived.
The lightbulb was deemed a failure before it began by most of the British government and scientific community. Around 100 years ago many prominent physicists dismissed the idea of air travel as impossible.
Beyond things that break the fundamental laws of the universe, there’s a good chance that the thing you think is impossible is not. If you can conceive it, then there’s a good chance you can make it a reality.
Thinking something is impossible does have a profound effect though. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nobody wants to waste their time, so if you believe something is possible, you’ll stop doing it. If you stop doing it, it never gets done. If it never gets done, you can convince yourself that it was always impossible. You create impossibility by believing it.
As much as that’s true, the idea of impossibility is one of the driving forces of entrepreneurship. If everyone believed everything was possible, you’d have a lot more innovation going on, and a lot more competition.
Entrepreneurs need everyone else to think things are impossible, so they can prove them wrong. We need other people to say “You can’t do that”, so we can go do it, and reap the benefits and rewards of being able to understand the nature of impossibility.
Justin Cobb is an international entrepreneur, based in the US, with a network of companies spanning the globe.