Some of the most important teachers in my life have
been people who have paid no mind to what others said
could and could not be done. I grew up focused on
limitations, on doing things the ways they should be done,
on avoiding the things that were impossible. I've
learned, though, that almost nothing is impossible, and
those people have taught me never to look at a task or an
obstacle and ask myself, "Can I do that?"
Instead, I've learned to ask myself, "How can I make
that happen?" I'm not always successful, but at
least I try, and I am successful much more often than some
people expect me to be.
Robert has hit an important nail on the head for most of
us. We tend to listen to what other people say and
accept it far too quickly and easily. I've heard
people tell me not to hike on certain trails because
they're too difficult--then I've gone and done them and
found them to be not at all hard. I've listened to
people tell me that certain students won't be able to read
well or write well, and then I've seen those students
blossom into quite decent readers and writers.
One incident that sticks in my mind is a conversation I
had with a college freshman who was one of the best
writers I worked with at that particular college.
She told me that when she was in high school, an English
teacher told her that she would never be a good
writer. And he was the expert, right? But
there she was in college, writing papers that were
stronger than those of 95% of her peers. It's a good
thing that she didn't listen to him!
Very often, people will make a claim based on their
theories, not upon experience or first-hand
knowledge. It's worth our while to doubt those
people, especially if we truly want to do something
special. Almost everything that has been deemed
impossible, from flight to running a four-minute mile to
having personal computers has been called impossible by
someone. Always consider the source of such a claim,
and with all due respect, ignore it and move ahead.
You may not succeed the first time, but you most certainly
will learn a lot of important lessons that you wouldn't