February 20, 2018

Adapt and Overcome

"Pretend impossibilities are possible. They are."

I wrote that "inspiring quote" a few years ago for one of Smith Magazine's Six Word Memoirs projects.

I'd already won a couple of 6WM contests, so I wasn't altogether surprised to find out that I was being included in their 2012 book, Six Words About Work.

After all, I'd been inspired to write those six words by my experiences in the workplace, when I learned that you just have to move forward as though you're going to hit a deadline, even if it seems like there's no way that could actually happen.

In 12 words, that would be: Act like it's going to happen, even if you think it can't. 

In three words, it's: Anything is possible.

And that's why I think Smith Magazine chose to include that quote in their more widely distributed and less thematically specific book published by St. Martin's Press in 2015, The Best Advice in Six Words. It resonates broadly with people.

So broadly, in fact, that I recently found out that the folks at had turned this very same quote into a meme and shared it.

I'm delighted, to say the least. But what I've said isn;t anything new.

The military has been teaching its cadets that very same principle for decades.

At the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, we were fortunate enough to witness a couple Marines complete an obstacle course—quite literally, a physical manifestation of the trials and tribulations that any of us might face (not just in combat, but in everyday life).

On this course, the enlisted men and women of the Marines learn the confidence to attempt something it seems like they can't possibly do. And sure, they fail. But they couldn't succeed without those failures—because there's more than one way to overcome an obstacle, whether it's a log, a wall, a rope, or a bar that's been set a little too high. It takes a while to figure out which one will work the best.

And in the case of hand-to-hand combat, it's tempting to assume you're just done-for—especially if all you've got is your bare hands. But that's when you've got to improvise and find a weapon of opportunity (even if it's something as seemingly benign as a milk jug). And keep trying until you find something that works—because something will work.

It's no different with the working dogs of the Marines, either. They've got their own hurdles to surmount.

The use of these military dogs serves as a good reminder that it's rarely necessary to resort to lethal force right away. The best fight is one that never happens in the first place. If needed, bark first, then bite. And biting doesn't mean tearing someone limb from limb—at least, not right away.

I really admire a goal that's to more often deescalate a conflict rather than overcome with brute force.

Life isn't just about those things that seem impossible to do but also those that may seem impossible not to do. And sometimes a fight seems inevitable, impossible to avoid.

But if the only thing that's certain in life is uncertainty, why not use that to your advantage? Beat the odds. Defy science and logic and the space-time continuum.

Impossibilities are only impossible in theory. In practice, it's up to you to prove yourself wrong.

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