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The empowering aspect of naiveté

First-Person

Posted: August 24, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 24, 2014 2:00 a.m.
 

One of my cherished possessions is a paperweight, a gift from my daughter Linda.

Inscribed thereon is a simple question, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” How powerful the wisdom etched in those few words!

History is rife with stories of individuals who overcame the advice of ‘experts’ and accomplished a feat judged impossible by the learned cognoscenti.

The four-minute mile, man’s ability to fly, recording sound, traveling into space, a small powerful telephone that fits in your pocket. Some of these never dreamed of, others thought to be beyond reach — now commonplace.

A favorite story of mine is of the time Henry Ford was trying to perfect the wraparound automobile windshield.

He consulted with experts from the major glass producers and was advised that his concept of a window that extended in an unbroken arc from the left side of the car to the right was too large to be fabricated safely and reliably.

Henry Ford was not easily discouraged. Hiring two bright college engineering graduates, and assuring himself in advance that neither of them knew anything about glass fabrication, he assigned them the task.

In less than six months they had accomplished the goal. The two had quickly come up with a process that worked and was ultimately used in millions of cars.

You see, no one told them it couldn’t be done. They had no preconceived notions or negative input to get in their way. They just did it.

In 1913, William Mulholland brought water to Los Angeles over 233 miles of mountains and desert from the Owens Valley to the San Fernando Valley. The pipeline was designed without computers, was built without modern power machinery, and was dug mostly by hand using 5000 laborers.

He did it under budget and in less time than allotted. How did he do it? Simple, he didn’t know it was impossible.
Kelly Johnson ran the Skunk Works at Lockheed and performed the impossible on a regular basis. Under his direction, crews of machinists, engineers, and technicians built the most advanced aircraft ever produced.

He did it in record time, usually under budget, and often returned money to his customers. What was his secret?

He didn’t understand the phrase, “Can’t be done.”

What about you? What idea constantly circulates through your fertile mind that could help mankind, make life easier, become the next hot Internet idea, solve our water crisis, or just maybe make you a bundle of money?

What stops you? Does everyone tell you your idea is crazy? Are you confronted with negativity everywhere you turn?

Are you afraid to leave a steady boring job for the possibility of something truly exciting? Do you think you’re too old or too young?

The only thing stopping you is yourself. Success at such endeavors converts the ‘crazy idea’ into the commonly heard expression, “Wish I’d thought of that!”

Our world is unfortunately filled with naysayers who for whatever reason are unwilling to step out of the ordinary, to take a chance on a new idea, or to make themselves uncomfortable for the chance to do something really exciting.

What is most pathetic about them is that they discourage others, kill enthusiasm, and take the drive out of those they influence.

People like Bill Gates, Meg Whitman, Steve Jobs, Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Jackie Robinson, Mark Zuckerberg and many more are (or were) just ordinary people who had an idea, took a chance, and in the process made a huge impact on the world.

But yet you hesitate. You ask yourself, “What if I fail?”

I say, “So what?” So you fail one, two, or even ten times along the way.

Thomas Edison tried 648 different materials before he made a practical light bulb.

Steve Jobs was fired from Apple Computer, and nearly went bankrupt trying to create his second computer company, which ultimately failed. But then he returned, built Apple into the most valuable company on earth, and in the process changed the way we work and play.

Cut the excuses, turn off the TV, put that video game in the drawer, get off your butt, and join the list. It’s fun out here!

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