Topic : Impossible

Four-Minute Mile

Do you remember the four-minute mile? They’d been trying to do it since the days of the ancient Greeks. Someone found the old records of how the Greeks tried to accomplish this. They had wild animals chase the runners, hoping that would make them run faster. They tried tiger’s milk: not the stuff you get down at the supermarket, I’m talking about the real thing.

Nothing worked, so they decided it was physically impossible for a human being to run a mile in four minutes. Our bone structure was all wrong, the wind resistance was too great, our lung power was inadequate. There were a million reasons.

Then one day one human being proved that the doctors, the trainers, and the athletes themselves were all wrong. And, miracle of miracles, the year after Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile. And the year after that three hundred runners broke the four-minute mile!

Harvey Mackay, U.S. Entrepreneur and author in Speechwriter’s Newsletter, quoted in Bits & Pieces, July 20, 1995, pp. 20-22.

It’s a Long Way to Tipperary

The next time you feel yourself feeling confident, challenge yourself to do the impossible. You just may. There are legions of people with unchallenged genius potential.

In 1912, two Irish music hall players were spending an afternoon in a pub at Stalybridge in Cheshire, England. They were extolling the musical traditions of Ireland when it’s said they boasted they could write and perform a song in the same day. It might have been a gimmick to stimulate attendance or it could have been genius jumping out of its bag, for It’s a Long Way to Tipperary was performed that night at the Stalybridge Grand Theater by Jack Judge and Harry Williams. It was an overnight success that gained tremendous popularity during World War I as an Allies marching song.

Bits & Pieces, May 28, 1992, pp. 18-19

Slide Rule

When I was research head of General Motors and wanted a problem solved, I’d place a table outside the meeting room with a sign: Leave slide rules here. If I didn’t do that, I’d find someone reaching for his slide rule. Then he’d be on his feet saying, “Boss, you can’t do it.”

Charles F. Kettering in Bits and Pieces, December, 1991, p. 24

Frosting Lightbulbs

Years ago new engineers in the Lamp Division of General Electric were assigned, as a joke, the impossible task of frosting bulbs on the inside. Eventually, however, an undaunted newcomer named Marvin Pipkin not only found a way to frost bulbs on the inside but developed an etching acid that gave minutely rounded pits instead of sharp depressions. This materially strengthened each bulb. Fortunately, no one had told him it couldn’t be done, so he did it.

Bits and Pieces, December, 1989, pp. 20-21

V-8 Engine

Automobile genus Henry Ford once came up with a revolutionary plan for a new kind of engine which we know today as the V-8. Ford was eager to get his great new idea into production. He had some men draw up the plans, and presented them to the engineers. As the engineers studied the drawings, one by one they came to the same conclusion. Their visionary boss just didn’t know much about the fundamental principles of engineering. He’d have to be told gently—his dream was impossible. Ford said, “Produce it anyway.” They replied, “But it’s impossible.” “Go ahead,” Ford commanded, “and stay on the job until you succeed, no matter how much time is required.”

For six months they struggled with drawing after drawing, design after design. Nothing. Another six months. Nothing. At the end of the year Ford checked with his engineers and they once again told him that what he wanted was impossible. Ford told them to keep going. They did. And they discovered how to build a V-8 engine.

Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich, 1960.



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