Harness Naïveté: Overcoming “Impossible”

When new engineers joined the incandescent lighting group of General Electric in the 1930s, the director of the division liked to play a joke on them.  He assigned them the task of inventing a coating for light bulbs that would remove the hotspot in the then current state-of-the-art-design.

The joke was that this uniform glow bulb was “impossible” to create.  Engineer after engineer tried and failed at this task.  When each newbie admitted failure and was told the task was impossible, the scene brought out laughter from the rest of the engineers.

This was a wonderful initiation rite until around 1952, when a new engineer brought in his creation, screwed it in, turned it on, and asked the director if this was what he was looking for.  Upon seeing the “impossible bulb,” the director said, “Ah, yup.  That’s it.”

In a way, this is a corollary to thinking different: “Find someone who has not yet thought about the problem at all or someone who doesn’t ‘know’ it’s impossible.”


Most things are impossible not because they are in fact impossible but rather because of the limitations we place upon ourselves.  Much like the engineer at GE over 50 years ago, you have the capacity to accomplish the impossible.  But the first thing you need to fix is your mind.

Your mind is what tells you that you can’t do something.  It will tell you it’s too hard.  Or it will make excuses for why it’s not a good idea.  You have to train it, so you can look past those limitations to the possibilities that the world has given you.

It doesn’t matter what it is.  Maybe it’s losing 20 pounds, maybe it’s getting a new job, maybe it’s moving to a new country or maybe it’s doing something that you’ve always dreamed of doing but for one reason or another never took action on.  Maybe if you stop “knowing” that something is “impossible” you can focus on the doing – which is where all great things are accomplished.

As Google founder, Larry Page, once said, “Have a healthy disregard for the impossible.”

Happy Wednesday!


* Hat tip to Rules For Revolutionaries by Guy Kawasaki and The Weekly Q

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