I have heard it said that the only reason a bee can fly is because it doesn’t know it shouldn’t. And I am fully aware that this notion has been debunked because those beliefs were originally based on fixed wing aerodynamics, however, I wasn’t interested so much in that as I was in the quote.
I happened to be listening to a podcast of TEDTalks, in particular, the disabled activist Caroline Casey speaking about looking past limitations. It is really a motivating talk when you listen to it and I don’t want to spoil the surprise for you, but the point she humorously makes is that often, the limits on what we can do are ones we have put there ourselves. If we don’t know we have limitations, there’s really no saying that we can’t do something. This of course assumes that whatever it is that you are trying to achieve is possible within the laws of physics; for example, I don’t know if I can or cannot lift a Yugo because I have never tried, but something tells me that it’s not likely. I know I can’t overhead press a Suzuki GS750E, so logically I know certain limits.
But in achieving our dreams, the amazing thing about the human mind is that if we don’t know how to do something, and we are innovative enough and curious enough, we can take what resources we have and solve problems. After all, mankind has been doing this since the invention of the wheel, and our creativity continues to evolve daily with each new thing we know (and each thing we don’t).
As leaders, we have to not just eliminate barriers for our subordinates’ success, but to avoid putting ideas of failure in their head as well. I can think of a number of occasions in my life where I was discouraged from doing something because the individual themselves saw it as “impossible” or “unrealistic”. I know of times where my own vision was belittled by people whom I should have been getting encouragement from instead.
There is a difference between coaching or mentoring to consider timing and resource allocation, or simply looking at alternatives, and complete undermining of your dreams. In my own case, sometimes I wonder what those people say now that I have made some of those dreams possible?
Failure is something to be expected when we are stretching forward. We reach until we slip and fall. But success comes when you learn to recover from failure. If you have to be propped back up every time you get knocked down, it doesn’t build resilience, it builds dependence. A key secret to success is to appreciate the failures for what they are: a lesson. Develop ideas based on those experiences and get back on the road again.
We need to understand that dreams are what positive change is made of. If we aren’t focusing on the hurdles, we won’t be worried about clearing them. And if we happen to hit one of those hurdles, we keep our eyes on the goal and figure out what it takes to get there. Look to the finish line and reap the reward of success.