That’s impossible

One of my son’s sometimes trots out this phrase. He sees things in black and white, either true or false, possible or impossible.

Achieving anything in life involves removing the word ‘impossible’ from your everyday speech. You have to reframe the way you look at the problem and ask the question ‘where can I start to fix this?’

At a TED conference in 2018, SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell said this about Elon Musk’s sometimes mind-boggling aspirations for the company:

First of all, when Elon says something, you have to pause and not immediately blurt out, “Well, that’s impossible,” or, “There’s no way we’re going to do that. I don’t know how.” So you zip it, and you think about it, and you find ways to get that done.

Once we go from thinking that a problem is impossible to fix, to thinking about how we solve it, there are ways we can be more effective during the problem solving phase as well.

When Albert Einstein was asked how he would spend his time if he was given a problem that his life depended on, and he had only one hour to solve it, he responded with:

  1. Spend 30 minutes analyzing the problem
  2. Spend 20 minutes planning the solution
  3. Spend 10 minutes executing the solution

It’s tempting to jump straight into executing the solution to a problem, but if often leaves out edge cases or bugs that we hadn’t thought of. Taking the time to analyze the problem and plan the solution may seem to be a more time-consuming approach at first, but leads to more robust results.