I still remember the feeling of being blown away by “The Matrix“. The movie had stunning visual effects. But more remarkably, it helped connect several dots in my head that have evolved into life-transforming mantras:
Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth. There is no spoon
Many of us lead our lives with bags of things that we believe impossible to achieve – spoons that we cannot bend. The spoon may be the aspiration to be an Olympic athlete, climb Mt Everest, run for the president’s office, or as common as a resolution to resist the urge to overeat, read a book every moth, blog regularly or make time to connect with old friends. We are often limited by our own ambition and tenacity. There is no such thing as an unattainable goal. The trick is to realize that the constraints that limit us from realizing our full potential may only exist in our mind.
Let me illustrate the point with the narrative that I heard from the man himself – Mark Inglis. Mark is an accomplished mountaineer, researcher, winemaker and motivational speaker who hails from New Zealand. In 1982, when 23 year old Mark lost both his feet to frost bite, scaling Mt. Everest seemed impossible. But Mark overcame his worst fears and physical limitations by sheer determination. He designed his own prosthetics and trained hard for 24 years to pursue his seemingly unattainable dream. In 2006, Mark became the world’s first double amputee to scale Mt. Everest.
While very few of us may possess the kind of grit that enabled Mark to overcome the odds, it’s quite interesting to note that we were all blessed with that same indomitable spirit as a child. Not caring about the length of his or her arms, an infant will persistently try to grab the moon. As we grow older, our experiences shape the matrix of constraints around us and we stop shooting for seemingly unattainable goals.
Unplug yourself from this system. Freeing your mind is the first step to unlocking this potential. Knowledge and training will do the trick.
In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in any field. Zach Hambrick, associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University, notes that his research does not support “the egalitarian view that anyone who is sufficiently motivated can become a master.” Kaufman, however, made the most convincing argument by taking the middle ground. “Everyone can’t be a genius in everything,” he says. “But I’m coming around to the idea that every single person has the potential for genius in something.”
But finding true passion and aptitude for an adult is far from easy, let alone a child having to figure it out without any guidance or inspiration. Interestingly, as I was drafting this post, I came across a related LinkedIn post by Sir. Richard Branson titled “The importance of encouraging children to shoot for the moon“. It is a very inspiring story of Barbara who witnessed the launch of the world’s first privately-funded spacecraft to carry astronauts to space at the age of 11. The road-trip her parents took to the Mojave desert to witness the space shuttle launch sparked her life’s passion for aerospace. Ten years of inspiration and perspiration later, she is now a student at MIT and interns at Virgin Galactic.
The best thing we can do for ourselves and for our next generation is to keep reminding that there is no spoon (that cannot be bent).
Photo Credit (Creative Commons)