Once you’ve done one “impossible” thing, you start to wonder what else might be possible

I often do financial coaching with young(ish) professionals (lawyers / accountants / bankers / techies / doctors etc) who are trying to make the leap to partner / MD / board level.

One of my suggestions to them may seem irritatingly vague and hand-wavy at first glance…

…but please bear with me because there’s more to it than first meets the eye.

My suggestion is this:

Get used to doing impossible things.

Of course, here I am talking about things that they currently think of as impossible because they are daunted by the scale of the task.

People are typically held back by what they think is “being realistic” but is actually a set of limiting beliefs based on inappropriate comparisons, outdated folklore, media fear-mongering, health & safety culture and general bullshit nonsense.

The walls of The Prison Camp are built in your own mind. Once you have climbed over one unscalable wall, you start to re-assess your entire world view.

As someone smart once said: 

“The average person literally has no idea how much power they actually have. Turns out if you believe you are merely a pawn or a slave, then you will live your entire life like a pawn or a slave.” 

Someone Smart

Example 1 : Diet

I got red-pilled on diet over a decade ago. I read a book called The New Evolution Diet that changed the way I saw the world.

I realised that what I thought I knew about nutrition was wrong. It turns out that natural fats are healthy and sugar is the real enemy (the problem with carbs is that they quickly break down into sugar in the body).

Long story short, I cut out processed food and starchy carbs (bread, pastries, pasta, rice, noodles, chips) and, almost immediately, I felt better and over a stone of weight (fat) just melted away within a few short weeks.

Weight loss was not supposed to be that easy. I’d gone against what I’d been told was the scientific / government concensus. No extra exercise. No portion control. No calorie counting. No Fat Fighters. No magic pills, slimfast powders or shakes.

I’d been lead to believe that this was impossible. This got me thinking…what else had “They” said that was wrong?

Example 2 : Career

Back in 2007 my career progress had stalled and it looked like I was trapped in The Prison Camp.

Then an opportunity came up to boost my earnings; I was offered a new job that paid much better. But there was a catch…it was risky.

The new firm was a start up in London. Sure, it was a big company in the USA but it had no business in the UK/Europe. Worse, just a few years before they had unsuccessfully tried the same move….they’d hired a team in London and then fired them all and closed down the UK business.

The second catch was that the job looked impossible on paper. I would have ridiculous fee targets. I didn’t have enough staff. The deadlines were insane. I was paid more than (I thought) I was capable of delivering.

Outcome: I landed the new job and then managed to keep it. Having spent my entire career sure that I would be “found out” and fired…it never happened.

I thought you had to be “all-in” or “all out” of a job like that. As soon as I had net worth of 25x my annual base spending, I handed in my notice. Then, a couple of weeks after I’d left, they hired me back as a part time consultant (something else I’d always been lead to believe was impossible) to do a project for them. Go figure.

Example 3: Financial Independence

Example 4 : Running a marathon without training

I’d spoken to people that had run marathons and they would tell me about their gruelling 6+ month training programmes. They were naturally proud of their achievement and keen to tell me how hard it was and impossible for someone that hadn’t done a full training programme.

But a couple of people at my local (very amateur) running club provided examples that transformed my view of what was possible.  Inspired, I entered my first marathon just 8 days before the actual race.

I had no time for a training programme.  I’d never run 26 miles before. I just turned up on the day (aged 46) and ran it. The whole thing. Without stopping or walking. It can be done.

Example 5: Having huge gunz at 60

You may remember that I recently talked about going to a Body Pump class at the gym. To recap: the class was taught by an older guy: a man pushing 60 years of age. He’d “retired” and had figured out a way to get paid to go to the gym.

From the neck up, he looked like a typical provincial solicitor, accountant or dentist. But, in his gym kit, you could see his shoulders and yuuge bicepz…it was quite the gun show. He was in astonishing shape for a man of his age.

I was chatting to him again recently and he told me his secret. He’d done one of those IronMan triathalons once and, in his mind, it had completely reset what he’d thought was possible.

Here’s the thing: he’d carried this over not only to other sports but to all other areas of his life.

Moral of the story

Seek out difficult things to do.  Then make a habit of doing them.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The confidence that you get from these experiences stays with you forever. The “read-across” helps you overcome challenges in all other areas of your life.

And once you have done one “impossible” thing, you start to wonder what else might be possible.

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  1. I’m over the hill and if not out of prison camp, I’m in a low security open-prison – even allowed day release!
    So my attention turns to the kids and teaching them that they can do the impossible and to dream big.
    Sadly, so many people are stuck with a low achieving attitude – it’s almost inevitable for many. Not for all – it’s something public schools root out I’m sure but for the oiks (of which I am one). Of course this gives rise to Boris Johnson – so beware!
    But low achieving is a difficult mind set to escape from.
    Luckily, escaping the inevitable is not impossible.

  2. DB was here · · Reply

    I’ve recently started almost the same eating plan you mention (no starchy carbs, no sugary stuff). On the third day, so far it’s going great.
    May I ask – did you regain the weight you lost in the first few months/years? Do you continue to follow the basics even after a decade?

  3. […] Once you’ve done one impossible thing, you start to wonder what else might be possible (The Escape Artist) […]

  4. I have an entire post on the benefits of being a Risk – Taker. In 2009 I flew to the US and went skydiving. That trip changed my outlook on life but it’s understandable that the majority of people won’t stray from the herd and do anything risky.
    ‘Impossible things’ are impossible according to the masses but the few who are willing to change always need encouragement.

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