4 Steps to Achieving the Impossible

Those who know me well know that I love to plan, to aspire, and to hopefully accomplish. I remember planning at age 10 for my profession, at age 20 for my parenthood, and at age 30 for my “retirement” years. I’ve always had the philosophy to “plan your age”: that is, if you’re 25 years old, plan for the next 25 years visualizing yourself at age 50. With that sort of behavior, is it any wonder I ended up in operations as a profession :-)?

Having had this disorder for over four decades now, I’ve learned a few key lessons.

1. Focus on the next 3 milestones, not the last 3 milestones

The journey to achieving what appears impossible is undoubtedly very lengthy with countless milestones along the way. Too many of us spend too much time trying to determine a complete plan, and frequently realizing that we don’t have enough information to develop it. The further out the milestones, the more difficult they seem and, more importantly, the more difficult they are to conceive. It’s much more tractable to think about the next few milestones and plan for the following milestones only once one has made progress and has more clarity as to the right direction.

2. Expect to act, but expect to react even more

Despite my fondness for planning, I’ve learned that more progress is made by reacting properly when life throws the inevitable curve ball than by intentional actions toward a plan. When that curve ball takes the form of an expected decision that must be made, having the goal in mind makes picking the appropriate answer the much clearer: one should always pick the option that brings him or her nearer to their desired goal. It’s the combination of intentional actions towards a goal combined with making the right choices when confronted with unintentional decisions that continually gets us closer.

3. The “Tortoise and the Hare” is a true story

I’ve heard it said that “slow and steady wins the race [sic].” That statement couldn’t be more true. What is understated, however, is the value of the journey and the lessons it teaches along the way. It’s those lessons that prepare us for handling and planning milestones down the road; without them, we struggle to retain our progress toward our goals. The journey and the experiences along the way are what make the rest of the plan possible.

4. Setbacks are a fact of life

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about setbacks. Life will kick you down and there will be setbacks; they’ll humble you, teach you something, and hurt your pride. But, as our parents have told us countless times, we need to put setbacks behind us, pick ourselves up and reestablish a new set of “3 next milestones.”

Finally, you might be wondering what I’ve always wondered: it’s said that nothing is “impossible”, but doesn’t one’s pragmatic side lend one to believe that there are some things that are, in fact, not physically possible? My personal answer is: it’s nearly “impossible” to know for sure whether something is possible or not; but, more importantly, even if it turns out to be, what’s the harm in knowing we’ve gotten as close as humanly possible to our goal? If that’s what we end up achieving, I dare say we deserve to claim victory.

Bassam Salem
About the author: 

Bassam Salem is the Chief Executive Officer at Mindshare Ventures, and the former Chief Operating Officer at MaritzCX.  Mr. Salem currently serves on the Board of Directors of inGrove, Athlete.com, Bandwango and the Utah Technology Council. He has multiple Master’s degrees from the University of Utah, and presented a TEDx Talk in September 2014.  Follow Bassam on Twitter.