Accomplishing the Impossible

By Brad Fregger

You can’t win if you don’t believe it’s possible.
Believing it’s inevitable does not guarantee your winning.
It’s being open to the possibility of success that increases the probability.

This essay is part of a special series on Being an Effective Leader. The essays were originally published in Beyneynu, an Austin, Texas based newsletter published by Barry Silverberg.

Brad Fregger is the CEO of Groundbreaking Press.

While the vision of a positive future is critical, the chances of things working out as envisioned are very remote indeed.

Recently a fellow employee told us at a company meeting that our success depended on, “Our ability to envision that success.”  He added, “I have worked with many successful people, especially successful athletes, and they tell me that they envision winning, that they see the win clearly in their mind before it happens.  We need to do what these successful athletes do, we need to clearly envision our success.”

Even though I knew that he had nothing but good intentions, I went back to my office thinking, “What a crock of bull.” 

How many times have you heard the winner of the lottery say, “When I bought this ticket I knew it was the winner”?  How many people bought tickets? Five million?  How many of them thought after buying the ticket, “This is it!  This is the winning ticket!” We know for sure that not very many of them thought, “This isn’t the winning ticket.”  Let’s say that 50% thought they had the winning ticket.  Does that mean that two and a half million potential lottery winners didn’t envision their winning clearly enough?

I thought, “This is interesting,” looked at him and waited for him to continue.

“I set out to create this great softgoods department store in San Leandro (California), never imagining that it would grow to be so big, so many stores.” 

“How big do you think we’ll become?” I asked.

“Who knows?” he said with a smile.

Mervin Morris honestly succeeded beyond his wildest expectations and had the courage to admit to one of his Operations Managers that he had no idea that Mervyn’s would become as successful as it had.  He didn’t envision the success he experienced.  What’s going on here?

What’s going on is a big lie.  The lie that tells you that your success depends upon your ability to envision it; that if you don’t succeed, you didn’t envision it clearly enough.  This is the same as the religious person who states that an answer to prayer depends on faith; if your prayers aren’t answered, it’s because you didn’t have enough faith.

What does it take to win, to accomplish the impossible?

It takes is a combination of things, the interrelationship of which is beyond our current understanding.  We know that dedication, planning and hard work play a major role.  Most who have succeeded in accomplishing difficult things have exhibited these characteristics.

Accomplishing the impossible doesn’t usually happen only because of dedication, planning and hard work.  This is when luck can play a significant role.  Being in the right place, at the right time can make a big difference.  Jeff Braun, the original President of Maxis (SimCity) tells the story of how he accomplished the impossible by getting SimCity a major story in Newsweek Magazine, as well as getting it chosen to be marketed by the Nintendo Company, which is even a more difficult task.

Here are his comments, with some paraphrasing.

“As far as Newsweek goes, here’s how you get PR from them.  You sit at your desk.  When the phone rings, you answer it.  If it’s Newsweek asking for an evaluation copy of your software, you send it to them.

Then wait, and, as if by magic, a few weeks later, a full page article appears.  Regarding Nintendo, the process

is much the same.  Sit at your desk, if the phone rings answer it, if it’s Nintendo asking to market your product, say yes.”

In other words, Maxis was lucky; the gods smiled on them … they won the lottery.  Obviously it can’t be planned.  Sure there are companies that can afford to wine and dine the likes of Newsweek and Nintendo, with a slightly better chance of getting a favorable outcome, but that wasn’t Maxis at that time … it was these two lucky developments that made them into a company that people took seriously.

On thing, Jeff was open to any possibilities, believed that something he hadn't planned on could happen that would change everything. In addition, he'd done the preliminary work, got the name out to the extent that both Newsweek and Nintendo noticed him. This is critical ... but, the gods still have to smile on you.

So now we have dedication, planning, hard work and luck…is this enough to give us our best chance at the big win? 

You also have to have the willingness to embrace and to relish surprises.  What I mean by surprises is the impact of coincidence, synchronicity, serendipity, even miracles on whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish.  The role of these on the successful completion of major projects, the ability to accomplish the impossible, the chance at making the big win is not well understood, nor well accepted, within the business community.  Somehow we believe that if we don’t accomplish our goals according to the plans we made, that we didn’t do it right and therefore shouldn’t get credit for it…for sure, we shouldn’t let anyone know.

The history of discovery is rampant with stories of surprises.  Creative people accept surprises as a critical ingredient in the creative process.  Yet, business people, when they mention surprises at all, seem embarrassed, almost like they’re confessing to a major sin.  Some executives even have the sign, “No Surprises,” on their desk and make sure that the people reporting to them know that they mean it.

Sometimes it takes an openness to the possibility of succeeding beyond your wildest expectations.

It is this openness to the possibility of success that makes the difference and gives the Fregger principle, “Whatever can go right, will go right,” a chance to work.

It is openness to the possibility of success that allows you to embrace the coincidence, synchronicity, serendipity, even miracles that are needed for you to succeed.  This openness gives fruit to the dedication, planning and hard work that you have sown; and that allows you to seize the moment that luck smiled upon you.

You can’t win if you don’t believe it’s possible.  Believing it’s inevitable does not guarantee your winning.  But, it’s being open to the possibility of success that makes it possible.  If you don’t win, it wasn’t a lack vision or a lack of faith…it just means the pieces didn’t all fall together this time.  But there’s always another chance, another time, another opportunity for all of the pieces to fall together.  Then you will walk away a winner, too.

This is why we never give up.  Persistence pays off.  We never run out of chances; not as long as we believe that sooner or later we’re going to do everything right, the gods are going to smile, we’re going to accomplish the impossible, and when we do we’ll win, and win big!  

Copyright 2000, Brad Fregger. All rights reserved.

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