Sunday, May 22, 2011


On October 3, 1957 I was telling my dad about a science fiction book I had just finished. My father, not being a science fiction fan finally said: “Just shut up until they do it!”

The next morning, October 4, my dad woke me up very early before he went to work and said “That story you were telling me about yesterday, finish telling me.” Then he showed me the newspaper headlines “Russians launch Sputnik satellite”.

While I did learn the not everyone would get as excited by a sify book as I did, it taught me a valuable lesson about keeping an open mind to things I am not immediately interested in or familiar with. Lean whatever you can about everything you bump into.

One big lesson was that to be able to enjoy a science fiction story you must suspend rational disbelief. That is you must accept that faster than light travel (for example) is possible or you just quit reading because FTL is not possible under physics as we understand it.

This ability to not prejudge flowed over into the rest of my thinking and allows me to look at problems and, at least mentally, try on “impossible” solutions. Since I don’t automatically reject it because it doesn’t conform to my preconceived ideas.

People do the same thing in watching movies all the time. We know that it is very unlikely for a librarian to really be mistaken for a spy but we disbelieve that rational knowledge during the movie to enjoy the story and the action.

In the same way to find new solutions to old problems, you must forget the old restrictions and just pose impossible solutions. Try it and you will find that at least one is not as impossible as you might think. The impossibility might just be like flying to Paris – impossible until the Wright brothers figured out the basic principles. Impossible until a host of others figured out how to make stronger airplanes, better engines, and all the necessary inventions to make a flight that long possible.

Impossible to fly to the moon until Neil Armstrong did it!

Those changes may have been taking place in the background leading up to today, unnoticed by you, and those changes may make what was truly impossible last week, possible today!

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