In 82 AD the Roman satirist Juvenal wrote: “rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno.” Meaning: a rare bird in the lands, and very like a black swan.
Back then, in the middle ages of Europe, a black swan was impossible to fathom. Juvenal wrote what everyone who lived long ago believed: that all swans were white. A swan of any other color was nonexistent, impossible to fathom.
Then, in 1697, Willem de Vlamingh was exploring parts of Australia when he happened upon that very impossible artifact: a black swan, in the flesh. It took less than 30 years for a pair of black swans to be captured, proving their existence for the world to see.
Just like that, the world shifted. What was once thought of as truth and fact had dissolved and the impossible was made possible.
Today the world consists almost entirely of impossibilities turned possible. It was once impossible to imagine that billions of people could carry a device in their pocket with nearly any recording in history on it (including audio, video, books, and pictures). It used to be impossible for a single person to start a publishing company and reach millions of people overnight. All concepts that Seth Godin explains in this brief video interview.
What we believe to be impossible today is commonly made possible within a matter of time. Sometimes days, weeks, or years, sometimes decades, sometimes long after our lives have passed. Rarely does the impossible stay that way for long (for many things, anyway).
This is where creativity comes into play. Creativity thrives in the impossible. What you believed yesterday but can change your mind about today is fuel for creative thought. New ideas often lie in the unimaginable: making a living with your art, finding a more efficient way to work, writing a novel and selling a million copies on your own, creating a movie on a budget less than $10,000 that captures the eyes of the world.
To be creative, all you have to do is look to the impossible and dream of how to make it possible.
How exactly do you stare into what’s currently impossible and find the future possibilities?
“Nothing breaks down preconceptions and opens up horizons more than travel.” – Robert Frost, engineer at NASA.
Imagine what the world would believe widely if people didn’t travel. Like the discovery of the Black Swan, if Willem de Vlamingh hadn’t traveled it would have been hard for those living in Europe to believe that swans could be any color other than white.
In your own life there are undoubtedly things you believe to be fact that in other parts of the world simply aren’t true. The only way to really discover those things is to travel.
Read, often and far
Even if you do travel, there are parts of the world that can only be brought to you through reading.
But you can’t simply read the books that spark your interest. You have to read books that are far from your own interests if you’re going to discover which of your impossible beliefs others have made possible.
The real trick to finding the impossibly possible through conversations is to listen to other people.
When people communicate they’re doing more than moving their mouth and exhausting breath from their lungs, they’re sharing ideas, knowledge, and their own beliefs. All great sources of discovering ways to change your own thinking.
Challenge your beliefs
Taking the time to regularly challenge your beliefs allows you to seriously think on them.
If you believe things that are impossible are so because of what you’ve been taught (without exploring them on your own), how can you know for sure that it’s true?
To be creative is to explore what you believe is impossible today. What if it wasn’t tomorrow?