Take the time to explore the “impossibles”…

There is no use trying,” said Alice. “One can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

— Lewis Carroll

To you, starting grad students out there, expect to be told many times that something is impossible. This does not mean that you should listen though…

You see, the use of impossible, not possible, can’t be done, and the likes must be seen through a translator 🙂

Sometimes, impossible really means impossible. In science, it usually means that what you are trying to achieve goes against some fundamental laws or key portion of a theory with compelling evidence.

However in many cases, impossible means something else entirely and you should pursue your idea or project even more actively, in particular if it has a strong and sounds underpinning.

Over the years, I found that impossible translated to:

  • Oh I thought about it but was never able to accomplish it, so…
  • Yeah, tried it and failed. No way you can.
  • I would really liked to do it myself.
  • Excellent idea but you will spend your life to get it done (watch out for these type of “impossibles”, unless you really want to make this your life project!).
  • Exciting project but you will never gather all the needed support (e.g. starting a new graduate program. This happen to me early on in my academic life… I did not listen of course 😉 )
  • Oh no, another person that is trying to disturb a perfectly working (administrative) system. Therefore, this person must be discourage.
  • I think you are not good enough to do this.

There is probably a few more I am missing but overall, impossible can sometime be a good indication that you are on the right track! Don’t let it discourage you, investigate (in particular if you feel that it is only for administrative reason) …


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