The Impossible is Temporary
Last summer I was researching best practices in philanthropy and discovered David Rothschild's venture The Lost Explorers. It's a lifestyle company, by which I mean it sells apparel and goods, as well as seeking to create community. Their recent newsletter includes a profile of Boyan Slat, founder and CEO of Ocean Cleanup.
Ocean Clean-up is revolutionary not only because it is tackling the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but also because the project itself is a testament to a state of mind, a philosophy, a practice that I would like to embrace more in my Life: the concept that The Impossible is Temporary.
Briefly, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an area of the ocean larger than Texas, filled with millions of particles of discarded plastic. As The Lost Explorer reports:
His plan to build a 100km ocean-cleaning boom next to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a mere year from being realized. Once it’s up and working – if it works – sea currents and winds will passively move plastic from the Patch into a vulcanised rubber funnel, to be collected and brought to shore, and eventually turned into a line of recycled ocean plastic clothing, forever. And forever is such an exciting idea when it comes to removing plastic from the ocean.
When Lost Explorer asked Boyan if he wasn't afraid of failing, the response was, "I started and tried many different things and found out what worked and didn’t work, and have continued until I found something that brought me to the next step. Then I tried a lot of different things again." This attitude reminds me of the oft-repeated Thomas Edison and the light bulb story: turning the concept of failure around, and recognizing it as succeeding at thousands of ways that won't work. As someone who tends to all into a rut of "doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result," I admire the mindset of experimentation and persistence.
What really separates Boyan's experience for me, though, is this: "You have to assume that success is one of the possible outcomes."
There is a lot of synergy between Boyan's project and his approach, and the state of our economy and the influence of technology on our lives. Other gems from the interview:
Everyone wants the future to be better than the present.
I would describe myself more as an inventor and an engineer than an activist. Unless you redefine activism this century as less about protesting what you don’t agree with, than building a future you do agree with.
There are also people who think that it’s technically impossible, because people tend to judge something by the state it’s currently in, rather than where it will go to. That skepticism is a real shame because it demotivates a lot of inventors, and when you look at human history, it’s a list of things that couldn’t be done and were done. People don’t get that the impossible is temporary.
What’s a modern explorer to you? For me, it’s not having any limits on what you’re willing to explore. In the past, that was landscapes. Now it’s ideas . . . exploring the edges of our knowledge and abilities. An invention is very similar to finding new land, as the design solution is the promised land.
When I travel, I always take duct tape. It’s common engineering wisdom that everything in life can be solved using duct tape.