They Said It Couldn’t Be Done
/ Author: Andre van Heerden
/ Categories: Blogs, Newsletters, National /
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They Said It Couldn’t Be Done

Be the hero in your own story—not just for yourself, but for the benefit of your friends, family, coworkers, and community

By André van Heerden, Communications Director

How many books and movies do you know of where the main characters must overcome huge obstacles to succeed? I’d say it would be difficult to name any that didn’t.

Fighting to stay alive against a killing machine from the future sounds much more interesting than a movie about a woman who may one day have a son (The Terminator), for instance.

I think most people find that stories about great struggles are even more compelling when they’re based on true events. Two recent examples for me are Little Princes by Conor Grennan and the movie Freedom Writers starring Hilary Swank.

In Little Princes, Conor tells his story of travelling to Nepal to volunteer at an orphanage. It follows his search for seven children in a war-torn, remote area populated by hundreds of thousands, and finding parents who didn’t even know that their children were alive.

In Freedom Writers, an idealistic young teacher, Erin Gruwell, tries to inspire students in Long Beach, California, where their reality is racial hatred, poverty, and gang violence.

In both instances, I was inspired by and impressed with the protagonists. Despite so many reasons to give up, they didn’t, and instead found ways to persevere. I also began thinking that it would be great to meet them and wondered what it would be like to work with likeminded people.

Would you rather work with people who just accept that something can’t be done, like Wally from Dilbert, or with people who look for ways to overcome what seems insurmountable?

My brother is inspired by the words “That can’t be done.” In high school art class, he made a clay dragon that was 10 times the size of everyone else’s pinch pot. Unfortunately, he was told that it couldn’t go into the kiln because it was too big and would explode.

He wanted to paint it, so he insisted that it be fired. The teacher said no, the sculpture was too good to wreck. My brother insisted.

It exploded into hundreds of pieces.

That should’ve been the end of the story. But my brother still wanted to complete it, so he collected all the pieces from the bottom of the kiln and began to glue the hardened  back together.

Many of the pieces were the size of a pea. Some of it was dust. The teacher again said it was impossible, gave him a perfect grade, and told him to let it go. But he didn’t.

Many hours and weeks later, he had somehow pieced it back together and painted it.

I find my brother frustrating but also inspirational. From reading some recent submissions to our Everyday Champions contest, it’s clear that there are many members who admire those they work with.

It turns out that not every great fight needs to be up against an unstoppable killing machine or an exploding clay dragon. A person could simply be making others happy, or their jobs easier. And sometimes that can be a really tough challenge.

The next time you’re faced with an insurmountable obstacle—or just a difficult job that no one else wants to do—ask yourself if you want to be that heroic protagonist, or someone who just watches them.

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