For example, the theoretical probability that you will flip a coin four times and get heads each time is:
1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 = 1/16, where probability of getting heads on a single coin flip = 1/2
In other words, if you attempt four coin flips sixteen times, you should IN THEORY get 4 consecutive heads one time.
If you actually conduct the experiment, you may get none, you may get five, who knows? You will only find out by DOING the experiment. As is often the case when you do, the experimental probability turns out to be higher than the theoretical probability.
This got me thinking about how we often will label things that we really, really want in our life as IMPOSSIBLE. Well, at least impossible for someone like me. Have you ever heard yourself say that something that you wanted to do or accomplish was impossible?
Here’s an excerpt from “How Much Freedom Can You Stand?” that illustrates my point:
If you were watching a football game where one team trailed by the score of 41-17 with only 2 minutes and 42 seconds remaining in the game, you would almost assuredly declare that it would be impossible for that team to score enough times to win the game. There simply would not be enough time on the clock for that to happen. Tell that to the members of the 1994 Plano East High School football team. They trailed by 24, needing three touchdowns and three successful 2-point conversions to tie the game, and four possessions to win.
At the 2:24 mark of the fourth quarter, Plano East scored a touchdown but failed on the two-point conversion. With the score, 41-23, needing three possession to tie or take the lead, the game was officially over. But the Plano East players did not accept that verdict. They succeeded on the subsequent onside kick and marched down the field in short order. Facing perhaps their final play of the game with fourth down and 5, at the John Tyler five, they scored another touchdown. The 2-point conversion succeeded, and now with 1:24 remaining, the deficit was only 10. Still, kicking off and needing two possessions to tie with just over one minute left, Plano East was looking at an impossible task.
The onside kick worked for a second time, and they were able to race down the field in a few plays, and lo and behold, found the endzone with less than a minute remaining. After an unsuccessful attempt at a 2-point conversion, the scoreboard showed John Tyler holding a slim but comfortable 41-37 lead. Needing to recover a third consecutive onside kick and march downfield for a touchdown in less than a minute seemed remote at best. In fact, the odds of a successful onside kick when the opposing team is expecting it are roughly 20%. Well, you know where this story is going. They did recover the onside kick, and in what has to be the most miraculous comeback in football history, they scored the go-ahead touchdown with 24 ticks left on the clock.
If the story ended there, we already would have compiled enough evidence to suggest that we really have no idea what is truly impossible. But the story does not end there. In a game like this, how could you expect anything less than miraculous. After three consecutive onside kick successes, Plano East finally kicked deep, and the John Tyler return man caught the ball, found a crease up the left sideline, and broke into the clear for a 90-yard, game-winning kickoff return.
What is the likelihood of something like this happening? How impossible was it really? I checked statistics from professional football in order to get a rough estimate. On average, an onside kick succeeds 1 out of 5 times when it is expected; therefore, the odds of recovering three in a row are 1 in 125. The odds of scoring a touchdown on a given possession are 1 in 4. That brings the odds of scoring on 4 consecutive possessions to 1 in 264. In addition, the odds of returning a kickoff for a touchdown are 1 in 270. The odds of all of these feats coming together turn out to be roughly 1 in 8,600,000. In a given NFL season 267 games are played. Based on that number of games, such an occurrence would be repeated only once every 32,240 years. As a point of comparison, the odds of you correctly selecting the exact 6 lottery numbers between 1 and 45 is just over 1 in 8,000,000. Now that folks is in the realm of impossibility.
Here’s the thing. You really do not know what is possible and what is not. All you really know for certain is what you have done and what you have not. Those are two different things. Think about how many things you’ve now accomplished in your life that at one point in time you had not. In my experience, your ability to accurately guess what you are capable of is wildly inaccurate, and more often than not, inaccurate on the low side.
What if you are wrong? What if the thing that you so want to do with your life IS POSSIBLE but you are afraid to try or unwilling to devote the time and energy when the odds seem stacked against you? By not trying, what do you get? You get to be RIGHT. BIG DEAL!
The whole concept of what’s impossible is just a thought. A random idea. A best guess. It is not, however, a fact. If you don’t treat the thought that what you want to do is impossible as significant then you will be much more likely to take action. As you begin to take action, your odds begin to go up dramatically. As you build momentum, what once seemed impossible begins to seem inevitable.
No one has ever created the impossible by thinking about it. They did it by getting started with one small step. If you don’t flip the coins, the odds of getting four consecutive heads is ZERO! Do yourself a favor and move your desire from the impossible column to the possible and get started today. The probability that you will regret your decision is also ZERO.