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i know you can’t… but what if you could?

April 27, 2010

I spent last weekend with some amazing people at the National Speakers Association of Australia (NSAA) 2010 conference. I took pages and page of notes from some really diverse sessions but what struck me was the common themes that ran through pretty much all the presentations.

One that particularly resonated with me was the importance of being open to possibilities. Edward de Bono finished the conference program by leading a workshop on creativity. One of his key messages was that we are too quick to dismiss things that are “only possibilities”. We fail to even consider them and instead look for “solutions” that seem to offer us more certainty.

Mike Rayburn had opened the conference three days before with his amazing keynote that demonstrates the power of the question “What if?” I liked the way that he often prefaced his question with the words “I know you can’t, but...” because it removes our ability to object, to deny the possibility, by agreeing with our self-doubt – an intellectual tenkan. We are then more open to the question that follows – “but what if you could?” which creates space for the possible rather than just the certain.

Mike’s challenge to the audience to “write music that you can’t play” really captures the power those two simple words can have. Pretty much everyone I speak to has music inside them that they know they cannot play. They have a great idea for a  book – but they don’t know how to write one. They would love to continue their development an artist or an actor or a musician – but they don’t know how to make a living doing that sort of thing.

But what if they could? Using the cognitive surplus I mentioned in my last post they could create books and art and performances that would change people’s lives. Maybe even change the world.

I know what you are thinking. I should tell the truth and not mislead you. You want to say to me “If I was to apply the ‘what if?’ principle and just ‘be open to possibilities’, you can’t guarantee the music or book or art I create will change other people’s lives let alone change the world!

And you would be right. I can’t guarantee that.

I can guarantee one thing though – it will profoundly change your life, and that is a possibility I hope you are prepared to consider.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 27, 2010 8:55 pm

    If you are interested in reading more about the NSAA conference you could read The Creative Pen blog here:

  2. paul manuell permalink
    April 27, 2010 9:20 pm

    Sounds like a great conference.

    I really like the old simple statement: If you think you can or you think you can’t you are right!

    Just wait until Jessica Watson gets back on dry land for a great example.


  3. April 29, 2010 7:28 am

    An excellent example Paul. She has already changed her life and probably the lives of a great many more who will have been inspired by her voyage. Just image what she will be able to do next!

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