Our software design meetings are usually a free-for-all of cocktail napkin concepts and white board drawings, punctuated by someone staring at the ceiling tiles yelling, “so how does this work for the typical user”. Inevitably someone makes a comment starting with the words “is it possible to…” and half of the group cut him off mid sentence with the unison response “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE”; forcing the speaker to rephrase the question, like some kind of weird jeopardy game. Sorry, the last part is my fault.
I think it all started when I was a kid and my father would tell me I could be anything I wanted to be. I wouldn’t say he was particularly convincing, however he said it often enough that I started to say it too. As an awkward teenager it was that voice that helped me become a Rotary Exchange student to Sweden when it seemed like the chances of winning the three school competition were extremely remote. From that point I started to believe it, although the strength of my conviction varied depending on which girl turned me down for dates.
As an adult, I started a helpful (to me, although probably irritating to some) practice of responding to the normal “how are you?” salutation with an unexpected response. I started with the response of “excellent”, I later went to “top drawer”, “magnificent”, “A Number One”, and settled on “fabulous” for a while which prompted a nickname from some of my co-workers of “Mr. Fabulous”. By throwing out this response, it caught people off guard, and their next response was usually “wow, why so good?”. That’s when I had to look for the positives of the day, and sell them in a way that justified my over-the-top response. I know it sounds silly and I wouldn’t say that I was particularly convincing but it usually left two of us with smiles on our faces.
I do believe “anything is possible” and “I am having a fabulous day”. I don’t know if I believe it because I say it or I say it because I believe it, but it is usually somewhere in my thoughts. That is not to say that I don’t have concerns and sleepless nights like everyone else, it just means that I have to catch myself and sometimes self-administer the antidote by stopping the mental panic and triggering the process by asking myself the question “really, how are you?”. I know it sounds like a childish game of “let’s pretend” which us adults are supposed to have evolved beyond, but it does something beyond the obvious short term spirit uplifting. By believing that you can do anything, you now start to ask the questions “what do I want to do”, “what ought I to do”, and other questions that run philosophically deeper than “Mr. Fabulous” had initially intended on going. I can’t say that I have fully answered those deeper questions but spending time on them is both challenging and therapeutic.
I have never expressed these words to anyone before and even as I write this essay, it feels cheap to reduce my personal belief system to some sort of mental card trick. I don’t talk about it because I don’t even know if the trick works if you don’t believe in the concepts first. This line of thinking quickly erodes into a chicken and egg argument that in the end probably doesn’t matter.
I believe you should be “Mr. or Ms Fabulous” and don’t worry if you really are not; you soon will be.
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