We Can Accomplish Anything We Set Our Minds To

From Grant Bartlett, PhD

“The Mind Is Not a Vessel to be Filled, but a Fire to be Kindled” — Plutarch

My Father informed me at a very early age that I could accomplish anything that I turned my mind to – and I believed him.
There is an interesting observation in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”. “There is no use trying”. Said Alice, “One can’t believe impossible things”. “I dare say you haven’t much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for one half hour a day. Why sometimes I have believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast and acted upon them.” In the shadow of history, we find hints of the future.

I believe there is an entire spectrum of creative imagination ranging from the mundane to the miraculous, a spectrum greater than most of us would declare impossible. Most barriers can be overcome one step at a time, and the impossible becomes possible.

Creativity and innovation require both inner searching and outer action. Although I have read dozens of books and observed myriads of charts on colleagues’ office walls discussing creativity and innovation ad infinitum, I have always believed that creativity is that single “Eureka” nanosecond, light bulb “on” thought – the making of something out of nothing. And innovation is just another way of describing teamwork. For example, I have a thought, discuss it with a friend, who discusses it with others, and soon we have a plan to raise capital for an exciting new product. And we realize that some of the best lessons are learned from listening and communicating openly. This is outer action.

Within each of us lies the entire world of our potential. If we understand how to look and learn, then we hold the magical key to unlock our potential. I believe that it is ourselves who hold that magical key to the door of creativity. Regarding outer action, Peter Drucker states that ideas are cheap and abundant. The key is the effective placement of those ideas into situations that lead to ACTION. Observation becomes Generation. Focus is paramount to attaining our objectives. Opportunity comes to those who are prepared.

I smile when I remember a cute story of Lucy and Charlie Brown on a cruise. Lucy remarks “Charlie Brown, did you notice that one-half of the passengers are taking their chairs to the front (bow) of the boat to see where they are going. And the other half of the passengers are going to the back (aft) of the boat to see where they have been This is like Life. Which person are you, Charlie Brown?” Charlie Brown’s response: “Lucy, I can’t even get my chair open to determine if I am looking forward or backward.” Now, isn’t that a truer comment on life?

You, I, and approximately eight billion other individuals have helped create, and are slowly destroying, the world we live in. There are mixed blessings, paradoxes, poverties, loves, fears, hatred, comfort, positive and negatives. We have all, in some degree, helped shape this ever changing and challenging world. However, we must remember that challenges present opportunities. And again, these opportunities present challenges. Are we up to the task? All that we build means nothing if we do not build a sound foundation for the next generation. If we are always attempting to sail in smooth waters, we will never get very far from shore.

We can all make a difference in this world. Life is a one-way street. There is no going back. Keep a clear vision of the road ahead. “A hand upon the throttle and the eye upon the track”. I believe each of us can truly make a positive difference. Remember, we have learned from history that one, yes one, person can make a difference either positive or negative, good or bad that in some way impacts all of us. Think of Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Hitler, Stalin, Genghis Kahn, Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Marie Currie, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, Michael Jackson, Benjamin Salk, etc. etc. etc. And, again I repeat, Journeys worth taking are seldom easy – but if we are to preserve our species and our civilization, these difficult journeys must be taken. As Somerset Maugham so succinctly stated: “You Will Win Some. You Will Lose Some. Only Mediocre persons are Always at their Best. Play the Life cards you are dealt.” And as Kenny Rogers so aptly sang about life and cards in the Gambler “You have to know when to hold them. Know when to fold them. Know how to walk away and know when to run. Never count your money when you are sitting at the table. There will be time enough for counting when the game is done”.

Now, is this not the true meaning of Life? Yes! Wisdom for a Lifetime. We need the storms as well as the sunshine to make us grow. If we want to grow, we have to venture out from behind our self-imposed doors. We have to keep reaching for truth and beauty, health and happiness. And I suppose if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Someone once said that even if we are in the middle of a manure pile, we have to imagine that we are smelling lemon blossoms. We may also float in dirty water. However, we must imagine how to retrieve the inherent beauty.

In closing, I have also learned that when you want to ensure that the present and the future are better, are an improvement on the past, we have to look at what happened in the past. Learn something positive and valuable from it and focus on doing things differently. We toss out years, even millennia, of wisdom when we disregard the experience that age has taught us. Learn from the past. Live in the present. Focus on the future.

Growing older is a fact of life. So often we age, but we do not mature. Growing up is an option. Laughing at ourselves is therapeutic. Potential means nothing if it is not focused on positive achievement. During this time of recovery and reconciliation I want to reiterate some remarks that have been the cornerstones and foundation of my being. Perhaps they are better defined as my Mantra. I have learned that we must Risk more than others think is Safe. Care more than others think is Wise. Dream more than others think is Practical. Expect more than others think is Possible. As I have said so many times, I believe we all walk around with a greater vision of ourselves and our world. Everyone! The challenge lies in expressing that vision ………. Courageously putting ourselves out there every day and saying yes, this is who I really am, this is what I am meant to do.

We have survived Covid-19. We are in the midst of a historical record-breaking heat wave. And, now on a very cool, dreary, rainy, thunder and lightning evening, we are being bathed in liquid sunshine …. Water, the sustainer of life. Writing these thoughts has warmed my heart and brought peace, solace, strength and understanding to my entire being. My wish is that they bring the same to you.

Health & Happiness!

Grant Bartlett, PhD is a Serial Entrepreneur, Global Traveler, Consummate Reader, Mentor to Millennials, former Hockey Team owner of the Calgary Flames who has experienced a myriad of Careers in Government, Academia and Industry. Grant has mapped the Rocky Mountains and explored the Ocean depths. He believes that when you reach the far horizon there will be another. Never stop Dreaming.