Impossible is an Opinion

Posted on: April 18, 2016


At some point, when eating in a restaurant, I’m sure you’ve asked your server what he/she recommends. “What’s good on the menu?” is not an uncommon question to ask. But, what I’ve always found to be odd about this question is that we are asking a total stranger, whose opinion and/or taste is unknown. We don’t know what they like or don’t like. We don’t know what their definition of good is. So the answer is completely subjective and their answers probably include a number of variables. If they say, “Oh, the chicken dish is amazing! I always get that” or, “The chicken dish is very popular,” do we ask why or what makes it popular or amazing? Probably not. I never have. And, even if we did ask, the explanation is still subjective because it’s all based on other’s tastes/opinions.

This is something we all do all the time in all different scenarios.

When I was getting my coaching certification, I had a conversation with an old friend of mine who happens to have her own coaching business. When I asked her how it was going, her first answer was an emphatic “It’s really hard.” Her answer sounded like fact but it was, merely, her opinion. For many, this kind of answer could act as a deterrent, right? You are feeling insecure about something you are pursuing, someone tells you something is really hard or anything negative, which could scare you and make you start questioning yourself.  Someone else’s opinion about something they are doing can act as a trigger that can stress you out.

The problem is that there are so many missing pieces when it comes to someone’s opinion. If someone says “It’s really hard,” what they mean is that it is hard for them. It’s their experience, not yours. You haven’t done it yet, you are a completely different person with different skill sets, a different personality, different life experiences, different everything. So, hard is just someone else’s opinion based on their personal experience. There’s nothing factual about it FOR YOU.

Years ago, I did business development for a trend forecasting company and figured out a niche target audience I thought was a perfect fit for the product. It was so obviously perfect, I couldn’t understand why nobody was pursuing it. When I brought it up to my boss, she told me not to bother. She said it was a waste of time. She said it was impossible.

When I heard the word impossible, I thought she was crazy. I mean, impossible? Really?  I had no idea what would make this one industry more impossible than any other. I mean impossible is kind of a big word. I didn’t get it. So, I chose to ignore her and, I’m so glad I did because it wasn’t impossible for me. I was able to, very successfully, sell into this market. And, to top it all off, not only wasn’t it impossible, it turned out to be the company’s most successful niche market, with the highest renewal rates. So, clearly, it wasn’t universally impossible. Impossible was her opinion. It was only impossible for her.

So, what’s my suggestion to help prevent you from mistaking an opinion for fact? Always ask, at least, one follow up question…

Ask: “What about X makes it hard, impossible, great?” Asking why helps with context and clarity.