Whether he is appearing to levitate off the ground, or performing feats of endurance like freezing himself in a block of ice, David Blaine’s ability to push the limits of possibility is a subject worthy of examination.
In this post we make a brief case study of his 2009 Guinness World Record for holding his breath 17 minutes and four seconds.
To get a handle on how long 17 minutes is to go without breathing, I decided to give holding my own breath a try. I won’t say how long I made it (under a minute) but let it suffice to say that 17 minutes is an impossible amount of time for me to go without air.
In the following video, we hear the artist himself talk about how he broke the record.
Hack # 1 The first, and perhaps the most important secret to David Blaine’s triumph of the impossible, is believing that the impossible doesn’t exist! In his Ted talk, Blaine is constantly using phrases like, “I decided to see how this could be done,” or “As a Magician I Believe Everything is Possible”
Truly, to overcome the impossible we must, like Blaine, begin by asking ourselves: How Can I Do This?
If instead, when we are faced with impossible circumstances, we begin with any other mindset than, how is this challenge achievable, our journey is over before it has begun. If overwhelming odds are to be conquered in our lives, so too must be attitudes that convalesce on why a task is “too difficult” or an attitude that only seeks-out reasons why a feat cannot be conquered.
To overcome the impossible, one must start with the potentiality of victory. When we do, the question, “How can I do this?” becomes the most powerful question in the universe.
Hack # 2: Research, Experiment, Repeat One thing about David Blaine’s process that quickly becomes apparent, is his insatiable appetite for research. Before attempting the impossible, Blaine first makes it his aim to become an expert on his chosen feat. He consumes every amount of available knowledge on the topic, fully immersing himself (pardon the pun), but he does not stop there.
Once he gathers all available knowledge, Blaine creates new knowledge through personal experimentation. This personal experimentation, he commits too in an equally voracious manner, which in turn allows him to develop invaluable experiential knowledge. Experiential knowledge is an essential edge in conquering the impossible because it develops direct ability. It is simply not enough to study available knowledge, or to talk with others that have accomplished similar feats. To overcome the impossible, we must develop new knowledge through personal experience, that in the end will translate into the concrete skill that will allow us to accomplish our goals, no matter how extraordinary.
Hack # 3: Push Through the Pain
In Blaine’s approach to breaking the breath holding record, there are countless examples of him pushing through pain. From his attempt to insert the oxygen scrubbing device into his esophagus, to his willingness to go into cardiac arrest to finally make his goal. Through his ability to push through pain we see another key secret of his success: the ability to see pain as the line that must be crossed in order to succeed. David Blaine sees the pain of achieving his goals as eventual, and even necessary in order for growth to occur.
Likewise, in our attempts to conquer the Mount Everests in our own lives, the commitment to go beyond what we know we are physically and mentally capable is crucial.
We see this as well in the way Blaine deals with failure. His journey to achieve the goal of holding his breath under water longer than anyone ever had, was beset by constant failure. The relates powerfully to his ability to push through pain because failure many of us failure represents the worst kind of pain. Yet we see, even in his, Blaine keeps pushing through. Not only did he fail over and over again to come up with a way to break the record, but once he decided on how he would do it (and created a TV special around the event) he then proceeded to fail miserably on national television! In others, this kind of failure almost certainly would result in an abandon meant of our efforts, but with Blaine it was quite the contrary. Instead of becoming discouraged, he simply moves the experience of “failure” into his experiential knowledge mental frame work and then continues his effort. In short, the pain that causes others to quit, he uses for fuel to keep moving forward. And instead of quitting, he comes up with new ideas, he trains harder.
The last example I will give comes from the day Blaine finally broke the world record (on Oprah no less.) From the beginning, both intellectually and physically, he felt as if things were going terribly wrong. His heart rate was erratic and too fast, and though he tried to calm himself using his mind, worry and pain flooded his process. In those moments, Blaine made the conscious decision that he would rather allow himself to go into cardiac arrest than quit before he accomplished his goal.
If we are to become successful in overcoming the impossible we must be willing to face whatever pain comes, until our mission or dreams are achieved. No matter how long it takes. We must push through the pain for the duration because it is only when we give up that we fail. It is only when we refuse to give up, when we push through all the pain associated with victory, that the impossible can be achieved.
What is impossible in your life? What dreams have been put on the back burner because they require painful effort or sacrifice? There is a way to do it. But first we must Believe it is Possible, Discover How it is Possible, And then Push Through Every Ounce of Pain, and never ever stop until it is finished.