Believing the Possible


In an old interview with Tony Hawk, the topic of new tricks came up. In particular, Tony and the interviewer discussed the 900. In the 900, while airborne, the skateboarder makes two-and-a-half turns about their longitudinal axis, thereby facing down the ramp when landing. This trick is still considered one of the hardest tricks in skateboarding.

In the discussion, Tony spoke about the progression of new tricks. In the case of the 900, it took 10 years of working on the trick to get to the point of actually landing it. Until that point, Tony continued to pioneer the trick while many others were not sure it was possible. Then, once he landed the first 900 in the X games of 1999, many more skaters were able to perform the trick.

Tony identified that the key for those who will follow was believing it was possible. Once proven, many other skaters were able to complete the trick because they also believed it was possible. Tony had removed the barrier. He explained that executing something new was half in your head. In your mind there are barriers created by doubt. As a pioneer, Tony worked through the barrier in his own mind while attempting the trick. Each minor progression, in this case a few extra degrees of rotation, convinced him to continue as the goal came closer. Yet, not until completing it, did he also believe it was possible. For those who followed Tony, the barrier was removed by him; they now believed it was possible and wouldn’t have to work through the same mental progression.

The interesting thing is, the same happens in our work lives. While we aren’t literally trying to land a 900, in some sense, we are. Anytime we work with a team and try to achieve a new goal, we have to ask ourselves “does the team believe it’s possible?” If members of the team don’t believe the goal is possible, they will likely not achieve it. In fact, in some cases, they may subconsciously prevent themselves from achieving it.

For organization leaders or team leaders, it becomes important to be able to show, just like Tony did, that both the goal is achievable and also, how to get there. Without this, you may struggle for years to achieve the level of performance you expect.

This situation often happens when new managers come from one organization which has achieved the goal. While the new manager is a believer, the new team has not seen it or experienced it.

To overcome this challenge, some creative solutions need to be applied, depending on the goal and team involved. In the past, I’ve gone as far as planning a field trip with the team to other organizations who had achieved a similar goal. It might be that the vendors in your area are partners and destinations for such a field trip.


Have you experienced challenges with belief in a team? What did you do to solve it?

Here is the link to Tony Hawk’s first successful landing of a 900

Other notable moments:

Travis Pastrana attempts the first Motocross backflip (X games 2000), but doesn’t land it. Yet the announcers and crowd are stunned that he got that far. No one believed it was possible

Finally Travis completes a double back flip a few years later