Thursday, March 13, 2008

That's okay, my will is good

I was at the store the other day when I saw one of those "inspiring" magnets on which was inscribed a quote attributed to Henry Ford: "Whether you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing --- you're right."

I don't mean to be excessively crude here, but that's a big pile of horsecock. Hitler (one of Ford's heroes) and his zealous followers, some of whom were extremely brilliant military tacticians, believed fervently that they would win WWII. I'm sure many of the frozen corpses littering the crags of Mt. Everest belonged to people who were convinced beyond a doubt that they would conquer the mountain. On a more quotidian level, in every major sporting event both teams typically believe that they have what it takes to win. Fully half the time, these trained and insanely dedicated people are wrong. Even fewer believers make it to Olympic gold.

I'm not saying that a strong will and dedication can't do wonders. History abounds with people born without arms or legs who played the piano, wrote calligraphy, or became proficient marksmen. In his fascinating book An Anthropologist On Mars, Oliver Sacks tells of a man with Tourette's, who overcame his spasms and became a surgeon and a pilot. Or hey, look at Muggsy Bogues --- I bet lots of people told him he'd never play in the NBA.

But seriously: Ford's cutesy precept is not only wrong, it's dangerous. People do fail, even people who try very hard and believe strongly in themselves. If we are to take Ford's sophistic bromide as a truth, failure only comes because the person who failed didn't believe or try or dare hard enough. And that means that when you don't achieve what you dream of, it's your fault.

What kind of "inspiration" is that? The horsecock kind.

1 comment:

Michael5000 said...

Hear, hear.