Once upon a time, a little boy accidentally went back in time to the date 1521. He found himself in one of the Philippine islands beside a tough-looking, bearded man.
“Hello sir.” the boy told him. “Where’d you get your costume?”
“Costume?” said the man. “This is no costume but an explorer’s attire.”
“Hee hee…” the boy chuckled to himself. “That’s nice, Mr. Explorer. I’m Michael.” the little boy introduced himself to the man. “What’s your name?”
“My name is Ferdinand. It’s nice to meet you young man.” he answered. “You look like a strange boy. What are you doing here?”
“I don’t know actually” the little boy said. “One moment I was running in a field, the next thing I know I’m beside you. What are you doing here?”
“I have just found a discovery!” Ferdinand said proudly. “After over a year of sailing from Spain, I have arrived on this island!” (the Philippines wouldn’t be named until 1543 by Ruy Lopez de Villalobos
“It took you over a year to get here from Spain??” the boy asked surprised at the length. “I read that you could fly to Spain in less than a day!”
“Fly you say?” Ferdinand asked the boy. “That is impossible! It is impossible to get to this place in less than 24 hours! And it is impossible to fly!”
“Are you nuts?” asked the boy. “People do it all the time.”
“Who are these people? I am Ferdinand Magellan! I am the backed by Spanish Crown! No one has achieved explorations such as mine! I know for a fact that man can’t fly. I know from much experience and study that it is impossible to travel the distance we’ve traveled in a few hours!”
“But people do!” the boy argued. “They don’t ride ships like yours.They ride airplanes!”
“What is an airplane?” Ferdinand asked.
The boy thought about his answer. “Well, it’s like a metal tube with a round tip on one end. The other end has a tail. And it has wings to help it fly.”
“Like a bird?” Ferdinand Magellan inquired.
“Well, no. The wings don’t flap. It enjoys lift when it hits certain speeds. It can go really fast because of its gigantic engines.”
“A metal tube with wings that don’t flap that have… what did you say? Engines? What’s an engine?”
“It’s this metal thing that creates power and thrust so the plane can go fast, really fast.”
“You’re strange boy who speaks of strange things. These are very nice imaginings. You should write a story.” Ferdinand told the boy, not believing his ideas but not wanting to hurt his feelings.
“But this isn’t a story!” the little boy said. “It’s true! I’ve seen them. I’ve ridden in a few planes myself. I spent the whole trip snacking on the food and watching movies.”
“The airplane has food?” Magellan wondered.
“Yes! Heated food. A lot of peanuts. I even asked for a Bloody Mary” the boy said the last piece of information with a slight hush. “But they didn’t give me one with alcohol because I’m a minor.” he continued disappointed.
“The flying metal tube has hot food and bleed ladies inside. You’re a strange boy to be speaking of such things.”
“I watched all three Die Hard movies on the plane too.” the boy bragged.
“What is a movie? And why won’t it die?” Ferdinand asked.
“Hee hee.” the boy chuckled. “It’s a movie! It’s not real. It’s a bunch of actors pretending to be cops and bad guys inside a screen.”
“People acting inside screens, that passengers on a flying metal tube watch…” I am so confused.” Ferdinand admitted. “I admire your imagination child. But I must get back to reality. Someday, you’ll grow up and you’ll realize that one has very little time, if any, for these trivial imaginations. I’m amazed at these invented concepts of yours but don’t waste your time on impossible ideas. There are no flying tubes. I promise you that. You cannot travel to distant lands in less than a day. I have more experience than you. You cannot fit actors in a screen so you can watch them while traveling. You cannot do any of these things you say.
The real world has limits. My crew, many are now dead. You need to be realistic if you’re going to succeed. Trust me. I have achieved things many people only dream of, yet these things in your head, they’re impossible. Trust me and give them up.” Ferdinand said out of deep concern and speaking from his own great experience.
“Sir, I speak the truth.” the little boy said unconvinced. “I’ve seen these things. They’re in the future! And there are even more amazing things, like rockets, and astronauts, and submarines! These things are real! I’ve seen them.”
Ferdinand, pitied the boy but looked kindly at him. “It’s a free world child. You’re free to dream. I have seen the world and can tell you that those things don’t exist. But if it makes you happy, go dream. It was nice to meet you my wizard friend.” he shook the boy’s hand and walked away.
The boy looked down at his feet. Ashamed he couldn’t prove that airplanes were real. Then all of a sudden he heard the sound of plane engines, as a large plane flew above him.
“There’s a plane! Sir! There’s a plane! Mr. Ferdinand! I told you there were airplanes!” he shouted at Ferdinand Magellan’s direction.
“Stop shouting child!” an old man ironically shouted back. “You’re making more noise than the damn airplane!”
“Where did Mr. Ferdinand go?” the boy asked him.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” he responded.
“He was another old man. He was wearing an explorer’s suit. I was talking to him. I went back in time and I was talking to him.”
“You’re a crazy kid, you know that? Go home and get some rest. It’s impossible to travel time. I’ve been around kid, and speaking from experience, you can’t go back to the past. Stop dreaming.”
I like to use this example when helping our teams get out of old thinking. It’s common for us to think that just because something is common that it makes sense, and because something hasn’t been seen it is automatically crazy. As we can see in the story, the worlds #1 explorer at the time would never have been able to grasp the concepts that have combined to make transcontinental flight possible, much less believe it’s existence. Which leads me to the question:
Is something real because we understand it? If we say, yes, then we are proud. For there are many things that exist that we don’t understand. My answer to this question is “No. I don’t have to understand something for it to be real.”
Or is it possible that there are very very real things, very fantastic and amazing things, very different things from what we know, that do exist that we do not understand or have not yet understood? The answer to this one is “Yes. There are an infinite number of things we don’t understand.”
What are the lessons here?
Never say never. We really never know.
Stay humble. Stay curious. We don’t know what we’ll discover.
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”
– 1 Corinthians 2:9