Commit First, Then Figure It Out

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. " - Margaret Mead

It's not every day that you run into a story that fills you with awe. Not just the awe that this amazing and you could never see yourself doing that. The wonder I speak of if of the kind that inspires you to try the crazy things you dream of. The things you only tell your closest friends and probably after one too many beers. But I digress. The moment came from listening to a podcast, this one is another episode of Big Questions with Cal Fussman. The guest Cal had on was a man named Mick Ebling.  In this particular episode, Cal was especially sincere about what Mick and his company are trying to accomplish. Not to get to punchline to soon, but it's worth mentioning here they are going to be releasing a device that will help those with Parkinson's Disease!

Now for some background on Mick Ebling and his company. Mick is the Founder and CEO of Not Impossible Labs. I could sit here and type out something, but as they say, show don't tell. The below is Not Impossible from Charles Schwab Champion for Change on CNN.


In this short video, it captures the essence of who Mick is what he and his team try to accomplish. Before writing, I hadn't found this short video, but its even more inspiring to see the images after hearing what Mick has to say about his process. Towards the end of the podcast, he leaves with parting words on how to tackle things that seem impossible to you. He says, "Commit, then figures it out." He has practiced what he preaches. He learned how to 3D print robotic arms for Project Daniel. He has not engineering or software degrees. He found people that we were what he needed to know and learned from them. Listening to the idea of Commit First and then figure it out, I started to think about how that applied in my own life. On the surface, it may not stick out because we forget about how. Once we get used to something the journey gets washed away, but once you start thinking about it bubbles back to the surface. My most memorable learning experiences have come from moments of Commit First. The most impactful example of this was my choice to run in Tough Mudder. I had just started my journey of living a healthier life. I had heard of things like the Tough Mudder before but thought they were crazy, and I would never be that kind of person. The goal was to give me a meaningful and functional goal to be healthier almost one year to the day. At this point, I had never run more than one mile ever only mile runs in high school. I did not view myself as an athletic person, but I had committed to the challenge of 10 miles of mud and water. I wasn't going to give up, I just needed to be ready. From that decision, it planted the seed for what would become a YouTube Channel and then a podcast. The ability to commit to an idea and iterate continuously and what may not seem connected to the surface acts as an experiment for the future.

To tie this back into how Not Impossible, on the first projects they worked on was to allow deaf people to experience music in a more nuanced way. So the team came up with an elegant solution the idea was to leverage the brain's neuroplasticity. Which is a fancy way of saying your brain can learn, unlearn and relearn even as we age. So in the case of deaf people, they know the brain can still interpret sound its just the ears don't pick up the signals. So the Not Impossible team developed a system called the VibroSuite. This device is a collection of motors that are attached to the body at the wrist, ankles and around the chest. The suit has embedded motors that take the input of music and give the person a nuanced sensory experience. As an example, the wrists would get the guitar, the ankles would get the base, and the base of the spine would feel the drums. The amazing thing is that this idea worked it gave back music in a more meaningful way for those who can't.

I mentioned, in the beginning, a device that is being developed to help with Parkinson's Disease. That idea started with VibroSuite, they took the wrist motors and had developed a new product that will help stabilize a person's hands. I tried to find a video of the device at work the Mick showed Cal, but there hasn't been a public announcement yet. As soon as it is available, I'll update this post. The beauty of this is due to a byproduct of creating a different device to help with those who can't hear. This is a prime example of why Mick's philosophy of Commit First pays dividends. This should be a call to action each one of us. Every we think I wish I could help, you don't have to be a mega-corporation to do good or make a positive impact. I'm not naive to believe everything can be done without it, but its better try than not at all.

As a student finishing college, I see so much potential in this kind of thinking. I'm an engineer, so this kind of projects makes sense to me, but I see so much effort wasted on self-contained projects that have no life outside of capstone. What if we could give students this kind of person and instead of making it project of this is your time to shine. Where it feels like now that you've learned all these parts bring it together they are given this goal at the outset. Then by the end of their Bachelors or Associates degree, they should have a defined understanding of what it takes to create a project and that the ability to be meaningful. Also, there should be no penalty for not having a completed or working project. It should be there for the next group of students to jump in on it or build off that project. Remember Mick is not a trained engineer person and he saw a problem is trying to solve it. It's as simple as that.

I liked to express my gratitude to Cal Fussman for getting a guest that is such an inspiration and sharing the conversation with the world. So if anyone out has someone who could help with a device that can help against Parkinson's Disease, please out to Cal or Not Impossible Labs. Links to all the useful information is below if you want to dig deeper.


Podcast Found Here - Subscribe to Big Questions with Cal Fussman

Mick Ebling - TW:@MickEbeling

Not Impossible Website:

Book: Not Impossible: The Art and Joy of Doing What Couldn't Be Done