In the eighteenth century, engineers already knew a lot about steam engines and how to build them. One thing they knew was that high pressure steam engines could never be built. But Richard Trevithick didn’t know that, or he chose not to know it.
Instead he built the world’s first high pressure steam engine. It was called the Puffing Devil and it became the basic design for every steam locomotive ever built.
From our modern vantage point, steam engines appear simple, crude and obvious. But they were anything but obvious to the engineers who worked to develop them. It took a maverick genius like Trevithick to think outside the usual limits and work out how to make the impossible.
Trevithick isn’t unique. The story of human progress is littered with people who did what couldn’t be done. Maybe each of us has the potential to break beyond current limitations of thought if we believe that we can. So the next time an expert tells you “it can’t be done,” remind yourself that thousands of clever people have said that before and have been proven wrong.