The Power of Yes (YVM 33)
Years ago, soon after the extinction of the dinosaurs, I coached a soccer team of eleven-year-old girls. I had them working on some basic dribbling and juggling skills one day when I decided to show them some different ways to pick the ball up without using their hands. They practiced pulling the ball back so it rolled onto the top of their foot and followed by lifting their foot and the ball into the air. After just a minute or two, each of them could at least pop the ball up enough so they could catch it with their hands.
Then, I showed them something a little more difficult. I placed the ball between my feet, applying pressure with the insides of my heels. I jumped, lifting the ball with my feet behind me, and twisted. Once the ball was in motion, I released it and landed again on my feet. My twist repositioned me so that I faced the ball in the air and collected it with a raised thigh and began to juggle. The girls all grinned and immediately began trying this new trick.
Most accomplished it after a few tries, or after a couple of pointers from me. One girl, however, quickly grew frustrated and stomped her foot.
“I can’t do it!”
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“The ball keeps hitting my butt when I jump. I can’t do it.”
“Here’s one thing I know,” I said. “If you tell yourself you can’t do something, you’ll always be right. But if you tell yourself you can do something, chances are you’ll still be right most of the time.”
That’s the first time I remember uttering those words — I’m still not sure where they came from — but I’ve used them many times since with soccer players, kids I tutor, and my own children. We positioned the ball a little further back between her heels and she performed the trick after only one or two more tries. I still remember the enormous grin on her face.
Positive self-talk is more important than we realize. Which brings me to the power of “Yes.”
Marian Bechtel is a sophomore at Bryn Mawr College studying geology, physics, and gender studies. At age 13, Marian had her eyes opened to the horrors of landmines. She met a group of international scientists working on a device that utilized holographic radar to detect buried landmines (RASCAN), and was inspired by their work. The one weakness in their device, they said, was that it was rendered useless in wet environments.
One day while playing the piano, Marian noticed that the strings on a nearby banjo resonated when she played certain notes or chords. This gave her an idea — she realized that using acoustic or seismic waves to excite a buried landmine could allow for its detection, even in wet soils. Thus, she joined her newfound passion for humanitarian de-mining with her love of music, and embarked on a long scientific journey, going through three different projects to further this idea, and eventually creating a simple prototype of an acoustic detection device on the frame of a scrap metal detector.
Marian’s research projects took her across the country to many science fairs, including Intel ISEF and I-SWEEEP, and even around the world, to the Royal Society’s 250th Summer Science Exhibition in London. Marian was a 2011 Davidson Fellow, and a finalist in the 2012 Intel Science Talent Search, where she was awarded the Glenn T. Seaborg award for passion in communicating science to the public. She was also featured in the August 2012 issue of Popular Science Magazine as one of their Top 10 High School Inventors.
Marian published her work in the Summer 2013 issue of the Journal of ERW and Mine Action.
The above is from this year’s TEDxTeen event and Marian tells her own story in the video below. It would have been easy for Marian to say to herself, “No, I could never do this. I could never make a difference.” And she would have been right. But, by telling herself, “Yes, I’ll give it a try and who knows what might happen!” she put herself on a path of discovery and invention she never imagined.
What can you accomplish by saying YES today? Age, education, gender, race — none of these matter. What does matter is opening ourselves up to possibilities. And your voice — Your Voice Matters.