What’s YOUR Impossible?

The opening shot of Lauren Woolstencroft’s Super Bowl Commercial shows her as an infant born with two half legs and one and a half arms.

My first thought was, “That poor little thing.”

Then, when the commercial tells us that the odds of her winning a gold medal are 1 in 997,500,000, it occurs to me I’m about to see how this ‘poor little thing’ won a gold medal, something that my four-full-limbed barely athletic body never even came close to accomplishing.

My next thought was, “No way.”

Then, we see her as a toddler walking confidently on two knees with her useless stumps trailing behind and the odds-counter suddenly spins to a still unlikely 1 in 486,336,204. But her gold medal odds continue to increase as she skis for the first time, crying, learns to dance the ballet next to full-limbed girls, determined, continues to ski even faster, now with joy, until finally, we see her laying in bed at night with big dreams in her wide-open eyes.  Her gold medal odds are now 1 in 1,009,911.

“Still one in a million,” I thought, but it’s a commercial so I knew better than to doubt her.

Then, a quick Rocky-montage of a taller her skiing and falling down, doing sit-ups and squat training beside non-disabled athletes, making one downhill run after another, all the while grinning like she knows something nobody else does. By the time we see the Olympic rings flash blurry in the background behind her the odds of that gold medal climb to 1 in 1 on the screen and we learn that she’s done it seven more times after that, bringing her Paralympics Gold total to eight.

Wow, that ‘poor little thing’ turned out to be an amazing human being.

That made me wonder, “Why the hell did Toyota just show me that?”

If they’re trying to inspire me to be a skier, it’s way too late.

My skiing dreams died right after college the second I had to grab onto a tree to keep from sliding out of control past my girlfriend and her entire family. They’d paid for a ski lesson for me with their resort pro and had circled up to wait for me where the ski lift ends at the top of the hill. Except when I jumped off the lift and skied my way towards them, I let my ski tips point downhill and off I went. As they yelled for me to stop (couldn’t they see I was trying?), I lunged to the side, hugged the trunk of a young sugar maple and held on for dear life until they retrieved me. Dreams of skiing (and that relationship and a bunch of my pride) ended in that instant.

If Toyota thinks I’ll buy one of their vehicles, they’re wrong about that, too.

I live in Dallas right now. It’s the opinion of many Texans that if you don’t drive an American car you might as well be driving around a moped (never mind that the engine in my old Ford may have been manufactured in a Hyundai plant). As much as I loved the chocolate brown ’82 Corolla that was my first car ever, I’m not interested in the kind of heat a foreign-made vehicle would generate in my current world.

Then Toyota ended the ad with a single sentence:


First off, how odd for a motor company to include the words ‘impossible’ and ‘start’ in their campaign slogan – might make the viewer flash to a whole different montage that includes an engine refusing to turn over and a tow truck driver who only takes cash. They’re banking on Lauren Woolstencroft’s inspirational tale keeping me from those kinds of negative thoughts, and I have to say it worked.

My only thought was, “What’s my impossible?”

For twenty-four years, it was to make a living as a standup, and now that I have two young kids it’s to do the same as a writer. I’m fortunate to go for my impossibles with all my limbs and organs and a brain that’s fully operational (not counting its never-ending anxieties, depressions and second thoughts). Seeing Woolstencroft achieve her impossible inspires me to achieve mine. Toyota’s ad is a good one, and hopefully a lot of ‘poor little things’ saw it and have begun to start their own impossibles.

What are the odds of a car commercial doing all that?

  • Mike Lukas

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