Book by: Mick Ebeling
Review by: Valerie McClinton
Senior Academic Advisor
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
In Not Impossible, Mick Ebeling introduces the concept of open sourcing, the guiding principles of the Makers Movement, and challenges his readers to get personally involved by acting with urgency to create positive change. How does this story about the transformative power of technology and innovation relate to higher education or advising? Not Impossible illustrates how impactful one can be by setting out to help just one person and rejecting the limits of what has always been done.
Mick is a doer and a connector. Guided by compassion, he is deeply drawn to help Tempt, a graffiti artist with ALS, and Daniel, a Sudanese boy, re-enter the lives they knew before their worlds changed. He asks “why not” and recognizes that while on his own he may not be able to change reality, he can galvanize those with the training, talents, and resources to innovate solutions for problems deemed impossible. Advisors have opportunities to see and meet needs others discount. Advisors can be the impetus behind changes on campus that can transform the world of a student – like the push to launch a campus food pantry in response to seeing the face of hunger on her campus.
Mick looked at an artist confined to his bed, unable to communicate or move independently, and was compelled first to help him obtain a speech generation device. Secondly, and more importantly, he asked “why not try this?” and motivated his team to keep working on more refined solutions. The initial goal was to help Tempt communicate with his family. In the end, he was not only able to communicate, his voice returned. Throughout the evolution of the EyeWriter, Tempt regained the capacity to joke and to tease. He became closer to the man he was before ALS. He was able to create art, first in two dimensions, then in three dimensions, and eventually in concert with a community of artists. Now, open-source plans are available for under $20 and, using household items, anyone can build an Eyewriter. True to the open source philosophy, Eyewriters continue to be improved and more impossibilities are made possible.
Illegally travelling to a dangerous area of Sudan, Mick set out to help Daniel, a boy who lost both hands in the bombing of his village. But Mick didn’t stop there. The process his team engineered enabled a doctor in a simple hospital in Gidel to help many in Sudan regain the use of hands and arms. Now a group of men who had never seen, much less operated a computer or printer, are changing lives of amputees in their community. Mick had the audacity to believe that with a 3D printer, a little training, and the guts to brave the uncertainties of the Sudan, he could bring back Daniel’s smile.
Most striking about Not Impossible is the underlying premise of “help one, help many”, a driving sentiment for many in helping professions, academic advisors included. The professional fulfillment advisors experience when an advisee returns to good standing or finally reaches graduation is magnified when those students pay it forward and empower others. In a sense, through professional networks and conferences, partnerships, and mentoring relationships, academic advisors participate in open-sharing. Whether in the world of assistive technologies or student success, one person has the power to have a positive impact and change reality for many through one simple act of compassion, one moment of curiosity that flourishes, and is shared with others.
Not Impossible. (2015). Book by Mick Ebeling. Review by Valerie McClinton. New York, NY: Simon and Shuster, Inc. 256 pp., $25.00, (Hardback). ISBN 978-1-1467-8280-5