They learned foreign languages, designed buildings, and invented products.
They played their favorite sports—repeatedly hitting homeruns and scoring touchdowns. Had they not been locked in tiny, filthy cells, fed like animals and frequently tortured, they could have passed for students in a special university.
And, in a way, that’s exactly what they were: students at the “University of the Imagination”—American POW’s who used their imaginations to transcend the horrors of North Vietnamese prisons.
Remarkably, after years of incarceration, many of them came home speaking three languages fluently. Some earned millions of dollars on their inventions. Others, having learned to play the piano on imaginary keyboards scratched in the dirt, or having learned to play the guitar using crude wood slats with no strings, were accomplished musicians when they returned.
Col. George Hall is representative of these “University of the Imagination” students.
Before he was captured by the Viet Cong, Hall was an outstanding golfer. But his imprisonment lasted seven years, during which the closest he came to stepping on a golf course was when his bare feet touched the mold growing on the floor of his cell.
Still, he played eighteen holes of golf every day—in his imagination!
With his eyes closed, his concentration focused on the courses he’d played back home, he experienced every detail as if it were real. He could smell the freshly cut grass, feel his hands caressing the grip of his driver as he teed off, see the ball’s soaring trajectory against a vividly blue sky, and, later, see the ball falling gently into the cup.
Not once did he envision himself hitting wild shots, missing easy putts, or landing in the water. His imaginary practice was perfect practice. And, upon returning to the
continued playing near-perfect golf. In fact, his first time on a course—just a
few weeks after his release—he entered a tournament and shot a brilliant 76,
holding to the four handicap he had established seven years earlier! U.S.
When wide-eyed spectators asked him how he did it, Hall said, “What’s the surprise? I’ve been practicing every day for over seven years.”
Practicing indeed. He had graduated summa cum laude from the University of the Imagination.
Here’s what you can do:
1. Discipline yourself to habitually imagine the best possible results. See the sales agreement being signed. Feel the thrill of achievement as you reach your business goal and receive recognition for a job well done. Hear the praise your loved ones will lavish on you as they share your victory.
2. Write your own script, just as Col. Hall did when he played his imaginary, perfect golf games. Decide what result you want, then imagine yourself accomplishing each step necessary to attain that result.
3. Don’t waste time. Use your free moments—stuck in a traffic jam, waiting for an appointment, or just before going to sleep—to exercise your imagination and tap more of your unlimited potential.