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Achievements in Ignorance
aka: Achievement In Ignorance

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"In the course of my life, I have more than once been too ignorant to know that something was impossible before I did it anyway."
Antillar Maximus, Codex Alera

In a world bound by laws of physics, some things are just impossible. Even when magic is involved, there are often limits.

Despite this, somehow there's someone who can do things thought impossible, simply because they do not realize that they should be incapable of the achievement. Any of the characters might occasionally be And You Thought It Was a Game, but it can be a recurring trait for a Genius Ditz or a Bungling Inventor. This trope focuses on the times the character in question achieved what he or she did largely because they had absolutely no idea that it was supposed to be impossible.

In contrast to many cartoons, which consistently (and inconsistently) apply and dismiss physics for the Rule of Funny, this trope is typically meant to occur when the act in question goes against whatever physics are firmly established within The 'Verse. Generally, the best way to tell the difference is whether or not the Achievement in Ignorance can be lampshaded or not.


This can be played either seriously or for laughs. If for comedy, it is often The Ditz who does the undoable deed. If for drama, the character in question may be a genius or prodigy in his particular field.

This happens in Real Life, usually with things like math or physics equations and occasionally with feats of daring that the accidental daredevil hasn't been told are life-threatening. On the more mundane side of things are people learning or successfully trying things their more learned peers were taught couldn't be done.

Compare with these tropes:

  1. Accidental Discovery - to which the adage "not knowing it was impossible, he went and did it" is usually applied
  2. Accidentally Real Fake Address - a fake address (or similar) that a person makes up ends up being real after all.
  3. Beginner's Luck
  4. Beyond the Impossible - for impossible events or people trying to break the rules
  5. Centipede's Dilemma - someone is able to do something, but stop being able to once they start thinking about it
  6. Clap Your Hands If You Believe - devices powered by believing they'll work
  7. Crazy Enough to Work - the craziest plans always work
  8. Determinator - the person knows it's impossible, but tries anyway
  9. "How Did You Know?" "I Didn't."
  10. I Thought Everyone Could Do That - thinking that their Achievement is a feat anyone could do
  11. Magic Feather - an object gives people confidence to do things they only think are impossible for themselves
  12. Power Born of Madness - person does the impossible deeds because he no longer cares they're supposed to be impossible
  13. Runs on Ignorance - devices that work only if you don't know how they work
  14. Strategy, Schmategy
  15. Too Dumb to Fool - where a fool immediately sees through a lie or other treachery)

May lead to a How Unscientific! moment. A Snipe Hunt may occasionally end this way. If they can't do it anymore once it's pointed out that they shouldn't be able to, that's Reminder of Impossibility. when the situation is not limited to physics, just a highly improbable lucky guess. See also Magic A Is Magic A, which the perpetrators of this trope tend to violate. This trope may be the reason for the idea that Idiots Can Not Catch Colds.

Please note that this trope is not just doing something despite not knowing how, or doing something by accident / blind luck. It is specifically doing something thought to be impossible because you don't know it is "impossible".


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In All Around Type-Moon, Rin Tohsaka, while learning to use a computer, makes a mistake and summons the player Saber from Fate/EXTRA. Let's reiterate; Rin summoned a Servant from an alternate future, an act of the Second True Magic, simply by being Hopeless with Tech. And at the end of the chapter, she manages to summon the game's other servants.
  • The main character of BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense, a VRMMORPG novel, hasn't played any game before. So she started putting all the skill points of her character in defense. But she acquired very rare and powerful abilites that make use of her defense, like gaining additional resistance or outright nullifying all the damage she receives.
  • In Cahe Detective Club, Nana Mizuha wins an "All you can eat" contest with this. The sad thing is, she wasn't even trying and was taking her time, to the ire of her Unknown Rival Yurika Minamigawara.
  • According to the light novels this is what happened when Suzaku first piloted the Lancelot in Code Geass. As he's just an "Eleven" he's not supposed to pilot Knightmares and his only experience came from a time Britannian military put a bunch of fresh recruits into the Knightmare equivalent of a Cockpit Procedures Trainer in order to gather some unspecified raw data for reference. This trope kicked in with the help of his Charles Atlas Superpower, turning the Lancelot into the threat against the resistance in the first season and remaining a great threat even in R2.
  • In Delicious in Dungeon, one of the original ten golem cores had been lost due to Senshi dropping it down a drain when washing it. The core eventually reached the sixth floor and once it froze over accidentally created an ice golem.
  • In Dog Days, everyone is under the impression that the hero summoning spell that brought Cinque to Flognard is "one way"; that is, when Cinque returns to Earth, he'll lose all memories of his adventures and will never be able to come back. After he's gone home, Ricotta does some research and discovers a sort of loophole in the spell that will allow Cinque to regain his memories and to return some day — and he just happened to have performed every single requirement of that loophole in the process of saying his goodbyes to his new friends. Granted, the conditions aren't amazingly stringentnote , but he still managed to get them exactly right without realizing it.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Dragon Ball: Goku trained for the 22nd World Martial Arts Tournament by running around the world without using the Flying Nimbus cloud on account of advice from Master Roshi. When asked how he got to the tournament, he said he swam from Yahhoy, which turned out to be on the other side of the world from the tournament.
    • Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods: The God of Destruction, Lord Beerus, comes to Goku and friends looking for the "Super Saiyan God". According to a prophetic dream, this person will become Beerus' rival. Goku tries to fight Beerus when they first meet, but Goku's stongest form is beaten by a flick to the forehead and a chop to the neck. We learn that the Super Saiyan God is a form a Saiyan can assume with some help from 5 other pure-hearted saiyans. Goku transforms and finds he can now stand up to Beerus, but is disappointed that he got this power from his friends and not from his own training. That is, until Beerus points out that halfway through the fight the transformation wore off, but Goku continued fighting just fine anyway, having acclimated to the use of divine energy.
    • Dragon Ball Super: When Goku Black figures out that Vegeta used anger to power up, he tries the same thing. He turns his Laser Blade into a scythe capable of launching a Sword Beam that can rend a slash in spacetime which he could use to summon clones. An incredulous Vegeta asks him what he just did, and Black responds with, "I have no idea," and muses that the level of power he just achieved is now beyond even his comprehension.
  • In Dr. Stone, during the America story arc, Arc Villain Dr. Xeno sends an army of soldiers armed with machine guns and grenades to fight against the comparatively primitive fighters of the Kingdom of Science. But since some of those on the Kingdom of Science's side have never seen advanced weapons like these before, they fail to recognize just how dangerous they are, so they're not intimidated into surrendering as Xeno expected. This lets them fight off these heavily-armed soldiers using only spears.
  • In Earwig and the Witch, Erica's first spell is a complicated concoction that makes her and Thomas immune to other witch's magic. Despite having no formal training, being a first attempt and Thomas forgetting most of the words (replacing them with swears he learned), the spell works, rendering Bella's worm-spell ineffectual. The second spell is one that gives Bella extra hands and she managed to pull that off too.
  • In Fairy Tail, Natsu grabs Virgo just as Duke Everlue summons her, resulting in him getting dragged with her to the Celestial Spirit World and then to Everlue's location. Shocked, Lucy asks Natsu how he's still alive, as the Celestial Spirit World's atmosphere has no oxygen so only spirits like Virgo can survive in it. Natsu says he hadn't noticed. Then again, he was only there for a few seconds at most.
  • Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA:
    • Flight is an advanced magical skill that requires complex calculations to perform. Illya shocks the others by casually doing it just because she watches a lot of anime and thinks magical girls are supposed to be able to fly. Miyu, on the other hand, inverts this — she cannot fly because she thinks it's impossible, despite Illya doing it right in front of her. When Illya tries showing Miyu an anime depicting a flying magical girl, Miyu just points out all the scientific reasons why it shouldn't work.
    • Later, when Illya's mind is implanted in a plush doll, she is able to make the doll move and speak by intentionally invoking this reasoning.
  • Gundam:
    • In Gundam Build Fighters, when China tries her hand and building a Gunpla and finds herself in a Gunpla battle, she defeats her main rival due to the fact she stuffed her Gunpla, Bearguy III, with cotton, helping to absorb the shock of an otherwise fatal attack. She didn't do this as a deliberate strategy, she did it to adhere to Bearguy's backstory of being a stuffed animal turned into a robot.
    • Similarly, the instruction papers for Gundam Build Divers's Momokapool Gunpla reveal that Momoka's desire to turn a Kapool into a penguin-themed Gunpla lead to the suit being a lot more stronger and durable. She didn't care much for a "strong" Gunpla, she just wanted a cute Gunpla.
  • Issei routinely attempts to pull stunts like this in High School D×D, with varying degrees of success. A shining example comes in his first showdown with Vali, where he grabs a fragment of Vali's Divine Diving armor and declares he'll incorporate it into his Boosted Gear armor so he'll have a hand that can punch Vali without activating his magic. Albion points out the two are equal and opposite and the idea is patently ridiculous, to which Ddraig lampshades this trope, and Issei proceeds to do it anyway.
  • Toya Akira from Hikaru no Go is forced to play a series of blind go games while cleaning a storage room. He succeeds against the more experienced players but cannot follow the logic of the novice because he has no real strategy.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • In the non-canon light novel Jorge Joestar, one of the stories takes place after the universe was reset by the Stand Made in Heaven thirty-six times. Three characters from the original universe have survived through all these resets: Giorno Giovanna, whose Gold Experience Requiem allows him to No-Sell any attack, including the end of the universe, Ultimate Kars, who was on Mars at that point, which was not affected, and... Rohan Kishibe, who managed to No-Sell thirty-six separate Class X-4 Apocalypses simply by being too preoccupied with writing his manga to acknowledge the end of all things. Apparently, if other books of this author, which are noticeably linked to each other, are to be acknowledged, it's more of a case of Clap Your Hands If You Believe, since consciousness-induced spatiotemporal manipulation was a major plot point in the "Disco Detective Wednesday".
    • Vanilla Ice from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, when stabbed through the throat multiple times and having his head twisted around 180 degrees, claims he 'doesn't have time to die' and keeps on fighting as if he weren't injured at all. In reality, Dio has made him a vampire, though Ice himself doesn't realize this and continues to believe he's resisting death through pure willpower until Polnareff lures him into a sunbeam and he begins to disintegrate.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • In the My Hero Academia: Two Heroes movie, the young heroes attend a party on the lower levels of a 200-story tall tower with state-of-the-art security. Once both the party and the security system is hijacked by terrorists, they have to race to the top floor using the stairs, since the lifts are blocked by the system. On the 80th floor, they end up cornered by two of the terrorists. All seems lost, until Bakugo, Kirishima and Todoroki step in and help hold the villains back. How did they manage to get there right on the nick of time? Up to that point, they were unaware of the terrorist attack: they ran late to the party, and got so hopelessly lost on the tower that they somehow ended up almost halfway up the tower ahead of the team that actually wanted to go up.
    • At the end of the Paranormal Liberation War Arc, it is revealed that One for All is a Deadly Upgrade for anyone that has a Quirk, as it overwhelms their bodies and makes them age faster than normal. This was something that no one knew about until All Might began to research the former Torchbearers, as most of them died fighting All for One before it became an issue. Both Nana Shimura and All Might ended up choosing precisely the one type of person that could wield One for All without suffering from the backlash.
    • All Might wielded One for All for forty years before passing it to Izuku, which allowed him to imbue the Quirk with a part of his own consciousness - one that was able to relay his research on One for All to the other wielders, allowing them to put together critical information on One for All's true nature.
  • Played with in My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!. Catarina is consciously trying to prevent her future death or exile. But by accident she does things that work a little too well. Without even meaning to, she ends up winning the hearts of all of the game's love interests, the other rival characters, and even the main heroine herself. Catarina is completely oblivious to this.
  • Naruto:
    • The first part of the Chunin Exam is designed to test students' sneaking and information gathering skills. The test accomplishes this by being ridiculously hard so that the students will need to cheat to get the correct answers. They are penalized for being caught cheating, and lose points for any wrong answer. The expectation is that the students will realize that they need to cheat and not get caught. All of Team 7 passes, but only Sasuke figures out the intent of the test. Sakura works out the answers by hand, and Naruto leaves his test completely blank; neither gets caught cheating (and since he didn't leave any answers at all, none of them were wrong), so they pass. The proctor of the exam is rather amused when he sees Naruto's exam paper.
    • To a lesser extent, Sasuke never seemed to realize that his teammates are unable to cheat and might need him to pass answers like Kankuro, Tenten, or Ino were able to do.
    • In Boruto, the academy's graduation exam includes a similar test, with Shino all but coming right out and telling his students that they should cheat. Several of the students pass the written exam by stealing a copy of the test in advance from the teachers' lounge and memorizing the answers. But since Boruto barely even pays attention in class, he treated it like a normal written test and just answered the questions correctly on his own.
  • One Piece is full of this:
    • In the cover art serial, "Wapol's Omnivorous Rampage", Wapol, having been deposed and now a hobo, uses his Devil Fruit power to eat anything and spit whatever he ate all mixed up to create some toys. A scientist examines one toy and discovers a new alloy. So, by just messing around with his powers, Wapol invented a brand new type of metal that would revolutionize technological progress!
    • In "Gedatsu's Accidental Blue-Sea Life", Gedatsu is so absent-minded that he forgets about gravity itself and stands on a wall.
    • In "Eneru's Great Space Mission", Eneru is on the moon (itself a feat, as his "ship" flew by propellers which should not be capable of reaching outer space) blasting stuff with his lightning. He comes across an ancient city, strikes this, and ends up jump-starting the ancient technology by being Trigger Happy.
    • Papaggu the starfish can act and talk like a person. How? He thought he was human and by the time he realized he wasn't, he was already in the swing of things. Even Luffy didn't understand how that worked.
    • A rather extreme example regarding how Luffy was declared the "Fifth Emperor" of the Sea and saw his bounty tripled in the aftermath of the Totto Land arc. Their entry into Big Mom's territory, the country of Totto Land, was initially supposed to be a discreet rescue mission for Sanji. Circumstances caused the situation to escalate, which eventually led to the Straw Hats allying with Capone "Gang" Bege in an assassination attempt on Big Mom because Sanji refused to abandon his biological family to their fates. The ensuing chaos that resulted from the Big Mom Pirates chasing them down was then sensationalized by "Big News" Morgans. He took a clusterfuck of a secret rescue operation and subsequent collateral damage as a deliberate assassination attempt and a full-on raid on Big Mom's territory and, in his article on the event, declared Luffy to be the "Fifth Emperor" of the Sea. Essentially, the Straw Hats caused their reputations to skyrocket, to the point of becoming ranked among the most powerful pirate crews in the world, by complete accident, without ever stopping to realize the magnitude of the events that had just transpired because they were in crisis mode or about to die the entire time.
    • Kin'emon ends up at the brunt of this during Wano when Denjiro compliments his cunning strategy, knowing that there was a traitor in his midst and purposely told him the wrong location to meet for the invasion of Onigashima based on the final message of the deceased Yasuie, which had a subtle clue indicating the true meeting point. Except Kin'emon didn't know there was a traitor, and he legitimately misinterpreted the message.
    • The pirate Bartolomeo somehow managed to get to the New World without a navigator on his ship. Even Idiot Hero Luffy wasn't that moronic. It is inconceivable how Bartolomeo got past his first island, let alone survive in the New World.
  • In One-Punch Man, Saitama 100% honestly believes that his absolutely insane levels of strength, speed, and durability came from sticking to a daily training regimen of 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats, and 10 kilometers of running for three years straight. When his "student" Genos points out that that's just mundane strength training (and not even a very difficult level of it, either) and demands to know what his real secret is, Saitama responds "Look, you might not believe me, but that's really all I did." The series eventually suggests that Saitama broke some kind of internal "limiter" during those three years, which is the real answer for his abilities (and his Premature Baldness).
  • The Team Rocket trio of the Pokémon inevitably accomplish this. By the end of their Sinnoh run, they have become such washouts within the organisation that Giovanni has completely forgotten who they are, meaning he starts believing their exaggerated claims of success and promoting them to bigger roles. The one improvement in the position they've made in their employment as a whole is by failing for long enough.
  • The Quintessential Quintuplets: Male lead Fuutarou Uesugi has four out of the five quintuplets falling for him, but only three of them actively compete for him and try to win his affection. The one he ends up choosing? Yotsuba, who unlike Ichika, Nino, and Miku, who put in effort to try and appeal to him in different ways, does nothing of the sort. All she does is treating him nicely and be supportive of him, but actively tries to not get too close, as she sees herself as unworthy of pursuing him romantically, despite having been the one who has loved him for the longest time. Hell, she even sabotages her own chances so as to give his sisters a chance, and when the time comes for him to reveal his choice, she's so certain he won't choose her that she leaves before the designated time, and when she finds out she is his choice, she's so shocked she ends up running away in shame.
  • Shaman King:
    • This trope is used to explain why it is that a bunch of kids are being sent to stop the reincarnated antagonist who has spent nearly a thousand years training in hell to become more powerful and recently is on the verge of merging with God/The Great Spirit. Essentially, the adults have hit the barrier where they begin to realize there are limitations. The kids are too young/stupid to realize there are limitations yet.
    • Harsher in Hindsight strikes in the sequel manga, the cast has grown and DOES realize their limitation, unable to change the world in the slightest, which means Hao wins not only the tournament but also the bet. Rosseau was wrong?
  • In Super Dimension Fortress Macross/Robotech, this was the trope that enabled the crew of the SDF-1 to perform an extremely low altitude space-fold jump, which the enemy Zentraedi thought was impossible. The humans still barely understood a portion of the alien ship's capabilities and simply didn't know that using that system so close to a planet was considered an insane move. As it is, the human's seriously overshot their intended destination of the moon to just beyond Pluto and the stunned Zentraedi are left wondering if these supposed space warfare amateurs are actually tactical geniuses. The humans also irreparably banjaxed the space-fold drive -by which we mean to say they made it vanish in a Puff of Logic- but the Zentraedi had no way to know that. This would only be the first of many Indy Ploy or outright accidents that ended up confusing and impressing the Zentraedi.
  • In Sword Art Online: Alternative Gun Gale Online, LLENN simply wanted to have a cute avatar in a VR FPS shooter, so she decided to have a pink outfit. Without realizing it, she chose the perfect camouflage for the desert at sunset or sunrise. This causes her to own the desert parts of the map, as no one else thought to use this as a color.
  • At the very beginning of Hajime no Ippo, Takamura challenges Ippo to catch a certain number of leaves falling from a tree. He expects Ippo to use both hands. Except he doesn't tell Ippo that. Ippo works his ass off to achieve the feat the same it was demonstrated by Takamura: one-handed.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann:
    • The very first combining happens because Kamina, in his ignorance and insanity, figures that just slamming two Gunmen together will combine them. Lucky for him, he used one made for this task, although it looks at first like that he instead just almost impaled himself.
    • The whole series kind of goes on with this. At one point Team Dai-Gurren completes a difficult operation—later, their supercomputer reveals the odds of their victory had been computed beforehand but hadn't told them because the result showed that success was a complete impossibility.
      "The chance of success for this mission was 0%, but I can see theoretical calculations don't mean anything to you people."
    • Interestingly, this indicates that the supercomputer also invoked this trope - by all accounts, it should have "exploded" due to seeing its impossible calculation mistake, yet it decided to ignore the mistake and continue running, simply because it knows the humans are also ignoring that 0% anyway.
  • In The Zashiki Warashi of Intellectual Village Shinobu as a child would happily invite any youkai he met to come play with him. Majina notes that in doing so Shinobu is effectively "defusing" several dangerous youkai such as a God of Poverty, an act Hyakki Yakou struggles to replicate even once.

    Card Games 
  • Star Wars Customizable Card Game has the following flavor text on Han's Modified Heavy Blaster: "In theory, you can't modify a DL-44 Heavy Blaster. No one told Han that."

  • From a Sarah Silverman routine: "Stop telling girls they can be anything they want when they grow up. I think it's a mistake. Not because they can't, but because it never would have occurred to them that they couldn't."

    Comic Books 
  • In an Archie Comics story, the klutzy Archie loses his memory following an athletic mishap. Reggie toys with him by telling him he's the school's champion athlete, expecting that Archie will humiliate himself, only to be astonished when Archie proceeds to accomplish incredible athletic feats, such as a record-breaking pole vault without using a pole. When Archie throws a javelin beyond school property, accidentally puncturing a guy's tire, he gets a memory-restoring punch in the head and reverts to his usual clumsiness.
  • Atomic Robo:
    • Why can giant ants exist despite the Square-Cube Law? Because they don't know there's a square cube law.
    • At one point, one character thwarts an invasion of vampires from another dimension by using a plan that depended on the use of a Xenon laser. When he explains this, Robo informs him that the laser he used was not, in fact, a Xenon laser, and he doesn't think their facility even has one, leaving the guy baffled about how his plan worked.
    • Taken to its extremes by Dr. Dinosaur, whose inventions just plain don't make sense even within the context of a comic that once used the Large Hadron Collider as a proton cannon. This causes extreme frustration in Robo, who gets to watch the laws of reality bend into pretzel shapes because of a delusional dromaeosaurid inverting gravity with a spanner, a lightbulb, two car batteries, and a broken calculator.
  • When The Joker met Batman-expy Midnighter of The Authority, Midnighter, whose Stock Phrase is "I've fought this fight X thousand times in the supercomputer in my head so you've already lost" can only stare at the Joker with utterly no idea what to do next.
  • Batgirl:
    • When Cassandra Cain was fighting the Joker, Cassandra was initially losing. Cassandra is able to analyze her opponent's fighting style to predict their next move, but the Joker has no fighting style - even he doesn't know his next move!
  • Jeff Doe's whole character revolves around this. In The Epic Life, Jeff is a teenager with a very bent understanding of logic and reasoning. It isn't clear if this is the source of his power, but regardless, he has no concept of "abnormal" and follows his inclinations. Despite having no clear limits, he normally acts like a regular person (albeit absent-minded and innocent).
  • Tweedledope is a member of a group of villains called the Crazy Gang who can somehow create Applied Phlebotinum by just tinkering with junk. No doubt the most miraculous piece of machinery he created this way was the sentient portal-creating robot Widget. It should be noted that Widget's sentience derived from the amnesiac and temporally displaced mind of Kate Pryde, the Days of Future Past version of Kitty Pryde (it takes a very long time for Widget, let alone else, to figure this out), and later examination suggested that there's a mystical element involved.
  • In Fantastic Four, this has been used as an explanation for why Reality Warper Franklin Richards is so much more powerful as a young child than various adult versions of him (introduced via Time Travel) have been: he doesn't realize that all of the things he's doing are impossible. An adult Franklin who actually understands the laws of physics needs to think of ways to work around them, even though based on the way his powers work that's only a psychological limitation.
  • In one Carl Barks comic, the Beagle Boys trick Super Goof into ingesting a formula that makes him so hungry he eats everything in sight, gaining a huge amount of weight. When he finally gets his act together and goes after them, he's so fat he can barely stay airborne. But he still apprehends the villains when he falls on them.
  • Green Lantern Simon Baz can ignore the limitations on his ring's capabilities because no-one told him about them.
  • Alfred E. Neuman of MAD fame displays this on various classic covers — sitting on a swing hanging from a branch he is holding, painting a white stripe down the middle of a road by painting a white road black and not painting the middle, etc.
  • In one story from Wally Wood's Sally Forth, the characters are riding in a battle-scarred helicopter — until one of them points out that it should not be able to fly, causing it to fall immediately.
  • Neil Gaiman's The Sandman meets Hob Gadling, a 14th-century peon who believes that people only die because they accept death as inevitable. By choosing to reject death, he believes he can live forever. Now, Hob's premise is completely, horribly wrong, but Death is so amused by his ignorance that she grants his wish. In a roundabout sort of way, this also makes him completely correct, just not for the reason he thinks. Hob ended up becoming one of Dream's few friends.
  • Scooby-Doo! Team-Up: El Kabong can swing around until someone points out there's nothing holding the rope.
  • In Seven Psychopaths, this is the in-story rationale for recruiting a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits to assassinate Hitler—all the sane people in the military have long since dismissed the notion of assassinating Hitler as impossible, so the only ones who stand a chance of succeeding are those who are too crazy to realize it's impossible.
  • Taskmaster was on the receiving end of this in his fight with Deadpool. Taskmaster has the ability to analyze and duplicate any physical action, so he can instantly master any combat style just by observing it. Deadpool starts acting completely at random and kicks his ass.
  • In a comic book story based on Wacky Races, Dick Dastardly believes the other racers can cross the painted tunnels he makes because they don't know it's not real.
  • Discussed in Young Justice:
    Wonder Girl: But he sure can't keep it up!
    Superboy: You know Bart, Wondy. If we don't tell him he can't, he may forget that he can't and go in circles forever.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • In one Sunday strip, Calvin was daydreaming in class that he was Spaceman Spiff, being attacked by an enemy craft. He dreamed that his ship was hit, and he started plummeting towards a planet's surface. "This spells disaster!" screams Calvin/Spiff. Then Miss Wormwood yells at Calvin to pay attention, and he quickly says, "Uhm, 'disaster', D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R." Fortunately, that was exactly the word Miss Wormwood had just asked him to spell.
    • The same thing happened when Spiff was doing a countdown and hit 7 right when Miss Wormwood asks Calvin what 10 minus 3 is.
    • And again when Spiff had just fired on some aliens ('Krakow! Krakow! Two direct hits!') when Suzie asks Calvin about the name of Poland's former capital.
  • Dilbert:
    • Parodied when a CEO with no experience is hired because "someone who doesn't know anything doesn't know what can't be done." When he goes to shake hands with the Pointy-Haired Boss (who is right-handed), he extends his left...
    • This happened in Dilbert again with Ratbert, who was told he was so stupid that he had telekinetic power.
      Ratbert: I have the power to watch television!
    • In another series of strips, Ratbert decides to fly simply by flapping his arms. Dilbert insists it can't be done. Bob the Dinosaur gives Ratbert some advice that turns out to work, resulting in him flying near an annoyed Dilbert and remarking "This must be so embarrassing for you."
    • One time Dilbert tells someone from Marketing that he reprogrammed his DNA into that of a weasel's. The poor dope is so gullible that he actually starts changing!
  • FoxTrot:
    • A Sunday strip has Paige nodding off in class, dreaming she's being romanced by the handsome, dashing Pierre. She repeats "Oh, Pierre" in reply to everything he says, until she wakes up, discovering she just answered her teacher's question - "What is the capital of South Dakota?" - correctly.
    • There's also the time when Roger somehow made the charcoals for the grill burn upside down.
  • Garfield:
    • Odie chases Garfield up a tree, resulting in both of them sitting on a high branch. Jon immediately tells Odie that "dogs can't climb trees". Garfield's response? "It's amazing what one can accomplish when one doesn't know what one can't do."
    • In fact, in one of the early comics, this is how Garfield himself learned to walk on his hind legs. Until it stuck, he'd promptly face-plant when Jon reminded him it's not possible.
    • One strip shows Odie sleeping on the underside of a hammock, and Garfield notes that he doesn't even understand the laws of gravity.
  • Peanuts:
    • Schroeder can play extremely difficult piano pieces on a toy piano where the black keys are simply painted on (or are they...).
    • Similar to the above-example in Garfield, there was one week-long series where Snoopy and Linus climbed a very large tree to investigate a "strange creature" in Woodstock's nest which turned out to be an egg. Eventually, Lucy came along, and Charlie Brown explained what was going on. Lucy shouted to them that dogs can't climb trees; Snoopy replied, "You're right!" before falling out with a crash.
    • In early strips where Linus was still shown as an infant, he often displayed this trope. Examples included stacking blocks off-center well past the point they should fall over, and blowing up balloons cube-shaped. While Charlie Brown kept trying to figure out how he did it, Lucy was just embarrassed that her brother didn’t know how to do things right.

    Fan Works 
  • Ace in And We Stumble Blindly On unlocked Observation Haki to make up for his extremely poor vision, but didn't even know the ability's name until Marco explained it to him.
  • Aurora Falls: Selkirk learns about taming the Stalkers through freezing one with the stasis rifle and then placing Peepers in its gaping maw on a whim.
  • Bequeathed from Pale Estates: Despite having a crush on Robb Stark, Aislinn Forrester didn't bother pursuing him because she figured her house was too minor for a possible marriage to the heir of Winterfell. One of the reasons Robb ends up falling for her is because she was the one marriageable Northwoman his age that wasn't throwing themselves at him.
  • In Boldores And Boomsticks Yang tries a Technical Machine on herself, and discovers that they can in fact work on Humans, if their Aura is unlocked. The few Aura Adepts on Earth never tried it because they already "knew" it wouldn't work on Humans because they had been tested on non-Aura users.
  • Played with in Browncoat Green Eyes, where both Harry and Luna developed a technique of self deception to push past the limitations from certain rules of magic. Notably, he is able to shrink objects enchanted to be larger on the inside, normally impossible, by convincing himself that the spell is actually expanding the universe not shrinking the object.
  • Child of the Storm has Magneto's teaching style work along these lines - don't tell your student that something is meant to be impossible, and they might just pull it off. His first lesson with Harry, when he drops a (very realistic) hologram of a piece of debris on his head, which Harry instinctively catches with his Psychic Powers, is designed to demonstrate this. Doctor Strange, on the other hand, knows that various things are impossible, then does them anyway.
    • Wielders of chaos magic tend to thrive on this, with Wanda explaining to Hermione in the sequel that chaos magic is only really limited by the wielder's imagination (though willingness to use their power/risk the side-effects and durability both come into play). Since Hermione, who herself has chaos magic (thanks to being Wanda's daughter, and completely unaware of it), is someone who thrives on Rule Magic - learning the rules of magic and mastering the framework they provide - this underlines the fact that this is really not the power-set for her.
    • Steve apparently lifted Mjolnir several times prior to the first book, completely unaware of the significance. This meant that once, he used it as a doorstop.
  • In The Changeling of the Guard, the heroic changeling Idol Hooves explores an entire crypt that's stuffed with ancient booby-traps, completely failing to realize that it's supposed to be dangerous. Part of this is thanks to his Nigh Invulnerable carapace protecting him from Annoying Arrows and the like, but still. This comes as a hell of a shock to Daring Do and Ahuizotl, who are having one of their usual battles over a treasure when Idol obliviously wanders into the middle of it and freaks them both out.
  • Tony Stark in Conversations lifts Mjolnir after asking her permission. It's not until the rest of the Avengers walk in that Tony learns of Mjolnir's Only the Chosen May Wield rule.
  • In as much as anyone would consider it an 'achievement', in Contact at Kobol, during the war between the Tau'ri and the Twelve Colonies, a Tau'ri bomb accidentally hits the only piece of naquadah in the Twelve Colonies, in the oceans of Aquaria, escalating the resulting explosion to basically decimate the entire planet.
  • Ranma manages to recreate a high-level demonic spell in The Demon's Contract after witnessing Mara perform it once. She rants how impossible that is since he doesn't have any magic, magical training, or demonic/divine heritage to let him use it. Turns out, he taps into the magic of Jusenkyo to utilize magic.
  • In The Desert Storm, Ben actively exploits this trope during Obi-Wan's training. He keeps Obi-Wan's training private so Obi-Wan won't discover that some of the Force techniques he's training for are considered advanced for even full-fledged Jedi Masters.
    • During her time as a slave, Shmi avoided Gradulla's cruelty by making herself invisible with the Force. This surprises a few Jedi Masters since the Force technique she used was considered difficult to learn and usually reserved for Jedi Shadows.
  • Dishwashing has Shirou finding the Holy Grail in Ryuudo Temple, then taking back home to clean it thinking it was an ordinary cup. In the process, he washes off the corruption upon the wishing device.
  • In An Extraordinary Journey, while trapped on Kobol and hunted by vampires, Tessa- a Number Eight Cylon- manages to save herself by hiding in a downed Raptor, basically claiming it as her home and thus preventing the vampires from reaching her without an invitation.
  • In Fledgling Deity, Gohan manages to create divine ki on his own a couple of years after the Cell Games and even transform into a Super Saiyan God over a decade before Goku canonically pulls it off. It's not until Gohan meets the Grand Kai that he gets even an inkling of how significant his feat is.
  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality:
    • Inverted, as appropriate for a story where clear thinking rather than ignorance is a source of power. Harry lists out all the laws of wizardry describing things you can't do, and looks for restrictions that would sound plausible to wizards ignorant of science, but make no sense from a scientific standpoint. Harry zeroes in on the law saying that you can't Transfigure parts of whole objects — because as a Muggle knows, every whole object is made of individual atoms!
    • A more standard version of the trope is invoked in Ch. 59, where Harry suddenly realizes that broomsticks run on Aristotelian physics — they just go where you point them, rather than continuing under their prior momentum and accelerating in the new direction pointed — presumably because the witch who invented them had never heard of Newtonian mechanics. (Which is a severe problem if you're an excellent pilot on standard broomsticks, and you've just ignited a powerful rocket, which does run on Newtonian mechanics, attached to your broomstick.)
  • Hybrid Hive: Eat Shard?, a Worm/Lyrical Nanoha crossover:
    • Most of Hive's memory was destroyed, forcing her and Taylor to build a magic system based on what little she remembers. Not only do the two succeed, they manage to create spells that the Belkan and Midchildan mages would think impossible.
    • Vista, frustrated with the difficulty of constructing spells, accidentally stores a formula in her magical core allowing her to instantly cast it at a later time. Taylor and Hive are both surprised as this is something they can't do.
    • Taylor is an absolute monster when it comes to multi-tasking, on-the-fly spell editing, and magical combat in general. It's only when Vista gains her device that Taylor gets some perspective on how far outside the norm she actually is.
    • Taylor's math tutor tasks her with prime factoring three large numbers. The numbers are too large for even modern systems to factor in a reasonable amount of time; the tutor wanted to teacher her a lesson about the limits of mathematics and personal skill. Not knowing this, Taylor uses advanced Belkan mathematics and algorithms to factor all three numbers, potentially kicking off a revolution in modern mathematics.
  • The Infinite Loops: Billy has managed to kill several omnipotent loopers (Han Solo, Anakin Skywalker (twice), the entire Mane Six, etc.), drive a completely insane person sane who proceeds to shoot him, make Gendo Ikari a looper, and crash three safe-mode punishment loops, through nothing but lethal stupidity. He's also been labeled an MLE, despite having no malicious intentions whatsoever — his idiocy alone is enough to make him a threat to all of Yggdrasil. So many achievements, and Billy's too stupid to realize any of it.
    • On a lesser note, Ihy had a drunken bender and ended up bringing the Old Spice Duo into the Loops without realizing it until he sobered up. Ad Space was believed to be something of the last thing to do at best due to the supposed damages it sustained when Yggdrasil broke, so Ihy's accident actually helped make ads into viable Loopers (though not viable Branches to Loop into.)
  • In Incarnation of Legends, Bell manages to create magic on his first try despite being a complete novice at it. Not only that, but his new spell, Dragon Fang, requires no chant despite having a significant effect that will only grow stronger with falna. He's unaware of how momentous this is until Brunhilde and Hrist explain it to him.
  • Tsukuyomi from Infinity has no problems solving impossible theorems, conjectures and postulates of math thanks to advanced technology downloaded into her, and afterward she simply says that she hoped she passed. She can also whip up a mean feast. But her best talent is probably being a painter. Probably, because beautiful paintings appear out of nowhere in her presence, but nobody remembers her painting them, not even her.
  • Infinity Train: Boiling Point has two notable examples:
    • First, there's the Apex gets dissolved: a small group including the Apex leaders Simon and Grace get attacked by Boscha, who wastes no time massacring them. While they're left alive, the news about the attack quickly spread in the following week, where Boscha keeps gaining a name for herself just by steamrolling anybody who opposes her. The resulting fear and paranoia of meeting her even by accident causes the Apex to split and run for the hills, to the point they start trying to leave the Train. And all the while, Boscha's just minding her own business, barely acting like it even mattered.
    • Chapter 6 has Skara help Willow train her Plant magic, so, to try test it out on a plang-based magical creature, she plays a tune that would summon a Mandragora. Unfortunately, she summoned a bigger, meaner Dire Mandragora instead, which nearly eats her alive before Willow interferes.
  • In The Joke, Steve thinks nothing of moving Thor's hammer Mjolnir, unaware that only people that are considered worthy are supposed to be able to do so.
  • In The Lion, the Cat and the Turtles, [Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) April O’Neill]] single-handedly triggers a revolt in Calormen when she picks up a box, as that box contained a genie who had granted her master’s wish to become Tisroc, April’s possession of the box transferring the genie’s loyalty to April and exposing her master’s deception to the rest of the country.
  • In Mass Effect: Human Revolution, Conrad Verner, resident incompetent Butt-Monkey and fanboy of the main characters, assembles a huge network of freelance mercenaries, repeatedly pulls off dangerous missions, and manages to even infiltrate an enemy frigate, sabotage it from the inside by accident, and then save everyone on board the ship. How does he do this? He found an original copy of a Shadowrun sourcebook and assumed it was a historical document, and then proceeded to follow it almost to the letter, not realizing it was a role-playing game.
    Jensen: Wait...give me a moment to process this. Are you telling me Conrad LARP'ed his way throughout the Terminus systems and inadvertently created a network for freelance mercenaries?
  • In Master, Pokémon?, it's the author's explanation for Ash's occasional feats of inhuman strength. Ash doesn't know how strong humans are supposed to be, so he semi-arbitrarily decided they're as strong as Machamp, and adjusted his human form to match. Hilarity Ensues.
  • My Heroes Reborn: Mashirao Ojiro, who now has No Sense of Direction thanks to a villain reawakening his Past-Life Memories as Ryoga Hibiki, somehow manages to get so lost that he wins second place in the Obstacle Course of the Sports Festival (first place went to Izuku, thanks to being the reincarnation of the relatively overpowered "Black Leg" Sanji).
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Often the case with Ditzy Doo/Derpy Hooves in fan works in general. She has been known to break the irrefutable laws of the universe simply because she didn't know it was impossible to break them.
    • In CRISIS: Equestria, Insipid's magic has elements of this. Insipid has the ability of Power Copying, but is an idiot who doesn't know how the powers she steals are supposed to work. Yet she's usually more powerful than the original because she lacks their limitations. For example, she once beat Shadow Step — who is supposed to be magically invulnerable — by using her Power Copying to take the invulnerability from him entirely, even though that isn't how her powers should have worked.
    • In Cultural Artifacts, Derpy is hired by the army to potentially make contact with the Big Guy as she's run into him before. When she realizes she needs a foalsitter, Derpy hires... the Big Guy, to the shock of the watching soldiers.
    • In Green, Pinkie Pie invents cold fusion. By accident.
    • On a more "mundane" level, Wild, Sweet and Cool features Twilight and Rainbow Dash learning tandem racing, with Twilight as Rainbow's jockey. They do barrel rolls fine, but aileron rolls cause issues until they work out a system. Then they find out just what other pegasi think. (Or what they think of non-pegasi riders!)
    • Pony POV Series: Trixie was never taught that using magic on a mane is supposed to be almost impossible. As a result, she can easily repair her mane if it gets damaged. Twilight and Nightmare Nilhus/Nightmare Diamond Tiara are utterly shocked to learn this.
    • In Little Deceptions, Celestia causes Master of Disguise and Phantom Thief Blank Slate to undergo a Heel–Face Turn just by having a brief, kindly conversation with him while he's disguised.
    • In Daily Equestria Life with Monster Girl, the true extent of earth pony magic is concealed by a massive race-wide conspiracy, causing all non-earth ponies to believe that the earth ponies are limited to enhanced strength and the Cornicopia Effect. Cerea, however, isn't from Equestria, never learned that earth ponies have no true magic, and as such is easily able to figure out what their magic is really capable of.
  • In Fate Stay/Night fanfic Nerve Damage, Shirou Emiya converted all his nerves into ad-hoc Magic Circuits prior to the story, making him obscenely powerful. When Rin finds out, she tells him that mages have been trying to achieve that very feat for centuries only to fail catastrophically, and even attempting it really should have killed him.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Izuku spends the entirety of the U.A. Entrance Exam's practical portion doing nothing but helping others, resulting in his paltry 15 Villain Points. He's thoroughly convinced that he failed the exam and All Might confirms that 15 points aren't enough to get in even with a flawlessly written score. Then he finds out that he got the highest score in the history of the exam thanks to the 160 rescue points he wracked up, surpassing even All Might's decades-long record. While getting ready for his second day of school, he manages to defeat Mr. Mxyzptlk completely by accident when he misunderstands the rules of the game, inadvertently tricking the imp into yelling "Kltpzyxm" in frustration.
  • Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost (But Matt's Not Wandering; He's Just Lost) has Daredevil successfully entering into the Avengers' living space at the top of their Tower... while he is in his civilian identity of Matt Murdock, very blind and only looking for the legal department. The other Avengers immediately start ribbing on Tony Stark for boasting of his high-tech, perfect security which a lost, blind dude waltzed through without even trying.
  • In Off the Line, Cloud Strife/Rainstorm does a lot of things other players or even the game developer didn't know were possible out of ignorance as a newbie player:
    • Rainstorm befriends Red XIII because he assumed that the latter had a unique player class as opposed to most players who assume Red XIII is a mob or a pet.
    • Rainstorm kills players higher leveled than him due him applying real-world logic and physics into the game, which most players don't.
    • Rainstorm finds out that Vincent is a real person and not a boss nor a glitch after a few minutes of talking to him, which Cait Sith didn't know even after ten years of attempting to delete Vincent.
  • In the Worm and Destiny crossover Paradoxical, where Taylor has been resurrected as a Guardian, Taylor's Ghost Kali wonders at one point if Taylor's abilities with the Light, which seem to fall in-between Hunter and Warlock, and confuse people trying to figure them out are because she was never told that it wasn't possible for her to do something.
  • In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, Ash has to retrain Pikachu to recover his moves. He succeeds with Thunderbolt, Iron Tail and Quick Attack without much trouble. However, his attempts to relearn Electro Ball result in Pikachu learning Zap Cannon instead.
  • Princess of the Blacks:
    • Most transfigurations require a specific spell that's designed to turn one designated object into another designated object. However, there is a type known as "free transfiguration" which is a spell designed to turn anything into anything else but requires in-depth knowledge of both the beginning and end materials. Jen finds out in fifth year she's been doing the latter her whole life.
    • Voldemort swore himself to Nyarlathotep and became a soul mage without any inkling of either, partly because Nyarlathotep is the only Power that doesn't inform his followers of what they've become. He had simply created horcruxes in an attempt to make himself immortal.
  • Professor Arc: Jaune managed to greatly impress Cinder during their first official meeting with his complete nonchalance towards her and her implied threats, together with the fact that she just can't figure out his real intentions. This only happened because a) he was too inexperienced with shady deals (to say nothing about women) to pick out most of their conversation's subtext, b) his lack of Huntsman training prevented him from even noticing that Cinder was threatening to attack him in the first place and c) there is no way to figure out a plan that simply doesn't exist.
  • In A Protector's Pride, Rukia gathers the reishi (spirit energy) in the air to power her spells and doesn't think anything of it. Hitsugaya points out that is a technique exclusive to Quincies (Shinigami use the reishi in their own bodies).
  • In Shards, Naruto learned how to do hand signs with one hand because he was often kicked out of class and had to watch through a window, resulting in him not knowing hand signs used both hands for several months.
  • Sight has Ichigo accepting his Inner Hollow as his dark side and choosing to compromise with him instead of fighting his Inner Hollow and locking him away. Ichigo nor his Hollow did all of this without being aware that Ichigo did something very dangerous and not considered possible.
  • Starlight Over Detrot has the Detrot Tenth Librum Publicum, which is bigger on the inside only because nobody told the Architect it couldn't be.
  • The Sword of Justice and the Shield of Time: Sayaka decides to do Homura a favor after she accidentally broke the latter's katana during training and use her and her Witch Oktavia's magic to repair it and make it stronger. Sayaka thinks she was just doing what Mami did to enhance a bat with her magic, but Homura tells her after the fact that what Mami did was something any Puella Magi can do and it's only temporary since they're just adding magic to the object that eventually dissipates. What Sayaka actually did was not only repair the sword, but altered it down to the sub-atomic level and permanently-infused it with magic, giving it new abilities.
  • Xander in Teal'c's Wish accidentally writes down a valid Stargate address to another galaxy because he saw a pattern of symbols that "wasn't complete" and closed the pattern by adding an eighth symbol.
  • In Team 7's Ascension Naruto recreates the Nidaime's ability to perform water techniques without a source of water at least partially because he doesn't know he's not supposed to.
  • Team 8:
    • While on their first "mission" (cleaning and repairing an injured herbalist's home), Kurenai has a full conversation with (who she thinks is) Naruto. He slips and falls off the roof, and then... he disappears in a cloud of smoke. It was a shadow clone. The strength and self-awareness of each clone are based on how much chakra is put into the technique, which is no problem for the chakra-riddled Naruto. But no one told Naruto that ever.
    • Quite a lot of Naruto stories have Naruto accomplishing impossible or exceedingly difficult feats (such as creating a solid transformation technique) simply because he thinks' he's doing things right.
  • In THERMOS!, or, How a Muggle-Born Brought a New Age of Spell-Making to Hogwarts (Entirely by Accident), Phoebe brings a Muggle thermos to school with her, and her Pureblood friend Titus misunderstands her when she tries to explain what it is. This results in Titus pointing his wand at a cup and yelling "THERMOS!" in the hopes of making his drink stay warm all day, much to Phoebe's amusement. Phoebe's understandably shocked when it actually works.
  • This Bites!:
    • Invoked, then averted in Chapter 32. Cross doesn't tell Zoro that he's trying to cut through a diamond-hard seastone cage, because he thought if Zoro didn't know he couldn't do it, he might be able to. It doesn't work.
    • More deliberately invoked with the Eisen Dial, which produces clouds as hard as iron. In canon, Cloud Dials don't work right outside of Sky Islands, but Cross tells Usopp that there's a way to make them work (going off of his knowledge from the Punk Hazard arc) in the hopes that he can figure one out. Eventually, with Nami's help, he does.
    • Nami accidentally defeats Kizaru this way in Chapter 42. She mistook his light-beam form as the glare of a sniper rifle and threw up a mirage that refracted him head-first into the Red Line.
    • In Chapter 68, Cross and Saint Charloss destroy (or at least drive underground) the modeling industry after the latter's live interview on the SBS explains one of the World Nobles' popular hobbies: using fashion magazines to shop for spouses and murder models for being too good-looking. Cross almost has an aneurysm when he realizes what exactly he just did.
  • This Means War has Harry knowing lots of impossible magic due to ignorance.
  • Total Command, Mei Hatsume built a robotic All Might that has sophisticated AI and similar emotional range to a human. Mei has no idea how she did it as she made it during a period where she didn't sleep for six days straight and can't really remember what happened that weeknote .
  • In The Weaver Option the Black Library of Ceograch is noted to be the most secure and hidden facility in the entire galaxy. Despite this it has been attacked by Orks on multiple occasions because they were so busy rampaging randomly through the Webway they didn't realize they were lost.
  • Start Again series:
    • Downplayed example in the first entry The Count of Monte Cristo, where Haru, after being sent back in time following the Phantom Thieves' defeat by the Holy Grail, blackmails Akechi with the knowledge that he is the bastard son of Masayoshi Shido and that he's performing murders for him to both get the Metaverse App and stop him from killing Wakaba Isshiki, Futaba's mother. What she didn't know was that when she confronted him, Akechi was planning on approaching Shido with his Metaverse abilities, but deemed working him too risky thanks to Haru's knowledge. Haru ended up preventing numerous mental shutdowns and breakdowns that were prevelent in her timeline.
    • Played straight in Escher, where Yusuke, believing he's the only one that remembers the future and trying to adjust to being stuck under Madarame's thrall again, paints a self-portrait of his cognition in the Metaverse. When he is confronted by Hifumi Togo for absentmindedly mentioning how her mother was rigging her shogi game and wanted her to become an idol (at a point of time where it is unknown if she even started yet) he get backed towards his painting until his arm goes into the painting. Hifumi's attempt to pull him out ends up toppling the portrait over and sends them straight into the Metaverse. Futaba even lampshades this after hearing the story.
    Futaba: You're trying to tell me you painted a portal into the Metaverse?!
  • Sunsplit Saga: Sunspawned: The spell that Sunburst used to create Sunset, the Independent Construct Kinesis Equation, was in magical textbooks, but was thought to be purely theoretical, which Sunburst didn't know. Celestia's hair, which Sunburst had unwittingly used in the spell, helped, but it turns out that the reason no one before him succeeded is because they got the math wrong. Sunburst used the math Meadowbrook used for enchanted items, while everyone else (except possibly a hedgewitch who may have created the Mirror Pool) used the "amniomorphic constant".
  • In Sea of Souls, an Arrancar Luffy finds Aizen's Hogyoko in Las Noches... and eats it.
  • Shen Yuan in SV Wishes completely derails the story he's trapped in, mostly by following his incomplete knowledge of the story to save his own life. Due to his lack of foreknowledge since he only read the first volume of a multi-book series, he changes the story past the point his character was supposed to die. By deciding to be a kind teacher, he prevents Luo Binghe from becoming the horrible Villain Protagonist he was supposed to be and influenced him to be a geniunely chivalorous and romantic person.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Sherman and Penny are in Leonardo da Vinci's workshop and find his flying machine, and Penny urges Sherman to take it for a joy ride. With her "Just do it!" encouragement, Sherman gets it airborne and is actually piloting it with skill until Mr. Peabody sees them and reminds Sherman that he doesn't know how to fly. The instant Sherman hears this, he freaks out, loses control and crashes it.
  • In Wakko's Wish, Buttons runs straight up a tree to save Mindy, only to fall when she tells him "Puppies can't climb trees."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Joe Patroni in Airport is a skilled mechanic qualified to taxi planes but not fly them. When a 707 is stuck on a snowy runway and has to be moved off at any cost to allow another plane's emergency landing, he takes the cockpit and pushes the aircraft past its limits until he manages to get it moving just ahead of the plows coming to (destructively) give it a push, thereby saving the aircraft. Arguably Patroni is overqualified for this trope, because he knows the plane inside and out and exactly how much abuse it can take. What drives it home is when he's told afterward that the manual says what he just did is impossible—to which he replies the beauty of the 707 is "she can do everything but read." It's an achievement in ignorance for the plane.
  • In Being There, this is a possible explanation for the final shot in which Chance walks on water. It's also the reason he gets as far as he does in the film with the people around him - he doesn't actually realize what he's doing most of the time.
  • During the Spinning Paper montage that ends Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, Road & Track reports that Death managed to win the Indy 500 on foot. His response? "I didn't know I could run that fast."
  • In the 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mike Teavee sees Willy Wonka's Television Chocolate setup as this on Mr. Wonka's part — Mr. Wonka was merely looking for a new way to get his chocolate to market and wound up creating a teleporter without realizing the true significance/potential of such an invention.
  • The Dark Knight Rises: Invoked. Bruce comments on his safe being supposedly uncrackable. Selina Kyle, who has just cracked it, quips that she didn't know it was uncrackable.
  • Edge of Tomorrow is centered around William Cage, an inexperienced soldier who becomes trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop after being splattered in alien blood. But how did he get that in the first place? Well, he ran out of ammo, saw a soldier strapping a Claymore to his armor and pulled it towards the alien, not knowing said mine is guaranteed to kill anything within a few feet of it (the soldier was clearly aiming for a suicide attack), meaning the Claymore killed them both, but Cage was splattered with the blood that enables him to revive by looping. In short, he became The Only One capable of defeating the aliens because of being literally Too Dumb to Live!
  • The premise of Forrest Gump is built on this trope. Forrest is so dense that he routinely attempts things other people wouldn't even consider, and so single-minded that he puts his maximum effort into everything he does. As a result, he meets spectacular success while the skeptics are left scratching their heads.
  • Galaxy Quest:
    • The Thermians construct a fully functional, space-worthy Starship, complete with powerful weapons, Warp Drive, and Teleportation, based on the design of a ship seen in "Historical Documents" intercepted from space. Unbeknownst to them, these "Historical Documents" were actually episodes from the TV Series Galaxy Quest, broadcast from Earth by humans not remotely capable of producing these technologies. It's important to note that this also included the Omega-13, an alien device that was not part of the original ship schematics and that nobody even knew what function it had, only educated (and conflicting) guesses.
    • Nesmith actually manages to defeat the Big Bad in the first act of the film, while he still believes that he's on a television show. Wanting to end the "show" as quickly as possible because of his hangover, he orders an immediate attack that takes the villain completely by surprise. Unfortunately, he promptly leaves, allowing the villain to recover and come back later.
  • Jem and the Holograms; the protagonist becomes famous after she takes a video of herself singing which gets uploaded to YouTube by her little sister after Jem herself assumes it's going to bomb, then suddenly goes viral with millions of hits, overnight. (Clearly, her music is better in-fiction than out of it.)
  • Molly's Game: 'Bad' Brad accidentally bluffs his way into winning a huge hand (his first ever win at the table) because he is too bad at poker to realise that he should have folded. His reckless betting spooks Harlan into thinking he has a much stronger hand and he folds.
  • This is the plot of Pay It Forward as described by the mother:
    "You don't know my son, you tell him he can do something and he's going to believe you."
  • In Pippi on the Run, the final Pippi Longstocking movie with Inger Nilsson as the eponymous character, this trope becomes a Running Gag. Over the course of the movie, Pippi does several completely impossible things, and then afterward claims that the reason why she could do them was that she forgot they were impossible. The entire thing is subverted at the very end of the movie when Pippi rides a broomstick around Tommy and Annika's house, and when Annika once again claims that this is impossible, Pippi cheerfully yells back that it's not impossible to her."
  • Star Wars:
    • This was probably the original intention behind Han Solo's retort to C-3PO in The Empire Strikes Back: "Never Tell Me the Odds!!" Han does not want to know how unlikely his various insane flight maneuvers are to work precisely because that might deter him from trying them, and those insane maneuvers were their only chance of escape. Han does not want to know what is impossible, or so unlikely as to be effectively impossible.
    • Played with in the same film when Luke tries and fails to use the Force to lift his X-wing out of the swamp. He fails, and then, when Yoda is able to do it, he says that he cannot believe it, only for Yoda to tell him that that was why he failed. He failed, that is, because he did not believe that it was possible, whereas Yoda knew that it was.
    • Han continues to use the trope as his standard operating procedure in The Force Awakens, allowing for him to pull such insane stunts as jumping to hyperspace from inside a hangar. When Rey incredulously asks if that's even possible, Han replies, "I never ask that question 'til after I've done it."
  • In Superman III:
    • Gus writes a program in his computer class, then shows it to the instructor after hearing the instructor explain to another student that what the program does is impossible.
    • Later on while working for Ross Webster, Gus is told to synthesize kryptonite to kill Superman. Gus manages to get part of the way there... but there's a catch: there's an element of kryptonite that isn't found on Earth and therefore can't be used. Gus fills in the blank by adding tar after reading his pack of cigarettes, figuring that since tar is unhealthy for humans, it's probably unsafe for Kryptonians. The result? While the synthesized kryptonite doesn't kill Superman, it causes just as much trouble by causing Superman to spiral into Superdickery for a time.
  • In Tremors 2: Aftershocks, the subterranean, wormlike Graboids move into a new biological phase: three foot tall, bipedal, raptor-like beings nicknamed "Shriekers". When the Shriekers disable a car on the road out of town, (blocking the road) and disable communications by taking down the radio tower, the heroes nearly panic at the implications, especially after having previously seen how clever the Graboids could be. Then they discover that the Shriekers have vision based on seeing heat and are simply attacking anything hot in their way, such as a car engine or a radio tower, and have managed to disable their human opponents purely by chance. As one stunned character says when they find this out "You mean they're acting so smart...because they're so stupid?!"

  • An adage of unknown origin: "Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently determined fool."
  • Often seen in Polish jokes (more often than not told by Poles themselves). One such joke: Satan locks an American, Russian and Polish scientist each in their own sealed room in Hell, and gives each one a pair of one-tonne solid steel balls, saying whoever can come up with the most impressive feat after seven years may be permitted to leave and go to Heaven. After seven years he returns to see their progress. The American has made the balls hover in the air and glow, which impresses the Devil. Next he goes to see the Russian, who has made his balls roll around the floor whilst playing Tchaikovsky. But the Pole impresses him the most: he's broken one of the balls in half and lost the other.

  • In German, an achievement made in ignorance of the inherent dangers is frequently called a "Ritt über den Bodensee" (a ride across Lake Constance). This is based on a folk legend that was turned into a ballad by Gustav Schwab, Der Reiter und der Bodensee (The Rider and Lake Constance): In a cold winter, a rider loses his way in a snowstorm and without realizing it rides across the frozen-over Lake Constance. This is something a sane person would normally not attempt because due to the size of the lakenote  and the Rhine running through it you could not be sure that it would be safe for a rider and horse to cross all the way. It does not end well though — when he is told that he has arrived in a village on the other shore, the shock of realization of the danger he unwittingly had gone through kills him.
  • Alcatraz Series:
    • Smedry Talents often have a subtext of this. Generally, the Smedrys can turn being very bad at one thing (for example, dancing), into being really good at something else (like fighting). Aydee Ecks Smedry's power in particular is being extraordinarily bad at math, so that she can, for example, believe that if you have one each of the three kinds of exploding teddy bear (It Makes Sense in Context), then that's six teddy bears total, making 3 extra appear.
    • Alcatraz was raised in the Hushlands, making Free Kingdomer magic and technology equally arcane to him. Since he is more skeptical about common axioms (technology is defined as something anyone can use and magic is restricted to certain people), he can make connections nobody else can, like Smedry Talents are the same as Lenses.
  • The Belgariad:
    • This is played seriously when Garion tries to resurrect the dead colt and succeeds, something Belgarath (the first and most powerful human sorcerer) can't do. In this case, it's primarily used to show just how much sorcery depends on the sorcerer believing a feat is possible. In particular, the adolescent Garion sees things as simpler than they actually are, which lets him do things that his learned elders think are too complex to be done. Belgarath notes at one point that this also puts Garion at risk, as this sometimes results in Garion attempting things that more experienced sorcerers would know are too dangerous to try. This is also Foreshadowing, as Errand, a complete innocent, convinces the gods to bring Durnik back to life in the last book largely by not comprehending he's dead...largely.
    • Also subverted in the fifth book, Enchanter's Endgame, by Queen Islena of Cherek when ruling in her husband's stead. Following suggestions of a fellow queen, she orders a priest trying to usurp power to go to the front lines or be sent to the dungeons. Such an ultimatum would be completely unacceptable behavior for the monarch, except Islena isn't well known for her intellect and is assumed to be ignorant of her apparent faux pas. Unable to counter the queen's order, his take-over not yet ready, and with no actual legal grounds to protest, the priest is sent to war. And once the priest is there with the rest of the army, he really can't come up with a compelling reason why he should be sent home again. Especially since members of his radical sect claim to be fearsome warriors who aren't afraid of battle. Her husband King Anheg later admits that he could never have done this because he is expected to know better.
    • Also, in Polgara the Sorceress, Polgara comments on Belgarath's ability to continue at any given task unrelentingly, and supposes he may be able to "store up sleep" during his long periods of rest, something she knows/believes to be impossible. Just afterward, she decides it might be interesting to test the capacity of a human to do what seems impossible - when one doesn't know it—by convincing Mandorallen to pick himself up by the scruff of his neck.
  • In Mickey Zucker Reichert's Bifrost Guardians series, there is a magical fortress that is so well protected by various traps that, as everyone knows, it is impossible to break into. When the main characters need to do just that, one of them leaps to the challenge, saying that he's been doing "impossible" things all his life and he's not about to stop now. As it turns out, the magic protecting the fortress gets stronger the more you believe in its effectiveness—all you have to do to get in is to believe that you really can do the impossible.
  • In The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, the titular cat Pixel does exactly that because he's too young to know it's impossible.
  • Circle of Magic:
    • The books run on this trope, particularly the four main characters weaving their powers together in the first book. Lampshaded when Niko informs Tris that the magic-seeing spell should have worn off a week after it was placed.
      Niko: There's an advantage to instructing young mages: suggestion counts for so much with you four.
    • At the same time, though, it is noted by various characters that magic (much like science in the real world) has many things still unknown about it. You just don't realize this is so until the so-called impossible happens. This is multiplied by the fact the main characters have natural ambient magic, which comes from an affinity to various crafts or elements, whose rules are more or less adherent as to the individual subject matter, as opposed to the learned university magic which is highly structured by it's schooled rules.
  • Jim Butcher's Codex Alera:
    • The city folk say that the people on the frontier have such strong magic because they don't know that they shouldn't. More precisely, the frontier-dwellers tend to have "Furies" that are strong, but partially-independent and hard to control; the inhabitants of the central provinces have much better control, most at the cost of raw power (the nobility are the major exception). Achievements in Ignorance is theorized as the reason for this, but it's never definite; it could also be that wild untamed furies on the frontier are naturally stronger, or living on the frontier hones people's skills in ways that soft city life does not.
    • It's also specifically stated that doubt and uncertainty and frustration can inhibit furycrafting. At one point, a character across the ocean from Alera has a minor panic attack on suddenly remembering that theorists have asserted that furycraft is impossible on foreign shores, only to be reassured that another character has just accomplished several feats of furycraft (partly due to being too hard-pressed to remember it was theoretically impossible), and gets ordered to forget the theory.
  • In Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, there is this:
    "The best swordsman in the world doesn't need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn't do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn't prepared for him; he does the thing he ought not to do; and often it catches the expert out and ends him on the spot."
  • David Langford's "Different Kinds of Darkness" is about a group of school children who find a BLIT image on paper and make an endurance game out of staring at it. Later, an actual terrorist strike using a stronger BLIT is stopped when one of the children is able to withstand the BLIT long enough to tear it down and throw it in the trash. The school staff realize that misusing the weaker one had given them a tolerance for BLIT images, something that hadn't been considered possible.
  • Done in Dinoverse with the help of a Sentient Cosmic Force. Bertram builds a machine for the Science Fair which has a simple function—play different randomized videos on screens while hooked up to suction cups on someone's head—but he wants people to think it's showing their dreams, so he builds something massive out of junk salvaged from tech shops. Somehow it turns into a Time Machine. Later it's shown that throughout the multiverse people have been building devices that do the same thing, and Betram must repair a broken one without tools while in the body of a Dilophosaur.
  • This was a theme of Douglas Adams's works. For instance, in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, a major part of the plot revolves around a computer programmer attempting to understand why there is a sofa lodged in his staircase, which was moved up there by a pair of removal men, twisted around in every possible angle, and declared irrevocably stuck. The programmer creates a computer simulation, which determines that it isn't possible for the sofa to have been stuck up there in the first place at all. He assumes his program is wrong but begins to wonder if he may have discovered a whole new branch of physics. This was based on an exaggeration of a real thing that happened to Douglas Adams while he was at university, but the story does have an explanation given later on. Time Travel caused a door to appear in the wall where there wasn't one before, and the people behind it were nice enough to open the door so the mover could get by. When the door vanished, there was no longer any way for it to go back the way it came.
    • For that matter, it's exemplified by the line from Life, the Universe and Everything, "There is an art to flying, or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss."
  • Discworld likes this one:
    • Tiffany Aching reading the dictionary cover to cover because nobody ever told her she shouldn't and Susan Sto-Helit successfully teaching seven-year-olds algebra and, when told it's too hard for them, replies that so far they haven't figured that out. It needs to be said that examples of children learning something before adults would think they're ready to learn it are probably Truth in Television. A bright child may be reading books meant for adults by the age of eight or ten, though they probably won't understand everything they read.
    • Bergholt Stuttley "Bloody Stupid" Johnson is such an incompetent architect and inventor that he ends up creating buildings that are Bigger on the Inside, and circles with the value of pi equal to exactly 3. Three of the national projects that he undertook can fit in a normal pocket. The full list is here.
    • In Equal Rites, Esk teleports something without a counterweight and was able to do it because she didn't know it was impossible because she hadn't been formally taught. It does, however, have consequences later. As well as a possible explanation being given: any wizard could do that, but doing so greatly increases the chances of something going very, very wrong in transit, leading to wizards who know better never trying it.
    • Discussed in The Last Hero, when Leonard asks for journeymen craftsmen, rather than masters, because he has no use for "people who have learned the limits of the possible".
    • Death gives this explanation for how he can move through walls and otherwise tell the laws of physics to sit down and shut the hell up. His advice to Mort in his stint as his apprentice is not to think about it too hard and forget that you know that you can't move through walls. Mort is able to do this when he isn't actively thinking about it as he escapes a group of thugs by backing through a wall. Later books implied that this is because of Death's nature as being outside time - even if the wall is there now, there was or will be a time when the wall will not be or wasn't there, so Death instinctively travels through the space the wall occupies at a moment when there wasn't a wall, then reverts to the moment he needed to be in. When time gets imprisoned in Thief of Time, both he and Susan temporarily lose the ability to do this, as the world is frozen in a moment and there is no past or future to travel through.
    • Susan also uses this trope when she travels back through time to ask Death a few questions about her job. The Raven uses this trope as an example of why education is actually a bad thing.
    • An interesting example is Lord Rust, Ankh-Morpork's foremost military leader by dint of heritage; the man is a total incompetent with absolutely no tactical ability or military knowledge whatever and does not seem to comprehend the utter futility of attacking a vastly superior force on their home ground with virtually no provisions. While this has the obvious result of killing almost every man under his command, Rust is completely unharmed, even though he leads every suicidal charge from the front. By all laws of probability, he should be dead long ago. However, Rust has the unusual ability of being able to completely and subconsciously ignore anything that contradicts or is outside his extraordinarily unrealistic worldview, assuming that it simply cannot exist, including physical danger. He has been reported as charging directly at enemy lines surrounded by projectiles without being scratched; arrows have apparently changed direction to avoid him (which then hit his men). On the Discworld, sufficiently powerful belief can alter physical reality, and magic has been described as more or less ignoring the laws of physics.
    • Hodgesaaargh finds the newly-hatched phoenix because nobody told him that nobody had ever found one. A slight subversion in that the other characters think that it is this trope, whereas Hodgesaaargh also succeeds because he thinks of the phoenix first as a bird, then as a magical creature while everyone else thinks of it the other way round.
    • Cohen and his Silver Horde slaughter the Agatean ninjas because nobody told them that ninjas were invincible. They have a history of doing stuff like this. As Barbarian Heroes, they regularly do impossible things, kill impossible things, survive impossible things, and, in general, are impossible. There is a reason they have all lived to be very, very, very old and still haven't retired. In fact, that last one counts as the biggest impossibility they regularly pull off: even after they died, they didn't think they were dead and went on like it didn't happen.
    • In Sourcery, the Genie uses this to travel through the sky in the lamp while Nijel is also holding it. The trick is not to draw too much attention to it (by thinking or talking about it) so that physics doesn't catch up with its impossibility.
    • In Going Postal, at the end of the initiation trial that the old postmen run for Moist, they sic several massive dogs upon him, whom he recognizes from their bark as Lipwigzer dogs—which his grandfather raised. He handles the challenge with perfect confidence by using the commands that all purebred Lipwigzers are trained... only to learn afterward that they were not Lipwigzers at all, but Ankh-Morpork junkyard dogs, with no Lipwig training whatsoever. Since he thought he was safe, they couldn't smell fear on him.
    • Raising Steam has the steam train "Iron Girder" essentially fly across a rickety bridge, supported only by mist and fog, because Moist convinces Simnel that it can (which turns out to be a subversion, because Moist has secretly made a temporary living ... or whatever ... bridge out of the Ankh-Morpork golems that the mist and fog prevent anyone from seeing).
    • The Light Fantastic: Taken Up to Eleven with the Druids' method of assembling stone circles: convincing the 50-tonne megaliths that they can fly and then riding them to the construction site before they can remember that they are, in fact, giant hunks of rock.
  • Discussed and invoked in The Dresden Files. While setting up a Batman Gambit, Harry compares himself several times to Wile E. Coyote. When things start exploding in his face, he thinks to himself that Wile E.'s big mistake is looking down. If he kept running, he'd make it to the other side of the canyon. While Harry isn't technically ignorant of the dangers around him, he decides to keep going anyway.
  • In Dykstras War, the titular supergenius develops an entirely new branch of physics, and his basic theorems are only successfully challenged and updated by one person. He had seen some data indicating that under certain conditions, there was no theoretical barrier to accelerating to faster-than-light speeds, but Dykstra dismissed that because that simply made no sense and the laws of physics wouldn't allow for it, and the discovery was left to an autistic savant who didn't filter his data like that. It turns out that FTL is indeed possible.
  • In Earth's Children novel The Clan of the Cave Bear, the narration states almost verbatim that Ayla could only come up with her two-stone trick because no one told her it was impossible to rapid-fire two stones from a sling.
  • The entire premise behind the victory over the Buggers in Ender's Game. Ender was lead to believe that the entire war he fought was just a simulation meant to train him for the actual war. This was done to push him past the Moral Event Horizon and force him to use tactics that would otherwise be unthinkable against a real opponent: total xenocide. Once it's revealed what he did, he broke down into hysteria, stating he never would have done it if he knew it was real.
  • Everfound gives us an odd variation combined with Reality Warper. The ruler of the City of Souls is sometimes known as "The Unremembering King" due to his ability to "unremember things". How this works is if the king says he does not remember something, then it ceases to exist. For example, he doesn't remember that Afterlights with red hair aren't parrots, so they sprout red parrot wings. He doesn't remember not being a powerful Mayan king, so he becomes one. As he fell toward the center of the earth, he tried to save himself by not remembering there ever being a direction such as "down"—so he was teleported instantly to the only place where there is, in effect, no "down"—the center of the earth.
  • Played with in the third book of Ewilans Quest, to explain how Matthieu/Akiro could teleport somewhere he had never been, which no one seems to have achieved before and was thus believed to be impossible.
  • Humans in the Expeditionary Force series are at the very bottom of the technological totem pole and are absolutely helpless against the full might of the hostile species inhabiting the galaxy. Despite that, there are two reasons why they still have a distinct advantage over everyone else: 1.) All technology in the galaxy is based on how each species think reversed-engineered Precursor technology is supposed to work while the main character has befriended a Precursor A.I. who is the only one in the galaxy who knows how Precursor technology is actually supposed to work and 2.) Human scientific and technological knowledge is so laughably ignorant in the grand scheme of things that the main character keeps pointing out workable solutions and coming up with plans that succeed because he doesn't have the knowledge to "know" that such feats were supposed to be impossible. The flabbergasted and begrudging A.I. even comments that this trope must be humanity's hat.
  • In the book Fallen Angels, the main character Perry is charged with setting up claymores to provide suppressing fire in a sneak attack on some Vietcong soldiers. Just before the firefight begins, another character sees a Vietnamese soldier sneak out and turn one of the claymores around, but the gunfire starts before he can do anything about it. However, once the fight ends, they realize that none of the claymores fired in their direction. In other words, Perry had set up that particular claymore backward, and the enemy had turned it around again. Especially impressive, given that claymores are labelled This Side Forward.
  • In Glory Road Oscar Gordon, knowing nothing of hypergeometry, somehow manages to feed Igli to himself, thereby killing the unkillable construct.
  • The Blieder Drive of Eric Frank Russell's The Great Explosion was invented in this manner. Blieder was trying to invent a magic trick, but he had no idea what he was doing and ended up launching a penny through the roof of his house at what later turned out to be many times the speed of light.
  • In The Great Train Robbery, the last part of Edward Pierce's plan to get to the gold requires him to climb along the top of a speeding train, and the revelation that he successfully did so causes an uproar in the courtroom. Although he spouts some poorly understood science about a slipstream preventing him from falling off, actual experts dismiss this as nonsense and decide that the only way he got away with it is because he had no idea it should have killed him.
  • Heralds of Valdemar:
    • Used seriously with the Valdemarans, who not only are able to come up with magical solutions no one has tried before because they aren't familiar with the cultures and traditions surrounding magic, but are also able to analyze it according to logical rules because no one has told them that magic doesn't follow rules, leading to one of the Hawkbrothers' bewildered muttering "But magic doesn't work that way!"
    • Said Hawkbrother eventually buckles in and starts learning Magic A Is Magic A, though he struggles with it. Going from perceiving himself as a master artist with magic to a bridgebuilder with math and calculations isn't easy for him.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
    • The key to flying is "throwing yourself at the ground and missing": being interrupted mid-fall and forgetting to hit and then—and this is vital—not thinking very hard about how you should be falling. Otherwise gravity will glance sharply in your direction and demand to know what the hell you think you're doing.
    • This was the method behind the invention of the Infinite Improbability Drive. By way of explanation, the theory behind finite improbability generators was well-understood by that point and largely consisted of ensuring that probability was twisted just right to ensure an otherwise improbable result. For example, ensuring that, at parties, every particle in the hostess's undergarments simultaneously quantum-leaped two feet to the left. The INFINITE Improbability Drive was considered something of a Holy Grail for scientists but after centuries of trying they gave up and declared that it was next to impossible to create one. An underclassman, cleaning up after one of those previously-mentioned parties, realized that if it was ALMOST impossible, there must be some real possibility of it, and decided to find out what would happen if he worked out how improbable such a drive was, fed the result into a finite improbability generator, gave it a really hot cup of tea, and turned it on. Moments later, a fully-functional Infinite Improbability Drive was created. Not long after that, the underclassman was lynched by the now-thoroughly-annoyed scientists.
  • Honor Harrington:
    • The Graysons had to work out on their own how to use most Manticoran technology. They ended up making some revolutionary discoveries from this since part of the process included doing things no one already knowledgeable about the technology would have thought to try.
    • Honor herself remarks in The Honor of the Queen that the world's greatest swordsman doesn't fear the second greatest, but rather the worst swordsman because he has no idea what the idiot will do.
    • Graysons also are the known galaxy's experts in nuclear fission power. While everyone else had switched to fusion for safety and environmental reasons, Grayson had a very low tech base and a lot of heavy metals, including radioactives. After several centuries, this resulted in safe, reliable, cheap, and powerful fission powerplants, so effective that the Manticoran navy adopted them for their small combat ships/"fighters".
  • Foxface's death in The Hunger Games occurs thanks to this. One of the more clever tributes, she survives the Games by stealth and caution, stealing food from the other tributes in small amounts that they're not likely to notice. This backfires on her when she steals berries collected by Peeta, who isn't wilderness-savvy enough to realize that they're extremely poisonous. Katniss notes after the fact that a deliberate trap would have never worked, but Foxface had no reason to think twice about eating something that another tribute had collected for his own consumption.
  • In the Nick Polotta book Illegal Aliens, humans are told of a (non-existent) material on their ships called "deflector plating" that is immune to all weapon fire. While the aliens are busy snickering behind their hands at the gullible humans, we go and invent deflector plating.
  • In the Inheritance Cycle, there exists a little girl named Elva with perfect precognitive abilitiesnote  and the power to know exactly the right words to completely destroy someone, or to build them back up, without using magic at all. Multiple characters comment that she could probably defeat the main antagonist single-handedly. Sure enough, when they get to him, he uses magic to prevent her from speaking, and then admits to being more frightened of her than any other living being. How did she come into existence? Because of Eragon's bad grammar. He was trying to bless her as a baby, and intended to say '...And may you be shielded from misfortune', but used the wrong tense of 'shield' and instead cast a spell with the wording 'may you be a shield from misfortune'. This gave her the ability to predict misfortune, and how to prevent or - once Eragon removed her compulsion to do the latter - cause it.
  • Joe's World gives us Wolfgang Laebmauntsforscynneweëld and his twin powers of lunacy and amnesia. He's, for instance, crazy enough to cover several weeks' walk by foot in mere days.
  • At the end of Quarterdeck, Kydd earns his place in high society by inviting Thérèse Bernardine-Mongenet to a banquet hosted by Prince Edward. What Kydd doesn't (and the rest of Canada does) know is that his lady is the Prince's mistress, who isn't allowed to be with him at occasions such as the banquet.
  • In The Licanius Trilogy, Davian's initial journey is full of unbelievably lucky coincidences. That's because he managed to the full suite of his Augur powers without knowing that they even exist.
  • Magic by the Numbers: In Riddle of the Seven Realms, the protagonists fly suspended beneath a balloon made out of lead. Astron, a demon to whom the human world's physics is new and fascinating, had simply improvised a substitute when the conveyance's original balloon was punctured by arrows, unaware that a "lead balloon" was considered preposterous by humans.
  • In one of the Myst novelizations, The Book of Atrus, Katherine has been secretly learning how to write Ages, and when she shows one of her books to Atrus, he patronizes her by saying something like "Good idea, but it couldn't work in practice." She just tells him to flip to the last page, where a link exists to a fully stable, torus-shaped world with one side always facing the sun and viable life on both sides. Not only does this impress Atrus's socks off, but it fully drives home the fallacy of Gehn's way of thinking: In an infinite universe, anything that can exist, must exist somewhere.
    • Hugh Hoyland, the protagonist of Robert A. Heinlein's Orphans Of The Sky, on learning his people's world is actually a space ship, decides to teach himself how to pilot the ship. According to all common sense of astrogation, no single person can learn the necessary skills to fly a ship by himself, especially one of the size Hoyland was on. However, because all knowledge of this common sense was never printed in text, he never realized this and thus taught himself all the skills. This was repeated later in the novel when Hoyland, not realizing the difficulty of managing a landing and the sheer danger his life is in, successfully lands his craft on a planet.
  • Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (originally part of The Little White Bird) is somewhere between this and Clap Your Hands If You Believe. As you should know, babies used to be birds. Peter Pan, at one week old, flies away from his home because he doesn't yet realize that little boys can't fly. Upon reaching Kensington Gardens he first begins to doubt whether he will be able to fly again, at which point he loses the ability. He does later get it back with the help of the fairies, though.
  • In Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth, Milo is told, in the end, that The Quest he accomplished was, in fact, impossible. This is, in fact, the Aesop of The Phantom Tollbooth: anything is possible, provided you don't know it's impossible.
  • In Rogue Sorcerer, Aiden manages to kill six master Sorcerers as well as unintentionally put a death curse on every other Sorcerer in existence in a gambit which he had been certain would end in his failure and death.
  • In The Saint short story "The Newdick Helicopter", a Con Man sells a mark plans for a "helicopter" (actually a gyrocopter). When the mark assembles the helicopter, he discovers it cannot take off vertically as he expected it to. Assuming he had put it together wrong, he starts tinkering with it and ends up inventing a fully-functioning helicopter. (Note that this story was published in 1933, several years before the first fully-functioning helicopter was built.)
  • In David Weber and Steven White's Starfire series, the war with the Bugs results in this happening when the newest members of the Grand Alliance, just getting introduced to the more advanced tech now available to them, innocently ask why the man-portable kinetic weapons that fire projectiles at 10% light speed, carried by infantry and ground vehicles for a century and a half, haven't been adapted to allow for bombardment from orbit, giving the equivalent of tactical nuclear strikes without the radiation and fallout. Alliance military researchers promptly smack themselves on the forehead and begin producing the weapon system from off-the-shelf equipment.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation Q Continuum trilogy, the evil omnipotent being is more powerful than Q because he's insane and can ignore/doesn't know the limits of omnipotence. It does help that he (it?) is also from a universe/dimension/existence that even the Q have no idea exists.
  • Pretty much everything Richard does with his magic in The Sword of Truth. He routinely pulls off stunts that much older, learned, and experienced wizards and sorceresses believe are impossible. And in fact, Richard himself struggles with even the most basic of magic when he actively thinks about using his power. It turns out that Richard is a particular type of wizard called a War Wizard, who utilize their power purely on instinct and intuition rather than formal study. That's right, it's an entire school of wizardry that runs on this trope.
  • "A Tall Tail" by Charles Stross tells the story of how American intelligence officials and engineers dreamed up the most ridiculously dangerous and impossible rocket system imaginablenote  and fed it to foreign agents (minus the "top secret component" that wasn't carefully leaked) in the hopes they'd actually try and build it, resulting in disastrous accidents that would affect their rocket/missile programs. The Soviets make it work... Briefly.
  • The Tamuli has a god do this: the explanation given for why the trollish method of invisibility (involving hacking up time into smaller fragments) allows you to see and hear doesn't make sense. This is realized (or noted, for people who had already heard it before) by most people discussing it, but the troll god responsible doesn't, so it still works.
  • In Uprooted, Agnieszka's accomplishments pretty much run on this. She uses a healing spell that her teacher has written off as useless, goes for whatever incantation and rhythm feels right rather than the carefully studied formulae that he follows, and rescues her best friend from the malevolent Wood because she didn't know completely what it would entail. Her active suggestions also rely on this, like using an incredibly dangerous text to cleanse her friend of The Corruption. (That said, she does also practice and study, just from books written by other intuitive mages like her.) Her teacher eventually gives up shouting How Unscientific! at her.
  • Lightsong from Warbreaker is the grand master of an extremely complicated game he doesn't actually know the rules of. At one point someone remarks on how innovative his tactics are and how they would never have thought to use that ball for that throw; Lightsong does not mention that he picked it because it was the same color as his drink and threw it onto the field completely at random.
  • The Wheel of Time:
    • Nynaeve instinctively reinvents a form of Healing which uses all Powers instead of just Air, Water, and Spirit. The Aes Sedai of the Third Age are all adamant that this is dangerous and are shocked it even works, never mind that it actually works better. This is a running theme in regards to the Aes Sedai, that much of what they can and can't do is limited largely by tradition. That and a massive lack of initiative and imagination. The veil of general secrecy inherent within the White Tower is to blame for much of what was lost, with certain Aes Sedai not finding students they could trust to pass their skills on to and consequently taking their knowledge with them.
    • In tel'aran'rhiod, Perrin blocks a beam of the supposedly irresistible force of balefire with the palm of his hand as if it were nothing, leaving Egwene aghast, telling him what he's just done should be impossible. Perrin, who didn't even know what balefire was a moment before, merely shrugs. It's likely that if she'd tried to do the same thing, it would have been impossible because Your Mind Makes It Real and she's used to dealing with balefire in the waking world where it really is impossible to withstand. In Dream Land, though, it's no different than anything else and can be made or unmade on a whim... as long as you believe it can.
  • Xanth makes this an actual magical power. Princess Ida's power of "idea" makes any idea suggested to her come true if it's thought up by someone who's not aware that this is her power. Several plot points are solved by Ida or someone else who knows how her power works purposefully leading an unwitting third party into coming up with a possible solution, which Ida's power can then make real. Ida herself did not know about her talent for quite some time, with the result that every idea she had coming true until she learned the nature of her power. Even the fact that Ida is a long-lost princess (and an identical twin to the previously-established Princess Ivy) was suggested by someone who simply thought that it was the sort of thing that usually happens in these stories, thus possibly making the whole thing something that her powers retconned into being.
  • This is the explanation given for why younger wizards in Diane Duane's Young Wizards series have more power than older, more experienced wizards—they don't know or necessarily care about what qualifies as 'impossible'. Lack of experience also makes them less predictable, and empowering wizards is part of a very long metagame. (Younger wizards are given access to more power with less oversight because they're likely to do more surprising things with it and enough of those surprises benefit reality to be worth the gamble. This is not all good - from the flip perspective younger wizards lack the experience to do all the necessary day-to-day maintenance work of wizardry and thus are typically empowered to make far worse mistakes and attract greater hostile attention.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • Parodied in Arrested Development when Rita walks across a pool after suggesting that Michael visit her in England by walking across the ocean, "if it's not too deep". As it turns out, it's one of Gob's magic tricks illusions.
  • Blackadder:
    • In the episode of Blackadder II themed around Elizabethan-era exploration, Blackadder launches an exploration mission to improve his standing in court. His actual plan is just to channel-hop to France, relax for a while, and come back with made-up tales of adventure. The captain he hires, however, is almost completely insane and no-one else on board knows how to navigate or operate a ship. As revealed at the end of the episode, they somehow made it to Australia and back within two years.
    • At the end of the final episode of Blackadder the Third, Prince George announces he's alive because the bullet hit the cigarillo box in his pocket. As soon as he realizes the cigarillo box is in his other jacket, he dies.
  • In one episode of Corner Gas, Oscar offers to help destroy a barn and says he's more than qualified for the job. Cue a montage of him accidentally destroying various things, with the last thing being a bowl of salad, which spontaneously explodes in his face for absolutely no reason.
    Hank: How do you blow up a salad?
    Oscar: Happens more than you think!
  • In one episode of Dara O Briain's Go 8 Bit, all four contestants were playing Pac-Man, with the rules being that the one to survive the longest won. Sam Pamphilon, one of the series regulars known as a "Gaming Muggle", was the one who managed to survive the longest, despite believing himself to have already run out of lives.
  • Eureka:
    • Basically the premise of the series. In a town full of the world's top geniuses, the average-intelligence-having sheriff often saves the day by not knowing enough about science.
    • Which is sometimes invoked after a while, especially by Sheriff Carter's friend Henry Deacon, since he has seen how many Eureka Moments have come from it. Henry is one of the few that doesn't immediately dismiss Carter's intelligence and treats his "dumb" questions more as teaching moments.
  • Gilligan's Island: Gilligan once flew by attaching a pair of artificial wings to his arms and flapping them until the Skipper told him it was impossible.
  • The Goodies: In "The Lost Tribe", Graeme builds a canvas television that works perfectly. Then he is told that a canvas television is a scientific impossibility so he throws it away.
  • A gag in The Good Place reveals that every religion and theologian's idea of the afterlife was pretty inaccurate, with most of them getting only about 5-10% right - except for an Erudite Stoner from Calgary, who got really high in the 70s and started rambling about life after death. Somehow, by pure chance, he got over 90% of it right, only to completely forget about it the next morning. He's something of a revered figure in the afterlife as a result.
  • Married... with Children: Kelly will do this on occasion. One episode had Bud distracting her by giving her a Where's Waldo? book. She runs all over town trying to find Waldo and, at the end of the episode, he is sitting next to Kelly at the dinner table.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus has the Upper-Class Twit of the Year Show, in which Oliver Sinjin-Mollusk (whose father was a cabinet minister and his mother won the derby) manages to not run over the old woman, but instead runs over himself with a car.
  • Discussed in an episode of My Favorite Martian, when Uncle Martin explains to Tim why he's so concerned about their landlady's new private detective hobby:
    Uncle Martin: An amateur is infinitely more dangerous than a professional. If Alexander Graham Bell had been a professional electrician, he would never have invented the telephone — he would have known it was impossible!
  • NewsRadio: A "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome episode features Matthew, a very stupid person, drinking what he thinks is an intelligence-boosting formula and, because he is so stupid and gullible, he believes it works and therefore it actually does. Until he became smart enough to realize it was only a placebo and immediately reverted back to his old stupid self.
  • In a episode of Power Rangers Zeo, Bulk and Skull are able to defeat a group of Cogs, foot soldier robots of King Mondo. The Cogs usually analyze fighting style and predict movement but because Bulk and Skull are not trained in combat, their "style" is erratic, so the Cogs cannot defeat them.
  • Quantum Leap. Children under five can see Al and the real Sam. So can animals. This was probably a case of Real Life Writes the Plot, since a director couldn't tell small children or animals to pretend that Dean Stockwell wasn't there.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • Rimmer is advised to invoke this trope in the episode "Cassandra", being told that if he doesn't know enough to know that he doesn't know enough, there's no fear holding him back.
      Kochanski: He's got the power of ignorance.
      Kryten: And with the ignorance he's got, that makes him one of the most powerful men who ever lived!
    • At the beginning of that season, Rimmer mentioned that anyone who couldn't fix the drive plate had to have a brain the size of a newt's testicle. Apparently, it's really, really hard to botch the job.
  • On Scrubs, the Todd once revived a flatlined patient... with a high-five.
    Dr. Cox: Great moment, there, dumbass. It starts out with a profound misunderstanding of how the human body works, and winds up with you shattering some old man's hand.
  • In the Smart Guy episode "TJ Versus the Machine", TJ beats the unbeatable chess computer Socrates by taking a lead from Marcus. Marcus doesn't have a clue what he's doing, and TJ realizes that a computer designed to compete against expert players won't be able to formulate a strategy against random, unpredictable play.
  • In the Stick Stickly TV special Stuck, Stick becomes a natural at ice-skating completely by accident when he slips and tries to right himself.
  • In the sketch "Poker Face" by Studio C, Matt somehow got to the final four of a poker tournament despite having no clue how to play the game. Or what "call" even means.
  • Played with in the Supergirl (2015) episode "Far From the Tree". Supergirl pretends this. She claimed she took a Wrong Turn at Albuquerque, accidentally ending up on Mars.
  • Sweet Genius:
    • Some winners have been primarily self-taught and have won largely because they didn't cook by the same rules the trained professionals did, resulting in unusually creative desserts.
    • One chef in the infamous bone marrow challenge decorated her plate with the bone the marrow came in, not realizing Chef Ron has a thing about inedible decorations. However, the way she used it was creative enough to actually earn his praise, and she won the episode.

See the real life section for out of universe examples.
  • This is the topic of the Collin Raye song "What They Don't Know", where the narrator sees boys fishing in a tiny puddle and decides not to tell them they're not going to catch anything.
  • This is apparently part of the premise of Blue Man Group's act: the eponymous Blue Men have re-created alt-rock and contemporary pop music by tapping PVC pipes and beating up pianos without realizing they shouldn't be able to create those sounds without synthesizers and digital studio equipment.
  • Kids Praise: This happened in-universe in one of the albums: Psalty tried to invent a machine that stretches time, and instead invented a machine that travels through time...and did this by accident!
  • Lee Murdock wrote the song "Just Five Minutes" about a man who fell overboard from a vessel on the Great Lakes and successfully swam to shore; he commented in the liner notes that the guy was young and didn't know that you can only survive five minutes in the ice-cold waters of the lakes.

  • This happens a lot as a result of the McElroy Brothers (and their dad, Clint) having a tenuous grasp on the rules of Dungeons & Dragons in The Adventure Zone: Balance. Merle consistently casts spells above his spell slots because his player, Clint, has no idea how they work. Zone of Truth, instead of forcing the target to not lie, instead inexplicably causes people to spout their secrets. Taako uses Phantom Steed, a spell that summons a ghostly horse, to summon a bicorn named Garyl. Most egregious is the moment dubbed "Arms Outstretched", from the arc The Suffering Game: Magnus has his soul knocked out of his body, and Taako, in an effort to save him, uses Blink to travel to the Ethereal Plane, where Magnus's soul is. Merle then casts Planar Ally to summon a being from a different plane - namely, Taako and Magnus's soul. Needless to say, that's not how any of those spells work, but Griffin allows it because of Rule of Cool.
    • Acknowledged by Griffin in The The Adventure Zone Zone, who states that they're basically playing Calvinball with the standard D&D rules. At live shows, he insists that the audience not call him and his family out on not knowing the rules.
  • After Welcome to Night Vale's former mayor Pamela Winchell retires, she takes up several hobbies which go horribly wrong. Her attempt at birdwatching somehow causes massive fires, tropical fishing results in a flash flood, and her coin collecting crashes the economy, just to name a few. Even Cecil and the other locals find all this both astonishing and alarming.

  • In a story from "X Minus One" entitled "Project Trojan" a British intelligence agency enlists the help of a science fiction writer to come up with plans for a fictional "Death Ray" that they will feed to Nazi Germany in order to pull top-level German scientists to try to finish the Ray before the British do. Unfortunately even though the Ray was considered impossible to build, the Germans managed to complete it anyway, resulting in an entire mountain being blown apart. This was the writer's plan the whole time. The Ray was impossible because it would always eventually backfire, and when it did, it took out the entire German base, along with dozens of their top scientists, making this more of a subversion of this trope

  • A roleplaying website had an event that featured an organization based around a large number of superhumans. Two of them explicitly manifested this as a superpower; the second one became an Omnidisciplinary Scientist who could play around and break virtually any field of science over her knee because she believed she was a supergenius without peer who could just figure things out no one else could. The first one, on the other hand, was a butler to the group's ruling council, because in trying to figure out what his powers were and how they worked, they made his powers stop working.
  • The title character's player in The Ballad of Edgardo arguably deserves Pantheon status for this trope. When the story's narrator is building his character, he instinctively picks the coolest-sounding stat options without consulting anyone else for advice, and only learns too late from the other players that the abilities he's chosen are considered by the other players to be pathetically underpowered and strategically useless. He'd made a brawler, but fists do zero damage against any kind of armor. He'd set up his stats to give himself a Spirit Cap of five, then picked the Perk "Overflowing Spirit" to remove the cap, not realizing it also locked him out of using elemental attacks, which would at least let his fists do some damage. He was stuck using Raw Spirit, which does far less damage, but cannot be resisted by anything. Those same players learn too late that Edgardo's supposedly useless stat build, thanks to brilliant exploitation of a limited field effect, is actually the most overpowered Game-Breaker in the entire setting. The city of Haven is home to the Spirit Well. While in Haven, your Spirit automatically and instantly recharges "up to the cap." With no cap, Edgardo has literally infinite Spirit to spend on every action, and thus can use Raw Spirit to deal infinite irresistible damage with every punch.
  • Happens in the Firefly game of Cool Kids Table. Thanks to Josh's great piloting roll, his character Mickey is able to dock a shuttle while passed out.
  • Dino Attack RPG plays this for laughs constantly with Enter and Return. Where to begin, they firmly believe that sharks, trees, and umbrellas are appropriate equipment for surgery, successfully used a shark to revive a patient after conventional CPR and a defibrillator already failed, and in one instance after being sent on a Snipe Hunt, they managed to leave a hospital, buy a fishing pole, go to the harbor, catch a shark and get back in roughly 30 seconds.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Arduin: This is exaggerated with the ibathenes, which have the ability to keep fighting for a number of rounds after they're killed because they're genuinely too stupid to realize that they're supposed to be dead.
  • Don't Rest Your Head: It's implied that not only do the normal people ignore anything related to Mad City (for example, when they stole an entire district, they thought it was destroyed in a fire), they can literally No-Sell anything the Nightmares do. Most of the time.
  • Zig-zagged in cosmic religious horror game Kult. It has a similar feature to Don't Rest Your Head. Briefly, Humans Are Cthulhu and the cosmic horror angels broke their arm punching us. These angelic horrors pale before humanity's real power. However, individually, humans are usually torn apart in places these beings come from. These otherworldly, nightmarish parallel dimensions are just about the last place you want to go. Individual player characters who are in a positive mental state are shielded by our own ignorance - but also trapped in a false reality that imprisons us. To see the real reality - the one so lethal to player characters but where humanity can become nigh-omnipotent again, they have to shed their ignorance. One way is to be a saint. The other way - the easier way - is to be so thoroughly traumatized the illusion crashes down about you in an fit of madness. So safety - being able to almost No-Sell the cosmic horror - is an achievement in ignorance, but as a player character, you are all but guaranteed to have that veil of ignorance torn away to confront beings that are terrified of our nascent godhood but basically godlike compared to most of us.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Shadow Conjuration spells summon things that function as real if the defender fails to disbelieve in them. Normally, they are used offensively, but when used defensively, the recipient has to choose to ignore knowing that he knows it's not real in order for it to be real enough to give him or her the full benefit.
    • With the right Prestige Class combination, disbelieving makes it more than 100% real.
    • Psionics in 3.X had a rather bizarre meta example based on how people played them. Since Psionic Characters used a pool of points rather than Vancian Spell Slots, their powers were enhanced by pumping a power with more points, either by raising the parameters in the power (Eg: 1 point per 1d6 extra damage with Energy Ray) or by powering their metamagics. A common phenomena in the game was known as "Going Nova" where a Psionic character would hoard their power points until the big boss and then pump them all into a single power to deal absurd amounts of damage and end the fight quickly. This gave rise to a false reputation of Psionic Classes being overpowered and many people issued house rules to "Cap" their power... except there was already a Balancing Factor to this built into the game: Psionic characters could not spend more points on a power than their current manifester level. In other words, it was mistakenly labeled as overpowered because players didn't read the rules carefully enough. This phenomenon was so widespread that a popular house rule was implementing the limits that they already had. In fact, when Dreamscarred Press released their Psionics Books, they made sure to label this limit "The Golden Rule of Psionics" and repeat in several times throughout the book just to make sure people actually read it this time.
  • Genius: The Transgression:
    • The premise is implied to be this. Since the Inspired put the "mad" in "Mad Scientist", they have a tendency to veer into Insane Troll Logic. They're still able to make inventions using that logic, however, often achieving impossible feats.
    • Indeed, one of the defining conflicts of the game is between "normal" Geniuses (who know it isn't possible and do it anyway) and Unmada: Geniuses who truly believe science works according to their paradigm. Around an Unmada, it does...
  • Toon:
    • Steve Jackson Games' role-playing system, which takes place in a cartoon universe, gives appropriately cartoony reasons for being able to do this sort of thing. If a character wants to walk off a cliff and on thin air or breathe underwater or whatever, he can roll to intentionally try to fail an intelligence roll. If he fails, it's considered that he's too dumb to realize it's impossible. This is a reference to all the times cartoon characters do just that. It's actually considered a law of Toon Physics that gravity does not affect a character until they realize it's supposed to. This is demonstrated in an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures.
    • The "Star Toon" setting in the Tooniversal Tour Guide sourcebook features the Bozonians, an alien race so monumentally stupid they can build outlandish architectural wonders and incredible scientific devices because they're too dumb to realize the things they build should be impossible. Visitors to their home planet of Bozok are strictly forbidden because all it would take is one smart-ass telling the locals "That's impossible!" to bring down a civilization.
  • Warhammer: Daddallo was inspired to create the wingsuits used by the Birdmen of Catrazza when he discovered a set of documents and schematics on the subject written by Leonardo da Miragliano. These later turned out to be forgeries, but Daddallo built working wings anyway.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • This is how a lot of humanity's technology operates in the dark days of the 41st millennium. After thousands of years of scientific regression, the Adeptus Mechanicus not only has a monopoly on mankind's Lost Technology, they worship it and wrap all but the simplest of mechanical tasks into a religious ritual. So activating an ancient plasma reactor or whatnot involves a great deal of chanting, incense, the application of sanctified engine oil, and some specific taps with a wrench that just so happen to hit the "on" switch. Depending on the Writer this is all a scheme to keep the common people from learning how to maintain their own devices, while other sources have the AdMech genuinely clueless of the scientific principles behind their shiny toys. In yet others, much of it is real, the Machine Spirits the worship is meant to appease exist, and advanced Tech Priests are essentially wizards.
    • The Orks are an even more pronounced example. Greenskins don't have scientists that we'd recognize, but "Meks" and "Doks" with mechanical and medical knowledge hard-wired into their DNA. They can put together an engine block or perform an organ transplant purely on instinct, but wouldn't be able to explain how they did it. For the Orks' weirder, physics-defying inventions, the devices function to some extent because the Orks expect them to — Orks are latent psykers, but aren't conscious of this fact. This is why captured Greenskin technology is so temperamental or nonfunctional when used by a non-Ork, and why when it comes to Orky vehicles, the Red Ones Go Faster.
    • An even more extreme example are the Jokaero. Similar to the Orks, these orangutan-like aliens are capable of creating technology on an instinctual level. Unlike the Greenskins, though, these aren't piles of junk randomly slapped together and brought to life through sheer willpower. The Jokaero can make some of the most advanced, highly miniaturized technology in the galaxy, utilizing advanced techniques and seemingly natural phenomenon that the best minds in the Imperium can't wrap their heads around. And they can do it with pretty much any bits of junk that happen to be lying around. A Jokaero can sit on a pile of technological scrap and assemble a spacecraft that is more advanced than almost anything any other race can put together. Again, another difference from the Orks is that anyone can use Jokaero tech. In spite of this, there is great debate if Jokaero are even sentient, as they don't appear to have any discernible language or culture, with everything they do motivated only by their will to survive. The evident lack of sentience, their innate technological prowess and the non-exclusivity of their tech means that the Imperium is willing to make them an exception to their Kill 'Em All policy regarding Xenos, and Jokaero technology is highly sought after by both Rogue Traders and Inquisitors. That said, their creative process appears to be entirely random. Handing a Jokaero a bolt pistol could result in it having enough firepower to vaporize a tank in one shot, or an otherwise normal bolt pistol with some high-tech but ultimately useless flourish, with no way to discern which you are going to get.
  • The World of Darkness:
    • Mage: The Ascension: This is a very real thing at a collective level — because reality is strongly defined by what people think it is, a sufficient portion of humanity not knowing or believing that something is impossible or has certain consequences can very much alter reality to make this belief correct.
      • The ignorant and blind Sleepers — that is, all of non-mage humanity — constantly keep the terrible demons, gods, monsters, etc at bay, and away from our tasty souls, day in and day out. This is done through the amazing, awe-inspiring power... of disbelieving and desperately ignoring that these things could possibly exist.
      • Clever mages can get around disbelief by convincing sleepers that there is a logical explanation and it's not magic they're seeing. A true mage posing as a stage magician could get away with separating their lovely assistant in half for real so long as the audience stays convinced that there's a hidden trick for them to try guessing, or giving scientific-sounding technobabble for an impossible device.
      • It works even better to play on the staggering ignorance of the general population. Things that should only work in action movies are a great way to disguise magic that static reality would otherwise reject, mainly because most people aren't bright enough to know it isn't possible. A can of hairspray and a lighter is enough to make basic fire effects coincidental, even if the resultant stream of fire outclasses any actual flamethrower in power. It's suggested that the unrealistic aspects of popular fiction are deliberate attempts to subvert the dominant paradigm.
    • Vampire: The Masquerade: Creating new vampiric powers is supposed to be something only very old and powerful vampires can manage. However, the weak 14th and 15th generation vampires seem to be able to do it with ease. They grew up on stories that said, for example, that vampires could fly; therefore, they managed to find the magic that let them do it, simply because they were too unimportant for elder vampires to explain to them that it was impossible.

    Video Games 
  • In ADOM, even attempting to explore the Rift (A huge menacing chasm which requires a maxed Climbing skill to climb somewhat safely) requires a medium-high Wilpower score to swallow your fear and get going...but this requirement is ignored if you have very low Perception, meaning you attempt the feat solely because you don't even realize how dangerous it is.
  • In Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, Eivor managed to resist having their mind overtaken by Odin, killing the reincarnation of Loki and helping their brother overcome Tyr overriding his personality by never realizing why these things happened. Rather than the being the reincarnation of Odin who attemps a Split-Personality Takeover , their friend being the reincarnation of Loki who holds a grudge against Odin and so wants to kill them, and their brother having awakened Tyr's personality, they just assume that the first case was merely part of an earlier hallucination, the second case baffles them, and the third is simply attributed to the earlier torture Sigurd suffered from.
  • In Dark Souls III, you encounter the latest iteration of the Onion Knight, Siegward of Caterina, when he's trying to find his way to the top of a tower by overcoming a fairly basic lift puzzle. When you have, yourself, solved the lift puzzle and gotten to the top of the tower, you will find that even though the lift hasn't moved since you used it, and he certainly wasn't on it with you, Siegward has somehow managed to find his way to, not the top of the tower, but a ledge partway along the lift shaft that you can only reach by rolling off at the correct time. Even he's not sure how he got there.
  • One possible character trait in Death Road to Canada is Oblivious, which is surprisingly useful. Characters with the trait can bypass events due to simply not understanding the issues involved, (Such as walking into creepy locations that freak out the rest of the party) or distracting hostile adversaries with inane questions. (Such as asking the buff bandits why they're wearing sweatbands, which causes them to go into a flexing routine and forget about mugging the group.)
  • During the first mission in Deus Ex: Human Revolution the player is tasked with disarming a gas bomb, which is quickly counting down. It's possible to fail the hacking mini-game, leaving a player to watch as the gas will detonate killing the civilians. Many players may simply slam or shoot the bomb out of sheer desperation or impatience; only to find out this actually works and successfully disarms the bomb.
  • Humans in the Disgaeaverse are already pretty damn tough in order to keep up with the various demonic invaders and/or Overlords, but most of the reasons are pretty damn rational (Cpt. Gordon is military trained, as is Jennifer, while Almaz is a guard and Sapphire a berserker). And then there's Fuka Kazamatsuri. While humans can tap into 30% of their potential without risking self-injury, she manages to tap into the full 100% when her back's against the wall... all by believing that she's in the midst of a soon-to-end nightmare despite being stone dead and a Prinny to boot! And unlike the previous humans, she has no training. She's just an Ordinary Middle School Student with a lot of ambition!
  • In Dwarf Fortress's Adventure Mode, the greatest challenge an adventurer can do is to take on a Vault, a structure guarded by Angels and holding a slab inscribed with the true name of a demon. This is ridiculously difficult, and the conventional wisdom is that you need to be a Legendary adventurer armed with adamantine to even have a chance. This thread chronicles a newbie player who finds a vault, doesn't know what it is, and asks the forums... and meanwhile killing his way through the place while wearing goose leather armor. And being confused about their advice because he was so green that he didn't know what "candy" and "clown" meant in the fandom. Oh, and the adventurer survived, got the slab, turned into a wererhino to heal the ridiculous amount of damage she'd taken, and got some sweet armor out of the whole thing. The slab turned out to be useless as the demon whose name was inscribed there was killed by a roc in the backstory- the same roc that killed the player's previous three adventurers, in fact.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the Dragonborn can admit to the leader of the Greybeards that they have no idea how they are able to use the Thu'um, they just do. Arngeir explains that Dragonborn are unique in that they can instantly learn new Words of Power, which would take normal people years or decades to master if they can even do so at all. It's around that point in the game that you stop gaining new Thu'um words easily and have to actually work for them.
  • Fallout:
    • In Fallout 2, it's possible for a stupid character, a character rendered temporarily stupid through a Mentats comedown, or Psycho, to skip a step when fixing the Vagrants' ship and still get it to work.
      • One of the most amusing moments in Fallout: New Vegas has you perform successful brain surgery on Caesar with low medical skill but a Luck stat of 9 or higher.
        (when asked how you managed to pull it off)
        Courier: I have no idea whatsoever.
    • Fallout 4:
      • The Idiot Savant perk proves sometimes it's better to be lucky than wise! It gives you a random chance to gain triple EXP from any action, with this chance increasing the lower your Intelligence is. The upgraded version of this gives a quintuple EXP bonus (that's 5 times higher), and the final version brings the bonus back down to three times but also gives triple EXP for subsequent actions taken for a time.
      • Even the modding community of the game ran away with that trope, using Idiot Savant as a requirement for doing stuff that would make even the most Psycho-laced bandit question their sanity. For example, building a crossbreed minigun slash assault rifle chambered for shotgun shells!
        Description: Wait... What?
      • If you're stumped by a locked container, Dogmeat can be commanded to "fetch" the contents, regardless of difficulty.
      • Sierra Petrovita reappears in the Nuka-World DLC as an excited tourist at the park. Said park has been completely overrun with bloodthirsty Raider gangs, yet Sierra happily gushes and squees over the park attractions with only some token annoyance from the various raiders she encounters. The suggestion is that the raiders didn't simply turn her into a decoration because they all assumed that someone higher up the chain is allowing her to roam around freely, and they do that because she shows absolutely no fear around them and acts like she's supposed to be there.
  • Tidus in Final Fantasy X is completely ignorant of Spira's customs and the Church of Yevon. Because he stubbornly refuses to conform to the social norms, he starts asking the big questions that no one else thought to ask for over a thousand years. This leads Yuna's party to discover that the entire faith is a lie to control the masses.
  • In the Goldsmith questline of Final Fantasy XIV, the Warrior of Light tries to repair a mammet with a Black Pearl Ring they recently crafted. They know literally nothing about mammet construction and this action makes zero sense, but it works anyway because the mammet ends up getting Insulted Awake at the prospect of having their creation in his body.
  • Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 has Mareeta learning the Astra skill in this manner. Upon meeting with a man claiming to be the great swordsman Shannan, she asks him to teach her his signature technique, and he decides to give her some spiritualistic advice and tell her that she needs to look inside herself to become a true swordmaster. A few minutes of sword practice, self-reflection, and meditation later, and she's worked it out. What puts it into this trope is that "Shannan" was actually Shannam, a charlatan and a mediocre swordsman who doesn't know how to use Astra at all, and his "training" was just him bullshitting an answer to get her to go away. Mareeta simply didn't realize that learning how to use Astra because of some generic advice and introspection shouldn't be impossible.
  • There's a somewhat odd example of this in Fire Emblem Fates. Setsuna is apparently a Lethal Chef, because, despite her Cloud Cuckoolander traits, she actually overthinks things when she cooks. After getting some criticism from Azama, Setsuna decides she's going to think as little as she usually does while cooking... and somehow manages to make a really good meal while zoned out.note 
  • Metal Gear
  • A bit into NieR: Automata, you meet a Half-Wit Inventor machine in Pascal's village. He keeps asking you for investment money until you reach about 100,000, which he intends to use to send a rocket to the moon. Come back later and he tells you that the whole thing was a failure since the rocket went to Mars instead.
  • Played for laughs in Persona 4, where the Investigation Team has a cooking competition in which they make an omelette for Nanako. When it's Yukiko's turn to present hers, Kanji tastes it to make sure that won't harm Nanako... but he doesn't taste anything. He expresses how it's amazing how Yukiko put a lot of ingredients in the omelette only for it to have no flavor, but she chalks it up to Kanji's palate not being refined.
  • Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time: The Primal Peashooter plant has a chance to Knock Back any zombie it hits (100% for its Plant Food)- including the huge, heavy Gargantuar, and also the Excavator who otherwise No Sells forward-firing plants. The only zombie immune to its knockback entirely is the Jurassic Bully, which as Penny puts it- "is too stupid to observe typical physics", hence becoming immune to the knockback by not knowing that it should be.
  • Pokémon:
    • Some Pokémon, such as Bidoof, have the ability Unaware, which allows the user to ignore the opponent's offensive and defensive boosts. For example, Bidoof can inflict normal damage on an opponent that raised its defense with Harden or Iron Defense, through sheer ignorance.
    • The move Amnesia, which boosts Special Defense, seems to work this way. Explicitly stated in Pokémon Adventures, where Lorelei says it works by allowing a Pokémon to ignore damage by forgetting that it took damage. She implies, however, that this is a temporary thing, and eventually all this "forgotten" damage will catch up and overwhelm the Pokémon, which is a facet of the move that doesn't exist in the games.
  • Portal 2:
    • In Chapters 6 and 7, it's revealed that the man behind Aperture Science, Cave Johnson, was not only insane with mercury poisoning but didn't know anything about how science actually works. It's because he didn't know the limitations of technology that his corporation created physics-breaking inventions like the Portal Gun. Considering the invention of portals was for "possible shower curtain applications", and that he said they were going to "throw science at the wall and see what sticks", this is actually quite likely. It helped that the man didn't think his science should "stand on the shoulders of giants" and instead did everything from the ground up. Problem is, this also meant his test subjects suffered a variety of known hazards.
    • The Intelligence Dampening Sphere, better known as Wheatley is an AI built with the express purpose of being stupid. However, when he is put in charge of Aperture Science, his lack of knowledge on how the facility works and COMPLETE disregard of property damage makes the test chambers even more lethal than GLaDOS's tests could ever dream of being.
  • In RuneScape there is a Ga'al (a Tzhaar born without memories) who used magic to hide himself, but hid himself too well and got stuck, and only appears when certain conditions are met which the game doesn't give any clues about. If you ask him what runes he used for the spell, he will say that he didn't use any runes. Your character will point out that this is impossible, and he will say that nobody told him that.
    • When you ask the blacksmith Oziach about rune armor, he tells you he will sell you some if you slay the dragon Elvarg, who destroyed an entire nation of wizards on her own and has been untouched ever since. He expects that the ridiculous Impossible Task will make you leave him alone. Long story short...
  • In Splatoon's single player campaign, at one point a member of Mission Control somehow manages to make herself almost impossible to understand on the radio because she's holding hers the wrong way. This is represented by having her dialogue box shown upside down. This returns as a Chekhov's Gag in the sequel, when the player and company intercept an odd message delivered in the same manner, confirming to her partner that she's been brainwashed into working for the enemy.
  • In Sunless Skies, while under the effects of the Martyr-King's cup, you can drive a butterknife through a table purely through the sincere belief it's a sword.
  • According to Touhou Project lore, Kanako deliberately arranged for the power of nuclear fusion to be given to Utsuho, specifically because the latter was too birdbrained to know that controlling nuclear power was difficult. It worked, though Utsuho became evil for a while. This eventually led to an odd side effect: Utsuho became a savant at nuclear physics, despite still needing examples of how long 100 meters is.
  • Undertale:
    • At one point in the game, Sans moves his sentry station from Snowdin to Hotland (the hottest area in the game) to sell hot dogs. Despite this, his station still has snow on it. Why? He was too lazy to clean it off.
    • The game is this in-universe, as the Annoying Dog, actually the game's creator Toby Fox, is shown to have made a "fairly decent video game just by barking into a translator".
    • In the Pacifist ending, Napstablook turns out to be the only one who wasn't drawn into Asriel's massive soul steal. How'd they avoid it? They simply closed the blinds and continued doing their usual activities.
  • The Witch's House:
    • A sign on the third floor tells you to walk straight down the hall and to not deviate from the path or get distracted. Fail to follow the rule, and you will die at the end of the hall...unless you don't read the sign, then you can take the most crooked path you want. Ignorance of the rule excuses you from it!
    • However, if you read the sign before in other playthroughs, it will remember...
  • In the Worgen starting zone in World of Warcraft, your character is stuck in Worgen-form and unable to change back and forth at will until near the end of the zone's story, when the Night Elves give you the means. Well before that point, however, one of your quests involves getting senile old Grandma Wahl to evacuate in the wake of the Cataclysm. In the course of the quests, you see her transform into a Worgen and attack an enemy that was threatening her cat. Upon returning to her to turn in the quest, she's returned to human. Grandma Wahl apparently controls the curse by virtue of being too dotty to realize she's even a Worgen in the first place, let alone that she's supposed to be Shapeshifter Mode Locked.
  • Ordinarily, Blades in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 require a cooldown period after using their arts. However, the Blade Finch is so hilariously derpy, she sometimes forgets she has just performed an art and is ready to do one right after another.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Chapter 4 of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, Forgetful Jones Monotaro suddenly becomes a whiz with computers... because he forgot that he was bad with computers. Of course, he eventually forgets that he forgot and goes back to being a computer-illiterate dumbass.
  • Fate/stay night:
    • Shirou was told that Projection magic was useless, so he stopped pursuing it as his primary magic and simply uses it as a warmup before he tries other types of magic. This is roughly equivalent to performing surgery on someone as a warmup to fixing a radio: painful, dangerous, has little to do with what you're gearing up to do, and something that a non-expert should never do. And no-one is an expert in Projection because it's seen as incredibly difficult and incredibly useless. However, Shirou doesn't know this, so he basically creates matter from nothing, which is supposed to be an impossible feat even in this universe. At best, most people can only keep their projections around for a few minutes and they're of shoddy quality, but Shirou shows the ability to replicate items that never seem to disappear as well as legendary weapons. And he doesn't even realize this is amazing.
    • To his credit, this isn't entirely an achievement in ignorance so much as it is no-one realizing how Shirou's magic actually works or recognizing that he's doing something other than what it looks like. He has internalized a Reality Marble — basically a cheat in otherwise consistent natural law — that specializes in the knowledge and tracing of swords and sword-like weapons, though he can't properly utilize it due to his poor magecraft skills. Archer calls it Unlimited Blade Works. That said, he didn't only practice Projection with swords—because it's more like he's drawing the blade from inside himself, it could be said that his "Projecting" swords is almost a different form of magic entirely.
  • Okabe Rintarou of Steins;Gate somehow managed to turn a microwave into a freaking time-machine by fiddling with it enough in an attempt to get it to remote operate. Subverted when he eventually realizes this and reacts just as one might expect.

    Web Animation 
  • In Camp Camp, the Flower Scouts spend their A Day in the Limelight episode setting up and running a powerful drug cartel without even realizing it. It all started when their leader told them that the crystal meth she had possession of was "Mexican sugar cane", and it all escalated from there.
  • Homestar Runner:
    • This may explain the title character's use of the "telekinetic powers/invisible arms" that the fans are still debating over. Homestar may not realize that he should be unable to manipulate objects or coat sleeves or stay airborne between two shackles in Trogdor's Dungeon in 8-Bit Is Enough. However, suggesting the same of Marzipan might be pushing it.
    • Quite a few characters have Invisible Anatomy. It could be that the characters grew up with it and so don't think it's unusual (or impossible).
    • According to the Strong Bad Email "4 branches", Strong Bad has classified a whole list of "So Stupid It's Smart-ities" Homestar has accomplished, like accidentally reciting Coulomb's Law when asked, "What's two plus two?"
  • In Red vs. Blue, when Church enters Caboose's mind, he finds that everything inside there is based on how Caboose understands the world around him. At one point, he needs to use Tucker's sword - the sword can't be used by anybody but Tucker, but Caboose is too dumb to understand this, so the sword works for Church inside Caboose's mind.
  • RWBY: According to Pyrrha, the friendships she has made in Beacon are this for Jaune. He approached her knowing nothing of her Famed in Story status and combat prowess, completely sidestepping one of the main reasons of her Lonely at the Top woes. In turn, her interactions with the Butt-Monkey made Pyrrha look more approachable to other people, which helped to partially subvert her Attractiveness Isolation.
  • The Most Epic Story Ever Told in All of Human History: Ridiculously Epic Fail is somehow able to turn Ridiculously Epic’s “Evil Mobile”, the one that he insists is not an armadillo, into an actual armadillo when he drives it, only because he actually thinks it is an armadillo.

    Web Comics 
  • 8-Bit Theater:
    • Fighter and Black Belt do this constantly. Black Belt has No Sense of Direction to the extent that he can ignore gravity, warp the Space-Time-Continuum, and duplicate himself. Fighter meanwhile, has done things such as fold portable holes into themselves and split himself into multiple Fighters in order to even out conflicting teams. Although this may be more of an achievement in poor organization than stupidity, Red Mage once survived having his skeleton pushed out his mouth because he lost his pencil and was unable to record the damage on his character sheet. Besides, as he claimed, everyone knows that skeletons are vestigial organs.
    • Red Mage frequently tries to invoke this trope, with various degrees of success. His approach is probably best summed up with "I know that and you know that, but I don't know that".
    • Vilbert (who claims to be a vampire, but is also a LARPer and probably just making it up) explains that he is able to survive in the sunlight because he feels it would be an uninteresting death. note 
    • Black Belt once held up a rope for the others to walk across over a lava pit. He then followed. When asked how, he replies, "Simple. I held up the rope and walked across, like you guys."
      Thief: But...we took the rope down on this side.
      Black Mage: Yes, but I don't think he knows that.
    • Fighter survived a fall at terminal velocity by blocking the ground.
      Thief: You blocked the Earth.
      Fighter: Why not? I can block magic, and fire, and all kinds of stuff.
      Thief: I hate it when the things he says that don't make sense make sense.
    • This trope was explicitly used by Red Mage when he told Fighter to use "make [his] swords as things unto chainsaws", the logic being that Fighter is too stupid to realize he doesn't know how to do that. It works.
    • Black Mage, naturally, has mixed feelings about this trope.
      "What I hate about my life...part of what I hate about my life is that it is working..."
    • Or the time Fighter started flying because he thought they had slain gravity. After surviving an airship crash, he assumed that since falling didn't kill them, that they must have killed falling instead. That one was actually caused by Sarda "jackassing" the Light Warriors back to his cave.
  • In Bob and George, on at least two occasions Mega Man has undergone violence that should have killed him and survived because he's too dumb to realize he should be dead. For example:
    Ran: Mega Man?! You're still alive?! You were at ground zero of a nuclear explosion!
    Mega Man: Oh, that. I just regenerated like you're always doing.
    Ran: Mega Man, you don't have a regeneration chamber like I do.
    Mega Man: Well, it's a little late to tell me that now.
  • Dave does this every time he fixes a machine in Narbonic. This turns out to be because he's a latent Mad Scientist.
  • Collar 6: No one told Laura that she shouldn't be able to reach subspace at her level without physical stimulation.
  • In Dubious Company, after somehow managing to burn down the water temple, Elly was banished.
  • Tedd's attempt to investigate the scientific underpinnings of magic in El Goonish Shive reveals that this is one of the rules, at least when it comes to magical enchantments put on people. If you put a 1-hour enchantment on someone and tell them it'll last a week, it will last a week simply because they don't know it's supposed to have worn off already. This cuts both ways — tell them the magic will wear off shortly, and it will, even if it wasn't supposed to. As long as they trust your word, anyway. That essentially means that being very naive and completely uninformed about magic has the potential to turn you into a magic-powered supersoldier...
    • Another instance of mind over magic: Tedd's ability to see and interpret magic in action went completely unnoticed because everybody assumed Tedd was using Magitek, and Tedd thought it was normal .
  • Goblins:
    • Drowbabe is able to shrug off wounds because she's under the effects of a Mage Armor spell, and has convinced herself that the spell provides damage resistance (it actually makes it easier to dodge blows).
      Big Ears: Mage Armor doesn't offer damage resistance.
      Drowbabe: Seriously? Oh, Crap!. That means I actually should have taken more damage from your hit to my leg earlier. Well, that would put my hitpoints way past negative... [dies]
    • Minmax manages to create a sword made of Oblivion, the concept of nothingness, by toying around with a magic sword and a hole in reality. Kin theorizes that the sword only continues to exist because Minmax can't comprehend the concept of Oblivion, and his ignorance might even fuel the sword and make it more powerful.
      Forgath: By Herbert's dice! In Minmax's hands, that sword is insanely powerful.
      Minmax: Huh? I don't get it.
      Forgath: That's perfect! Keep thinking that way!
    • Minmax then proceeds to give the sword the incredibly appropriate name of "Oblivious". Naturally, while not knowing what the word "oblivious" means.
  • An octopus in Gunnerkrigg Court somehow learned to levitate because he didn't realize he was supposed to be in the ocean. Upon learning that octopuses normally live in water, he flies to the ocean, dives in, and decides that "this makes a lot more sense". But he appears to be doing dolphin-kicks with his tentacles.
  • Homestuck:
    • While not stupid by any means, Sollux still managed to walk out of a dream bubble and come back to life simply because he didn't realize you weren't supposed to do that. Later turns out to be an aversion: he was never fully dead to begin with, and it was perfectly within the rules to leave.
    • Eridan managed to completely drive the angels in the Land of Wrath and Angels to extinction, despite them being nigh-unkillable NPCs that each take at least a minute's worth of sustained fire from Ahab's Crosshairs to kill and don't drop anything like enemies do...because they aren't enemies, they're game constructs, and you aren't supposed to attack them.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, when Molly meets Jolly the Giantess (in a Looney Tunes homage)—
    Molly: So how's it feel, pushin' the envelope of the ol' Square-Cube Law?
    Jolly: Well, I hath ne'er studied law.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: The in-comic religion outright extols this trope as a virtue. Three particular examples:
    • In the comic proper, Allison successfully re-binds the devil Vladok by shoving a mask on its not-face and shouting names at it, something that normally requires a lot more preparation and effort, to the utter shock of everyone present.
      Allison: I'm drunk as hell and have no idea what I'm doing.
    • In the lore, Pree Aesma managed to defeat the three greatest disciples of YISUN, the Masters of Space, Aesthetics and Ethics, essentially by being too ignorant to learn their teachings and throwing violent temper tantrums whenever she got frustrated. It is because of her scheming, vile, ignorant nature — and because she is always trying to improve herself, unlike YISUN's more self-satisfied disciples — that YISUN names Aesma his greatest disciple, the Master of Want.
    • Intra, possibly the greatest swordsman ever to live, first made his name by killing a Master Swordsman in a single blow, which was so incredibly clumsy and unskilled that his opponent couldn't figure out how to evade it. His career appears to have been built on working very hard to not know how to use a sword, and therefore having no limits with what he could do with one. Naturally, he later achieved the Kill Six Billion Demons equivalent of enlightenment.
      “Beetles cannot learn Pankrash Circle Fighting, Lord Intra,” said Intra’s attendant, and made a bitter motion.
      “Don’t tell the beetle that,” said Intra, who was very skilled at smiling. “If you don’t tell him he will learn it anyway and cut the lion in half with a single blow.”
  • Manly Guys Doing Manly Things:
    • Jared succeeds in using a Level 5 Magikarp as his starter Pokémon, which should be impossible because the only attack Magikarp has at that level is the useless Splash. Jared, however, doesn't understand the basic mechanics of Pokemon battling and instead uses Mr. Fish as a bludgeon, and wins enough battles this way for Mr. Fish to evolve.
    • Jared also doesn't understand anything else about Pokemon training, and instead uses real-world logic and animal handling techniques to manage his fifty-foot sea dragon. This is seen as revolutionary by Pokemon professors, and has dramatic results when Lysandre compares his own Gyarados (kept in a Poke Ball and only fed Poke Puffs) to Mr. Fish (free-range and an active predator).
    • Time Travel works this way: there are no paradoxes or alternate timelines as long as you don't worry about how it works. If you do...
  • Done in Melonpool when Sam, an alien dog, is writing a letter when Roberta comes along and asks how he's doing it with no thumbs. His handwriting promptly turns to scribbles before he glares at Roberta.
  • In this Mountain Time, a Styrofoam lifesaver manages to sink because a character points out that there's a hole in it.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Elan has fallen into this a time or two, to the point that Daigo has theorized that Elan is of more use in a given situation the less he understands what is going on. On one particular occasion, Elan managed to invoke this trope. When face to face with his Evil Twin Nale, Nale is surprised that Elan thought he was dead. As a Genre Savvy bard, he should've known that a villain is never dead if they Never Found the Body, and half the time not even then. Elan counters that the hero always thinks the villain is dead until he shows up again.
      Nale: Gah! I think I'm giving myself a migraine trying to understand the level of willful ignorance that requires!
      Elan: First blood: ELAN!
    • A rogue once managed to land a sneak attack against Haley because he didn't realize that she had Improved Uncanny Dodge, which makes her immune to sneak attacks by characters with less levels than her. When this was pointed out, she was instantly healed of the damage inflicted.
    • When Redcloak battled a fellow priest in Azure city, the priest got hit with a Destruction spell. He asked Redcloak if his Saving Throw result was good enough to survive the attack, then promptly died when it wasn't. Later on, we see him waiting in line in the afterlife, and he realizes that he calculated the Save wrong and should have survived after all.
    • Blackwing intentionally invokes this to good effect. In need of magic, he manages to find a scroll of Vaarsuvius's, and while he recognizes that it's a harmless Divination spell, his complete inability to properly activate it causes an explosive Magic Misfire — which is exactly what he needs at the moment.
    • The heroes are having an argument while they are riding their horses (and riding dog) when Elen interrupts to remind everyone that they had left their mounts behind earlier, which causes the mounts to vanish out from under them. So they had been riding on mounts that didn't exist because they forgot that they didn't have them anymore until the Plot Hole was pointed out.
    • In one of the early strips, Durkon miscalculates his to-hit rolls against an enemy. When Roy and the enemy in question correct his to-hit score, wounds appear on the enemy. When they help him calculate his damage, the wounds grow increasingly severe until the enemy concludes "that puts me at negative health" and drops dead.
  • In a Questionable Content strip, Hannelore, like John Bonham below, does complicated drumming in an unusual way.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • Tagon promotes Schlock two ranks to Sergeant when Schlock manages to distract the boarders and allow the company to retake the ship. When Schlock admits he had no plan and just got lucky, Tagon reconsiders and just promotes him one rank to Corporal.
    • While Captain Tagon is smarter than he looks, he's also really lucky, so this shows up a lot.
      Jevee Ceeta: Tagon, you're a better negotiator than I took you for. In one short session you've managed to pry out everything we need to lay our plan to recapture Breya and the remainder of her forces.
      Tagon: Oh. You know, mostly I was just antagonizing her for sport.
      Jevee Ceeta: Sometimes it depresses me when I see just how well dumb luck works for you.
    • Sorlie is an excellent spy primarily because she is a genuinely nice person who gets on well with people and isn't a trained spy. As such, people tend not to be on guard around her, which means she finds out things that an actual spy would not. Bala-Amin is happy to take advantage of this.
      Flinders: She is exactly what she looks like, Captain: An engineering specialist who does image analysis on inbound traffic. She has no field training beyond boot and the usual annuals. Her posting as a "cultural liaison" caught her completely by surprise.
      Captain Murtaugh: So she's not a spy?
      Flinders: No, she's a perfect spy. I like her and I feel sorry for her. She's cleared my first two lines of defense.
  • Spacetrawler: Yuri's Eeb brain graft should not have been possible. Ears are one thing, but grafted brain tissue from another species should have been immediately rejected. This foreshadows that humans and Eebs are closely related species.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Due to some traumatic event in his past, Onni is someone extremely reluctant to leave his comfort zone, both in the real world and in the mage-space. His family members are aware of this, and understand when he refuses to join the expedition. Reynir initially met Onni via walking into his mage-space safe area, where, in the midst of mistaking him for a threat, Onni showed his hidden more combative side. This causes Reynir to be completely oblivious to Onni's fear of less safe areas, consider him a go-to source of magical reinforcements and push the right buttons to get Onni to help when needed completely by accident.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal has this somewhat...unnerving take.
  • Tales of the Questor:
    • Quentyn and his friends put together an absolutely unique magic item using techniques no-one has ever seen before. Subverted in that they're not stupid, but three sheets to the wind at the time. In other words: drunk.
    • Not only were they responsible for creating perhaps the most powerful magical sword in existence from what should have been the most magically worthless enchantment training sword (think about recording over a cassette tape hundreds of times), they invented new runes to tie all the latent enchantments together, essentially revolutionizing the field.
  • Ashura of Two Evil Scientists can run on air just by not looking down.
  • Ronnie, the Loser Protagonist of Whomp!, is asked by his roommate to pick up "a loaf of milk, a dozen bread, and a gallon of eggs. She figures he'll know what she meant.
    Agrias: You did it. I don't know how, but you did it.
    Ronnie: I'm afraid to disappoint people.
  • xkcd: This may explain how Beret Guy manages to unlock vacuum energy from a vacuum cleaner. Not to mention inflating a laptop through its power cable, pouring soup from a power socket, simulating a giant dog using two small dogs through the power of interferometry, and running a profitable business in the face of all reason.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • Achievement Hunter Minecraft Series: In episode 159, the crew is playing with a mod that adds dinosaurs. Ryan and Geoff are looking at a machine that creates eggs and embryos from DNA, and Ryan's wondering why it doesn't seem to be working. Geoff puts a chicken egg in the machine as a joke, and it turns out that eggs are the "fuel" for the machine.
    • Alfredo has been given the nickname "Mr. Magoo" due to the fact that he has bumbled across the Minecraft server, somehow avoided monsters and death traps that have taken out other Hunters numerous times and discovered places that the others failed to by complete accident. This is how he ends up winning the second "Ya Dead Ya Dead" series.
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd has a Commodore 64 computer in his game room and among the games he has played on it include Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing, The Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures among a few other PC fan games, and an SNES Emulator to play Hong Kong '97.
  • In Code MENT, Lelouche is able to corner Clovis in his G1 base and has absolutely no idea how he managed it (which he tells Clovis when asked).
  • Dashie Games: Towards the end of Dashie's playthrough of Life Is Strange Episode 2: Out Of Time, he gets to the part where Max tries to convince Kate not to commit suicide. The point is, he has no prior knowledge of this. The decisions he chooses is "Things will get better," "It was in silent mode," "I'm gathering proof," "Be strong," "Your mother," and finally, because Dashie knows someone named Matthew and that it was 11:30 at this point, "Matthew 11:28." After all of these decisions due to having no prior knowledge and no walkthrough to guide him as a result, in the end, Dashie ultimately ends up saving Kate. Due to his success in this, Life Is Strange became one of his requested games and it racked up a lot of likes.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
    • Goku is able to obtain a blueberry muffin during a space voyage because of his deluded belief that there's a button which makes muffins onboard the spaceship (despite being repeatedly told earlier there wasn't one). In the 21st episode, the power of the muffin button allows him to read minds. It's implied later that the Muffin Button may have actually been real, since Goku finds a muffin button on Freeza's ship when Namek is exploding. The Muffin Button in Goku's pod was a leftover bit of technology from when it was one of Freeza's.
    • Dr.Gero apparently has no idea how he put his brain inside his android body which he immediately questions himself when 18 asks this.
      17: Wait a sec, are you an android? Holy shit, you're an android! How did you even do that?
      Gero: I took my brain out and put it inside this body.
      18: How!?
      Gero: I... huh, how did I do that?
  • Game Grumps and Steam Train:
    • When engaging in a Games Grumps Vs. match, Jon often does better going in blind, which frustrates Arin to no end.
    • When the guys played Trine 2 on Steam Train, Ross attempted to solve any and all problems by conjuring boxes, and in so doing actually bypassed several puzzles that would otherwise have required actual problem solving. In response, the developers sent him some swag, including a certificate of excellence in the art of boxing from Amadeus the wizard.
    • On Jon's own channel, JonTron, this happens quite a lot, by way of managing to play games inserting them into the wrong consoles. Or the wrong machines entirely. And playing episodes of Goosebumps by inserting the books into a console. In his Titenic (sic) video he plugs the correct cartridges into the correct console, but then submerges the console in a fish tank before playing it. He also somehow manages to recut a total disaster of an episode into something actually good in post-editing, apparently just by pushing a couple of buttons on his FitBit.
    • For half of the playthrough of Punch-Out!! for the Wii, Danny did not know that he could duck or regain health. Instead, he developed ridiculous timing skills that allowed him to exploit brief moments of vulnerability before his opponents could hit him with moves he thought were unblockable.
    • During their playthrough of Besiege Ross keeps building utterly ludicrous kill-machines like a "tank" that literally just drives around spinning a big arm in an attempt to kill enemy soldiers. The soldiers effortlessly overwhelm it, smash the arm off rendering it helpless, and proceed to bust it to shreds... which hurls it into a mine, blows it apart, and ignites all the scattered pieces which in turn kill enough of the soldiers to complete the level. Naturally, Ross is completely blown away by this.
      Ross: Wait, woah! T-they all died! Wait-wait-wait-wait-wait! WAIT!!! That counted?! THAT FUCKING COUNTED?!
      Danny: Congratulations, Ross!
  • On The Guild, it turns out that Kwan is a champion-level competitive gamer in Korea. The guildees probably wouldn't stand a chance against him, but Mr. Wiggly defeats him by using spells an experienced player would never use. Kwan didn't bother defending against them.
  • During the final battle of the Wicked Master campaign from T the Writter's D&D stories, T realized they were losing the battle and his bard character was mostly useless since he had built it for roleplaying and not combat. Then he noticed he had an ability on his character sheet that allowed him to sacrifice spells to give to a boost to a performance check, but he actually misread the rule and thought he could blow all of his spells on one performance check. The game they were playing had a rule that bards could attract the attention of outsiders and gods by rolling a thirty or higher on a performance check and with the misinterpreted rule, he scored over 137 and was able to summon Bahumut, god of dragons, which tipped the battle in heroes favor. The DM had to remove his character from the game by having him Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence to become the god of music.
  • In Ultra Fast Pony, it's impossible to kill Rainbow Dash because she's so stupid she doesn't know how to die.
  • In Vision of Escaflowne Abridged, when Van is first magically transported to earth, he furiously asks where he is and how he got there. Later, he seems perfectly confident in how to get home.
    Van: Now, to return home the way I got here.
    Hitomi: I thought you didn't know how you got here?
    Van: Right, that way.

    Western Animation 
  • In a mainstream Animaniacs episode, Stinkbomb B. Basset Hound pursues Slappy, and when she climbs a tree to get away from him, he scales the tree after her. When he reaches her, however, she tells him that dogs can't climb trees, at which point he plummets to the ground. (He gets a good idea in the next scene and tries to use climbing gear to do it, but doesn't fare much better.)
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force:
    • Meatwad develops some rather astonishing abilities (telekinesis, teleportation, etc...) when he is told he has a new brain and loses them when he finds it is his toy rubber brain with cosmetic alterations.
    • The Season 11 mock finale (before the actual finale,) reveals that both Shake and Meatwad have the same gem attached to them that Frylock does, and need it to live. Well, Shake and Frylock need them to live. Meatwad sold his a long time ago, and is still alive simply because he didn't know he was supposed to die.
  • In an opening of Arthur, Francine flaps her arms and flies. Arthur shouts out that kids can't fly, right when she's floating 10 feet above him. Once Francine's bubble is burst, she plummets to the ground.
  • Horribly subverted in The Batman. The Joker had no idea what his Joker Putty formula would do to human flesh, but when he found out it had turned Ethan Bennet into Clayface, his sick mind actually considered that a great accomplishment.
  • In the Bump in the Night episode "Cold Turkey", the defrosted turkey turns out to be capable of flight even though it's impossible for turkeys to fly. This leads to Squishington irately reading aloud from an encyclopedia that the defrosted turkey logically shouldn't be able to fly.
  • One episode of Camp Lazlo had Lazlo, Raj, and Clam build a boat. Out of brick and concrete. Somehow it's the only ship that manages to float and even takes off like a motorboat, likely because they didn't build it to Lumpus's specifications, as all the other teams did that and their boats sank immediately.
  • The Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers episode "Good Times, Bat Times" features the quite popular one-shot bat Foxglove who manages to carry Dale while flying. She actually cannot carry him, but she does until Dale expresses his amazement about it. At this point, she remembers that she can't carry him, and they plummet. At other points in the episode, we see her trying (and almost succeeding) to keep the Ranger Wing from crashing and carrying a brick in mid-air, probably because nobody tells her that all this is too heavy for her.
  • In the first season episode of Code Lyoko "Cruel Dilemma", after Jeremie again fails to make Aelita's virtualization program work, Odd snoops around in Jeremie's room, takes some of Jeremie's candy, and when Jeremie surprises him, drops the candy on the keyboard of the computer...accidentally rebooting the virtualization program and completely by accident, inputting an unknown command that makes it work. (Unfortunately, because Jeremie didn't see what Odd did and can't save the program for some reason, he can only use it once, and when Yumi falls into the Digital Sea at the end, he has to use it to save her from a Fate Worse than Death, meaning Aelita has to wait.)
  • Danger Mouse and Penfold accidentally get themselves and their flying car whisked back in time to Robin Hood days. Penfold points out that they didn't have cars in the middle ages. D.M. sighs and says he had hoped Penfold wouldn't say that until they'd landed. Penfold asks why. The flying car disappears and they plummet.
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, Presto rarely managed to pull what he needed out of his hat, but somehow, he and the other heroes often managed to solve the crisis with what he did conjure up. For example, in one episode, the heroes were up against a group of giant iron statues, and he managed to produce a cannon - but when he tried to come up with ammunition for it, all he managed were ball bearings. Fortunately, all but one of the statues slipped on them and fell, while Bobby managed to use his club to catapult the cannon itself into the last one, smashing it to pieces.
  • This is how Ed of Ed, Edd n Eddy is able to warp reality and do things no normal kid should do; such as lifting a house. Actually lampshaded once: Edd and Eddy come to a screeching halt at the edge of a cliff, Ed slams into them and knocks them off. Eddy starts yelling at him before Double D looks down and announces: "Uh, gentlemen? IMPROBABLE ALERT!" While Ed contemplates that he can "jump it" (jump to the other side of the ravine while already standing on air) the others scramble back to safety.
  • The Fairly OddParents episode "A Mile In My Shoes" had Cosmo trying to light candles underwater as part of dinner (reasoning that "somebody's gotta dry up all this wet food"), which Wanda exclaims should be impossible. However:
    *Timmy walks in the room*
    Timmy: Hey, guys, what's new?
    Wanda: (the candles light) Um... the laws of physics?
  • Futurama has a two-for-one deal of this in the episode "The Deep South". Dr. Zoidberg's house burns down... underwater.
    Zoidberg: How did this happen?!
    Hermes: [utterly dumbfounded] That's a good question.
    Bender: [walks over to the burned rubble] Oh, that's where I left my cigar! [picks it up and smokes it (again, this is all happening underwater)]
    Hermes: That just raises further questions!
    • In "Leela and the Genestalk", Bender is able to bend a wooden door in part because of this trope.
      Fry: Bender! You can't bend a wooden door!
      Bender: [Hushed] You know that, and I know that, but this door looks pretty stupid.
  • Goofy refers to this phenomenon on an episode of Goof Troop. Pete wants to steal Goofy's cat, Waffles, as part of some scheme. So he convinces Goofy that Waffles is allergic to the color of Goofy's house. When Max's encyclopedia declares that cats are colorblind, Goofy shrugs it off: "Maybe Waffles hasn't read that book."
  • In an episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Billy's Dad is in the audience of a Battle of the Bands with Billy, having mistaken it for an actual battle and waiting for an opportunity to crash the stage. When the time arrives:
    Harold: To the stage, Billy! (starts flapping his arms and cackling madly, flying into the air)
    Billy: Dad! Daaaaad!
    Harold: For the last time, Billy, I'm Mogar!
    Billy: I didn't know you could fly!
    Harold: (surprised expression) Fly? (crashes into the stage)
  • In the I Am Weasel episode "Law of Gravity", I.R. Baboon was actually able to defy gravity up until the point that he actually gets to read the actual Law of Gravity. Later on, Baboon destroys the Law... and every lawyer on Earth starts floating helplessly in mid-air. Weasel explains it only affects lawyers because they're the only ones who understand the law.
  • An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes had Jimmy in an animal jail. When Jimmy begs that he's not an animal, the other animals join in. When Molotov reminds them that they don't know how to speak, they go back to making animal noises.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • The reason Wile E. Coyote and other characters in the shorts can do things like run off a cliff and not fall until they look down.
    • An early Daffy Duck cartoon had Daffy riding an invisible bicycle, with the remark "I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible!"
    • Another one had Wile E. and Road Runner run off the cliff. Wile E. looks down and falls to the ground, while the Road Runner still floats on a fragment of rock. Peeved by the latter part, Wile E. says via a sign, "I wouldn't mind - except that he defies the law of gravity!" Road Runner, in response, holds up a sign that says "Sure - but I never studied law!"
    • Bugs Bunny accomplished a similar feat in "High-Diving Hare". After Yosemite Sam tries to saw through a high-diving platform and the rest of the platform collapses, Bugs quips "I know this defies the law of gravity, but I never studied law!"
    • There is at least one instance of a character running off of the cliff, realizing it without looking down, and try to continue without looking down. Obviously, they look down (usually getting lured by their enemy).
    • There is a variation with Elmer and Bugs as children, where Elmer says they didn't study gravity yet. Then Bugs slipped him a book...
    • There was a Tiny Toon Adventures episode which explained the phenomenon. Elmer, teaching the young toons, said that as long as the toon didn't look down it wouldn't fall.
    • Similar to the Tom & Jerry example below, in "Harebreadth Hurry" (where Bugs is filling in for the Road Runner), Wile E. uses a carrot as bait on a fishing line and reels in a giant fish which all but devours him.
      • Which in itself is a shout out to an earlier Disney work where Walt himself explained this as the Plausible Impossible effect.
  • Megas XLR: Coop lives by this trope; he even lampshades it in "S-Force SOS"
    Zerak: Impossible! No one can escape the force of the Infinity Zone!
    Coop: Hey, good thing no one ever told me that.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The episode "Twilight's Kingdom, Part 1": "I don't think it works that way, Pinkie." While interrogating an inanimate rubber chicken won't get the Key of Laughter, throwing it at the Harmony Box actually does transform Boneless the rubber chicken into the Key of Laughter.
    • This is one explanation for how Pinkie Pie manages to constantly violate the realistic, Magic A Is Magic A setting with her unusual abilities. Something that other characters lampshade frequently. A later episode reveals, albeit very subtly, that she actually does have unique magic powers unlike any other known earth pony when one of the orbs of stolen magic returning to all the unicorns and alicorns goes into her nose.
    • In the episode "Inspiration Manifestation", Spike is able to easily recover a booby-trapped cursed book, largely because he was too distracted checking it out to realize he was in-danger and panic like he would have likely done otherwise.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: The primary joke of "Oblivio"; when the titular villain erases the memories of Marinette/Ladybug and Adrien/Cat Noir, the two-and-a-half seasons long love square gets resolved in a matter of hours. To wit:
    • It turns out that Marinette is far, far more willing to be with Cat Noir when he doesn't try to force the issue. When the status quo is restored, he takes some comfort in the fact that there is a way she can requite his feelings... even if he doesn't know what it is.
    • Marinette doesn't remember having a massive crush on Adrien "Perfection" Agreste, so she doesn't turn into a nervous wreck around him and is able to talk to him normally for a change. The result? Adrien is near-instantly smitten with her.
  • In one episode of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Pooh is searching for a lost hammer and at one point in the episode, he tries to find it by setting a "hammer trap" baited with nails. It doesn't catch the lost hammer, but it does catch a saw, somehow.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar:
    • The penguins have trouble removing a hornet nest. They discover that Mort isn't hurt by the hornets because he is protected by a "halo of ignorance". Kowalski uses a machine to drain their minds of bad thoughts so that they could then deal with the hornets. Hilarity Ensues.
    • In the episode "It's About Time", a time machine creates a hole in the space-time continuum that threatens to destroy the universe. Rico then tosses the machine into the hole, and it closes. When Kowalski states the impossibility of it, Skipper responds, "That's why Rico's a maverick. He makes his own rules."
  • The Powerpuff Girls
    • Professor Utonium kind of is this Trope. Every time he invents something useful, he does so by accident. (This includes the Girls, by the way, as described in the show's opening sequence.) He can't seem to do anything useful on purpose, however. (It's probably not a good idea to mention the Dynamo, something he did invent on purpose. It was a disaster, to say the least.)
    • Bubbles managed to get 1075 on a scantron test in "Him Diddle Riddle" by drawing a flower on it.note 
  • In one episode of Rocket Power, Sam's skateboarding simulation program comes across a move that it has deemed physically impossible, but Otto doesn't believe it. He spends the episode practicing the move and eventually pulls it off...with a little help from a tennis ball shot out of the Stimpletons' lawnmower. Convinced that he can do it, Otto tries it at a competition and wipes out.
  • One episode of Sealab 2021 ends with Marco singing a duet in Portuguese...while thinking he's singing in Spanish.
  • The Simpsons: Homer's intelligence varies depending on the writer and, as a result, achieves great feat that require a drop in his IQ (for better or worse). For example, in "Homer Goes to College" Homer achieved an Epic Fail so massive that he managed to cause an actual nuclear meltdown in a nuclear plant simulation truck with no fissionable materials.
    • In "Homer The Smithers", Homer managed to light a bowl of cereal on fire by pouring milk on it.
    • In the "Treehouse of Horror V" story "Time And Punishment", he managed to build a Time Machine by failing to repair his toaster.
    • In "Bart the Lover", he manages to solve two problems simultaneously, each one solving the other! When trying to build a doghouse, he hurts and injures himself, causing him to cuss a lot. Marge suggests a swear jar. After several days of trying to build the doghouse using the swear jar, he eventually stops cussing and gains enough change this way for Marge to buy a doghouse. (And a six-pack of Duff.) In other words, the doghouse project helps him stop swearing and the swearing helps gain a new doghouse!
    • In "The Front", Grandpa Simpson managed to take off his underpants without taking off his pants first. When asked how he did that, he is as confused as everyone else.
    • In "Homer Defined", in the realm of “possible but exceedingly unlikely”, Homer also manages to prevent a catastrophic meltdown two separate times by pressing a single button on his console at random.
    • In "Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily", Homer attempts to figure out Flanders's whereabouts by trying to think like Flanders. His internal monologue goes "I'm a big four-eyed lame-o and I wear the same stupid sweater everyday and..." Seconds later, he concludes from his introspection that Flanders is at the Springfield River. He's right.
    • In "Bart's Comet", Principal Skinner has spent years meticulously searching the night sky for something to name after himself. He makes calculated and precise adjustments to his telescope, carefully logging each movement, but hasn't found anything. Bart screws around with the telescope for a few seconds, spinning it completely at random, and finds a comet that gets named after him. Cue a Big "NO!" from Skinner.
    • In "The Cartridge Family" Homer attempts to engage the safety on his revolver and accidentally sets the firearm off, shooting a picture of Marge. Realizing he accidentally disengaged it he attempts to re-engage it... and it shoots the same photo of Marge. Then he sheepishly lays the firearm down, it fires itself which ricochets off a pot, strikes the handle of a knife, and sends it flying to embed into the same photo of Marge. The fact that revolvers don't have safeties in the first place (save for deliberate aftermarket conversions) only makes it even more amazing.
      Lisa: (Beat) No offense Mom, but that was pretty cool.
  • South Park:
    • In "The Wacky Molestation Adventure", Kyle's parents tell him he can go to a Raging Pussies concert if he brings democracy to Cuba. He does just that, unaware that his parents thought this task impossible. They still don't let him go.
    • "Red Hot Catholic Love" has Cartman insisting, based on nothing more than Insane Troll Logic, that since eating makes you poop out of your butt that naturally putting food up your butt will make you poop from the mouth. He's so desperate to prove Kyle wrong that he actually tries it... and it actually works. Kyle sums it up the best:
      ...Get the fuck out of here!
    • In "The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs" kids are appalled when the supposedly "risque" and "mature" book The Catcher in the Rye doesn't live up to their expectations, and, for shits and giggles, decide to write their own banned book, making it as disgusting as possible. They succeed, and their creation is praised worldwide as a literary masterpiece because people keep ludicrously interpreting elements of the book as brilliant metaphors.
    • In "Krazy Kripples", after expressing a desire to join the Crips, which they believe is an organization for people who have been disabled from birth, Jimmy and Timmy manage to "pop some punk-ass Bloods", despite assuming that this means buying marshmallows and ginger ale. They cross the road on the way to the store, causing a truck driver to swerve and kill the rival gang members. The Crips are ecstatic that they both popped some Bloods and brought back marshmallows and ginger ale.
    • In "Wing" the boys not only set free countless people indentured in slavery to the Chinese Mafia, but actually convince the criminal organization to abandon human trafficking for good, without ever once even realizing they're dealing with criminals in the first place. They simply think the Mafia is a talent agency and have stolen their client.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • SpongeBob and Patrick set up a bonfire while they believe themselves to be wanted men, and the instant Patrick wonders on how they could possibly light a fire while underwater, it fizzles out.
    • In another episode, land-dwelling fanboy Patchy the Pirate sent him an invitation to a party, but when SpongeBob received it underwater, the writings on it have been turned into indecipherable smudges. SpongeBob then proceeds to make a smug comment.
      SpongeBob: Whoever sent this obviously has no idea about the physical limitations of life underwater. Well, might as well throw these in the fire.
    • In "Snowball Effect", SpongeBob tries to teach Patrick on how to make a snowball. Patrick fails... but in the process, ends up creating a snow cube, a snow pyramid, and a snow double helix.
    • The building montage of "Home Sweet Pineapple," full stop. The two, attempting to rebuild SpongeBob's house after it was eaten, manage to completely defy the laws of physics without even noticing.
    • In "Ink Lemonade", Patrick is running a lemonade stand using one lemon that Squidward gave him. When the lemon is used up, he tries to get more juice from a toy fire engine, and despite Squidward telling him that he can't, he manages to extract a few drops of a red liquid from it.
    • In "Call the Cops", Patrick also somehow manages to make ice cream in a jail cell toilet using toilet paper, his own underwear, toothpaste (including the empty tube), and a cinder block.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): In "Battle for New York, Part 1," Mikey's attempt to make retro-mutagen for the Kraang's victims not only succeeds but the batch he creates can even turn mutagen into retro-mutagen. Donnie is in absolute disbelief when Mikey admits he has no idea how he did it.
    Donnie: Are you kidding me? You do one awesome thing, and you can't even remember how you did it?!
  • In a Tom and Jerry cartoon, Tom tries to catch Jerry by casting a fishing line - with cheese as bait - into the mouse hole. He doesn't catch Jerry, but he does land an actual fish, to his utter surprise.
  • During an episode of The Venture Bros., The Monarch's Henchmen wake from a wild night of partying to find they actually managed to capture Brock and the Venture family. Blind stinking drunk.
    24: Oh shit! I thought we dreamed that part!
  • Xiaolin Showdown:
    • An early episode has three of the four heroes trapped in an invisible box by an evil mime. Raimundo is able to make noise sliding the Mantis Flip Coin against the "invisible" bars, while it was previously established that the walls were solid, and there were no bars. They use this to escape when they realize the box acts like whatever they think it does.

    Real Life — Music 
  • John Bonham learned to play a bass drum triplet with one foot after listening to a Vanilla Fudge record and mistakenly thinking that Carmine Appice was doing the same—Carmine was an early user of a double bass drum kit. While heel-toe (which is essentially what he was using) is standard now among drummers who need to play extended double-kick rolls extremely fast, it was completely unheard of back then.
  • Virgil Donati developed fantastic bass drum technique by practicing until he could play Deep Purple's "Fireball" with one bass drum, not realizing Ian Paice used a double bass to pull it off when he recorded it.
  • The cornerstone of impressionist André Philippe Gagnon's act is his spot-on imitation of a saxophone (using only his voice!) perfected as a child when he imitated Henry Mancini's The Pink Panther theme. Why? He didn't understand that it wasn't a person making that noise!
  • New Age guitarist Michael Hedges taught himself to play The Beatles' "Yesterday" in its recorded key of F, a very difficult key to play in using standard guitar tuning. He only much later learned that Paul McCartney had tuned his guitar down a whole step and played the song as if it were in the much easier key of G.
  • Harpo Marx was dismayed to hear that classically-trained harpists did not use their little fingers, because he did. He paid a tutor to teach him the classical style but eventually fired the tutor when it became evident that the tutor was more interested in learning Harpo's style than in teaching Harpo the classical style.
  • Chet Atkins was a guitarist with a unique and extremely difficult four-finger picking style. It took him years to develop that style. He did it because he was convinced that it was impossible to play like Merle Travis with only the thumb and forefinger. He was wrong; that was exactly how Merle Travis played.
  • Some left-handed guitarists like Dick Dale and Albert King play their guitars upside-down, with the strings upside down as well. This makes for some special chord structures and a special way of bending the strings (downwards, instead of upwards).
  • A lot of The Beatles' groundbreaking achievements come from them not being too familiar with the way music's "meant" to work from a traditional way. On "A Day in the Life", Paul McCartney said he wanted all the instruments in the orchestra to start off on their lowest note, and then finish off on their highest, as loud as possible, after 24 bars. It was left to George Martin to transcribe that to music notationnote . Another case involves "Strawberry Fields Forever": when the band had recorded two completely different versions of the song, John Lennon said he wanted to use the first half of one and the second half of the other. When the producer and engineer pointed out that they were in different keys and tempi, he just shrugged it off and said: "You'll work it out." As a result, they had to spend painstakingly long hours varispeeding and editing, but they successfully joined them togethernote . Had John (or Paul on the "Day in the Life" example) been classically trained or had a more "academic" approach to music, they might never have come up with such original ideas.
  • Carter Beauford, drummer for the Dave Matthews Band, taught himself to play as a young boy by watching himself in a mirror imitating what he saw his favorite drummers do. However, being so young, he didn't realize until later that by watching himself in the mirror he was doing the reverse of what his role models were doing. The end result, when he figured this out and learned to play "properly", is that he's one of the very few ambidextrous drummers in the world and has a unique style that's caused him to be considered one of the greatest rock drummers ever.
  • Jazz trombonist "Slide" Hampton did much the same; he learned to play the trombone by mimicking his instructor...which required flipping his trombone upside down and playing it left-handed!
  • Jim Stafford was completely self-taught on every instrument he plays, which astounds anyone who has seen him perform—for example, playing "Classical Gas" on The Late Show With Johnny Carson, it's shocking the acoustic guitar doesn't burst into flames.
  • The Shaggs were subjective in the quality of their music and were objectively mediocre musicians. Somehow, they were praised by Frank Zappa, Kurt Cobain, and several other famous musicians, and inspired not only a tribute album but a stage musical. They obviously had very little knowledge about musical theory or the instruments they were playing, singing, and as such were forced by their father to form the band because he saw success in their future. At one point, Zappa called them "Better than The Beatles". Now with this in mind, go listen to one of their songs.
    • See also Outsider Music for more examples of "bad" musicains who have success for similar reasons.
  • Mike Flores developed his now-famous bass technique by accident; as a child, he was trying to learn guitar but kept losing guitar privileges whenever his parents grounded him, so he picked up his father's bass (which couldn't be taken away) instead and tried to emulate using a pick with his fingers instead of plucking. This was well before one could readily access instruction videos to find out how the pros did it, so he essentially just played in a way that made sense to him. This technique was, by conventional standards, totally wrong, but he didn't know this and became so proficient with it that there was no point in trying to learn how to play correctly, as he could play circles around just about everyone with it.
  • Marty Friedman is known for having a very unusual picking style that makes replicating his solos extremely difficult; as a largely self-taught player, he never learned how he was "supposed" to attack certain passages, and as a result, he developed a style that was his and his alone. Not only does he not palm mute (which is practically unheard of in rock and metal), but he regularly uses upstrokes where most guitarists would use downstrokes and vice versa, and he frequently picks from the fingers rather than the elbow or wrist, which is yet another curveball that makes his solos sound even more unique. The result is compositions that are far, far more difficult to play than they sound, which throws lots of players unfamiliar with his style off when they try to learn his solos and find that they just aren't coming out right with traditional pick attacks.
  • Slash knows virtually nothing on music theory yet is responsible for some of the most iconic guitar riffs of The '80s, often through just playing around and with basic experimentation, and is commonly listed as one of the greatest guitarists in rock music history.
  • Buckethead managed to learn how to play (at least most of) Shawn Lane's "Kaiser Nancarrow" because he didn't know Lane composed that song in a way that it was unplayable in real time.
  • Joe Walsh of Eagles taught himself to play the harmonized guitar part in The Beatles' song "And Your Bird Can Sing", not realizing that it was actually George Harrison double-tracking himself and that even Harrison himself couldn't play it on one guitar at a time.
  • Pete Sandoval (of Morbid Angel, probably the most influential Death Metal drummer ever) has a funny story about how he became known as "Pete the Feet". One day the other members played a recording of a drum machine, and lightly poked fun at Pete for it being faster than him. His response? He kept practicing and practicing until he was able to outpace the machine, eventually forcing the band the admit that it was, in fact, not a real drummer.
  • When Ninja Sex Party covered "Africa" by Toto, Danny was completely unaware that the verses and choruses were originally sung by two different people with very different vocal ranges, and sang both parts by himself.
  • Neil Peart, drummer for Rush, plays three very fast triplets on timbales at the start of the song "Time Stand Still." He got the idea from a Genesis song, and later worked with the engineer who helped the band record it. The engineer told Peart that the fill in the Genesis song had actually been recorded with the tape slowed down.
  • The development of X Japan and by extension much of the Visual Kei scene happened as a direct result of this trope: Yoshiki, hide, Taiji, Toshi, and Pata didn't know and didn't care that Glam Rock and Glam Metal were generally thought to be incompatible with Speed Metal and Thrash Metal, how to promote within the Japanese record label and media system of The '80s without upsetting the apple cart of the industry, and much more about how to do metal music "right", and almost all of them aside from Toshi were drunk much of the time. Somehow, this only helped them start the country's most successful and biggest-selling rock/metal band and become the Trope Namer, Trope Maker, and defining band of Visual Kei.
  • Downplayed with H. Jon Benjamin, who became an awesome piano player on his first try even though he didn't know how to play the piano in the first place - but he plays jazz piano, where the whole idea is making it up as you go along with whatever sounds good to you.

    Real Life — Science and Technology 
  • The origins of gunpowder are Shrouded in Myth, but it is popularly attributed to being accidentally created by Taoist alchemists in an attempt to formulate an immortality elixir.
    • Similarly, the use of mercury fulminate as a firearm priming substance was accidental. The people doing the experiments had been trying to replace black gunpowder, and wanted a propellant that didn't require external flame in order to ignite. It was only after a few experimental runs of using the rather volatile fulminate to ignite conventional gunpowder that gun makers realized that firing a gun didn't require the priming source and the main charge in a gunshot to be made of the same substance.
  • In 1976, it was widely known in the computer industry that the circuitry needed to make an entire general-purpose computer work could not fit in a box smaller than a desk. Steve Wozniak designed the Apple 1 Personal Computer in 1976. He later stated that had he known more about computer theory back then, he wouldn't have tried to make the Apple 1 - however, what probably made it possible at all was his habit of taking Mini Computers (the desk-sized versions) which used 150 chips and taking entire weekends redesigning them, often with only 50 chips. This habit alone probably would have invoked this trope from the computer engineers of the time.
  • Played straight by Thomas Edison. He had very little theoretical knowledge in sciences or engineering. Instead, he simply implemented what was known to be working, and tried the "brute force" method of trial and error until he got something working.
  • In 1939, mathematics graduate student George Dantzig arrived late in class and copied what he thought was homework written on the blackboard. After taking longer than usual to solve the problems, he apologized to his professor for his lateness and turned them in. Six weeks later, he woke up to his professor knocking on his front door asking him to read the introduction he had written for one of Dantzig's "papers": what Dantzig had solved was not homework but rather two famous unsolved statistics problems. To this day, colleges and professors will sometimes place previously unsolved problems like these in with other more mundane problems on "entrance exams" or other evaluative tests, just to see if some brilliant young student who hasn't heard about the problem not being solved yet can find a solution nobody else thought to try.
    • Dantzig's story eventually morphed into the Urban Legend of the student that was late for an exam and barely completed all the problems on the board only for him to be told that the final problem(s) were "unsolvable" problems and that he made history. The legend can be traced to Reverend Robert Schuller, whom Dantzig once met and told him about the blackboard incident only for Schuller to add the embellishments found in the legend.
  • For years, physicists knew you could not suspend one magnet over the other without some sort of additional support. The top magnet would either flip due to the attractive forces or slide off. This had been given a beautiful mathematical proof, and anyone caught illicitly trying to disprove it would be the subject of some teasing. However, eventually, someone came along who had the good fortune of not knowing that floating one magnet over the other had long been proven impossible and promptly solved the problem: just spin the free-floating magnet like a top. The original proof had been right as far as it went, but spinning the magnet was a loophole no one had accounted for (save, in a broad sense, superconductors, which work on similar principles but aren't magnets).
  • Evolutionary computer design partially uses this principle: you set the end goals you want the program to achieve but don't give it specific instructions on how to get there, allowing the program try some solutions by randomly altering some of the variables, test them, combine the best of them and randomly "mutate" some of the variables again, and go on. The end result is often something no human would ever design but would perform at least as well, if not better.
    • One example was designing a structural "backbone" for a space station. Human designs involved a standard radio-tower style beam, while the computer produced an organic design that looked like an actual bone, massed less, and was structurally stronger.
    • Perhaps one of the strangest examples was when a piece of programmable hardware ran a genetic algorithm to try to create an oscillator and ended up creating a radio receiver and parasite at the same time.
    • Another experiment run on a programmable logic array to distinguish between sounds resulted in a circuit where part of it wasn't even connected to any inputs, outputs or the rest of the circuit, but if removed resulted in the circuit failing. It also didn't work when copied to another chip of the same kind which means it used subtle manufacturing defects of the chip as integral parts of the circuit!
    • This antenna, which manages better coverage, less energy spent, and skipping some steps of the production process, also looks like a spider with a bad seizure.
  • Fold It is a free game about figuring out how proteins fold. Player's results go to researchers over the Internet to see how if the result works. This game helps in a few ways. The first is you can have more people trying to figure out how the proteins fold with almost no training. The other is that many players, due to lack of training, do not have preconceived notions of how proteins should fold. For 15 years, scientists were trying to figure out how a protein in a type of AIDS-causing virus folds. They released the protein as a puzzle in Fold It. Players submitted a solution to how the protein actually folds in 10 days.
  • Averted or inverted in the young Richard Feynman's research in liquid helium. He managed to calculate everything he attempted with one exception: the order of a phase transition in liquid helium. Following a presentation, one of the field's tribal elders announced one thing Feynman should be wised up on: nobody has ever been able to determine the order of a phase transition from first principles.
  • A superpermutation is a string of symbols that contains every possible combination of a set of N symbols somewhere within it. For example, for a set of three symbols A, B, and C, ABCABACBA is a superpermutation because all six possible combinations you could make from A, B, and C (ABC, ACB, BAC, BCA, CAB, CBA) can be found somewhere in that string. Since the mid-1990's it was known that the length of the shortest possible superpermutation could be found using the formula 1! + 2! + … + N!, but once you got to N = 6 it broke down because the formula would overestimate the actual answer — in fact, no pattern can thus far be discerned and a mathematical proof that a set of any size above 5 has an "efficient" superpermutation of exact length X remains elusive. However, in 2011 someone on 4chan posted a proof showing that, for any set with at least 3 symbols, the length was at least N! + (N−1)! + (N−2)! + N − 3, and asked for people to check their work. Though it was on the site's science and math board it was still 4chan, so the problem was explained as "If you wanted to watch the 14 episodes of the first season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya in every possible order, what would be the shortest sequence of episodes you would need to watch?" Haruhi was chosen as it was originally broadcast in Anachronic Order in 2006 but the US distributor initially put the episodes in chronological order on DVD, leading to the more mathematically-inclined fans (of which Haruhi already drew an unusually large number) to start watching the series in basically whatever order they wanted. "The Haruhi Problem" and proof took several years for published mathematicians to find but they eventually did, and it ended up making a major leap forward in refining the range of values in which those efficient superpermutations could be. And so, when a 2018 paper titled "A lower bound on the length of the shortest superpattern" was published, the proof was incorporated as a lower bound and the paper has among its credited authors "Anonymous 4chan Poster".note 

    Real Life — Military 
  • An occasional concept in military thought: for an attack from which there is no possibility of retreat, such as an amphibious landing, green soldiers often perform better than veterans. This is because they are unfamiliar with the dangers of what they are attempting, and will, therefore, try things that veterans know carry a high risk of ending in death. This is encapsulated in an adage from Murphy's Laws of Combat:
    "Professional soldiers are predictable; the world is full of dangerous amateurs."
  • Germany's initial military successes during the Second World War were for most part brought by well-executed gambles. Coming out of a depression and lacking in strategic resources, most Wehrmacht officers did not believe that Germany would be ready for war until 1942 at the earliest, and that they simply did not have the capability to sustain any conflict for more than a few weeks. Plus with the experience of the Great War fresh in people's minds, there was an expectation that any future conflict would be characterized by the grind of trench warfare, which favoured the Allies' more favourable strategic positions. Few however, expected that technological advances had made wars of maneuver possible once more, with mechanization, air support, and radio restoring initiative to the attacker. This allowed the ground forces to quickly overrun Polandnote 
  • Imperial Japan's initial military successes present multiple double-edged instances of this trope.
    • Though instigated in part by domestic instability, Japanese military conquests hinged on an utterly unrealistic and overconfident expectation of Japanese military prowess. Their initial successes in China — against a country riven by decades of civil war and lawlessness — led the Imperial Japanese Army to continue its advance along much of the eastern seaboard. In the process however, the Japanese military was spread so thin that, in spite of dedicating one million troops to the mainland — around a quarter of its total military strength — it could neither sustain further conquests nor consolidate its gains. The same would apply to conquests of other parts of Asia as well, with initial successes followed by issues with pacification, spreading its sparse military resources thinly.
    • Prior to 7 December 1941, it was believed that the balance of power in the Pacific — mainly held between the Imperial Japanese Navy, the United States Pacific Fleet, and the Royal Navy's Pacific squadrons — would be sufficient to contain Japanese expansion outside of China and French Indo-China. No one anticipated that Japan would launch surprise attacks on virtually every single European colonial power in the Pacific. In short order, they crippled the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour, preventing it from undertaking any actions for several months; likewise, they sunk the Royal Navy's only capital ships in the theatre, which contributed to the fall of their main base of operations at Singapore. All of this was achieved through the use of naval airpower on a hitherto unprecedented scale, providing the bulk of a fleet's striking power. Ironically, the Japanese failed to fully appreciate that naval airpower was a war winner: most of the top brass stubbornly clung to the [[ Kantai Kessen]] doctrine, which held that the outcome of the war at sea would ultimately come down to a decisive battle between battleships and devoted its resources accordingly. Such an encounter largely failed to materialize: the US Pacific Fleet conserved its assets and was able to utilize its surviving carriers to annihilate the core of Japanese naval airpower at Midway and an essential component in the defeat of Imperial Japan thereafter.
  • Before and during World War II, the US Army Ordnance Department was searching for sufficient aircraft auto-cannon designs but declared that there was no possible way to safely scale up the Browning M2 heavy machine gun into a viable auto-cannon, for such a project would supposedly make the new gun too heavy for aircraft mounting and too impractical to maintain. But across the Pacific Ocean, the various engineers designing aircraft-mounted machine guns for the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force had already copied the basic .50 caliber Browning M1921 aircraft machine gun and gave it a higher firing rate as the Ho-103 in 1941. Further development (without anyone in Japan knowing the original design should have failed if made bigger) yielded the very successful Ho-5 20mm cannon (a scaled up Ho-103), which was installed in many an advanced fighter plane and eventually the 37mm Ho-204 (a scaled up Ho-5), which was fitted to interceptors ironically intended to shoot down American bombers. As George Chinn reluctantly admits, the Japanese had not only done the supposedly impossible task, they had succeeded in making the bigger Browning copies perform remarkably well.
    Real Life — Other 
  • Martial arts of any kind show a similar strange pattern. A rank amateur with no training is often a greater threat to a master than a beginner since the completely untrained individual will be unpredictable. They may land a lucky shot or series of shots. It's Confusion Fu due to ignorance. This can become very funny in fencing. A martial artist who takes up the sport often has trouble adapting at first and is easy prey to an experienced fencer. A raw beginner will sometimes score hits by accident, especially in épée, where there are no rules about priority or target area. They're just waggling their weapon unpredictably and getting lucky.
  • In a case of Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking, when Channel 4 hosted a poker tournament between pro and amateur players, the pros said they struggled with the amateur players, having gotten so used to the tells of their fellow pros. This is likely why so many amateur players can have success in big poker tournaments with seasoned pros: both their tells and betting patterns are foreign to the pros, leaving them far more unpredictable. (A word of warning to anyone hoping to replicate this feat: there are several poker strategies that are very good at taking money from poor players but have serious weaknesses. Expert players wouldn't bother trying them against other experts, but if they have reason to believe that their opponent wouldn't know the appropriate counter-strategy, they can and will use one of these to win easily...unless luck is really against them)
  • When teaching young children how to play their instruments, a good teacher never tells their students that anything is "easy" or "hard". As a result, those children learn to play well much more quickly.
  • There is also an urban legend about a French immigrant who made a huge business in the USA during the Great Depression. When questioned about the achievement, he stated that his English was so bad back then he could read no newspapers—and, therefore, knew nothing about the depression.
  • Akira Toriyama, also doubles as an example of Brilliant, but Lazy. He is constantly praised for his groundbreaking techniques in the manga industry, but he was clueless about said industry when he started. Since he didn't really know what the general tricks of the trade were, he just did what he felt like doing and just published it. The works he produced have since been regarded as some of the most innovative material of its time.
  • There is a story of a viral video that went around depicting a man playing baseball with nun-chucks. A martial arts master repeated this apparently unaware that the videos were faked and it was thought impossible.
    • Roger Ebert came up against a similar situation. His friend Gene Siskel was a very good poker player, who had cleaned up at his bachelor party. At Ebert's, however, he lost. When Roger asked him what happened, Gene replied, "Your friends don't know how to play poker. You can't win against someone who makes a bet for fun."
  • This can even come up in chess matches, despite both sides knowing the same information—trying to figure out what the amateur is doing can confound the professional because the amateur doesn't know what they're doing, and so can't be predicted. Also, amateurs will perform the most ridiculous, foolish moves that no competent player would make, and thus a pro might leave themselves open to something resulting from such a move, or find it difficult to realize that it is even being attempted.
    • The four-move checkmate[[note]]1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nc6 3. Qh5 Nf6?? 4. Qxf7# The "proper" defense against this is 2. ... Nf6 or 3. ... g6. is the single most basic strategy in chess, the very first play most beginners are taught, and consequently, the easiest to defend against. However, multiple masters have been humiliated by amateurs because of it - the master doesn't think to defend against it because no serious opponent would ever use it, whereas the amateur tries it because they don't understand enough to realize it shouldn't work.
  • The reason martial arts expert Tony Jaa can pull off his amazing stunts without wires is that he grew up watching martial arts movies without knowing there was such thing as Wire Fu. Nobody thought to tell him he couldn't do what he eventually managed to do.
  • In informal shooting competitions, it isn't uncommon to see people do things with weapons that any knowledgeable person would consider ludicrous, such as learning how to actually use Guns Akimbo because they haven't been told it's impossible. Pretty much, they overcome a lack of formal knowledge and sub-optimal setups just with sheer amounts of practice and stubbornness.
  • Many of the innovative visuals and special effects seen in Citizen Kane are the result of first-time film director Orson Welles simply refusing to believe that certain things couldn't be done on screen.
  • This interview with Ken Levine reveals that if he'd known how difficult and borderline impossible it should have been to create System Shock 2 with the resources and technology he had at the time, he probably would have failed to deliver what is now a classic.
  • The illustrator Franklin Booth learned to draw by copying from wood engravings, thinking they were pen and ink drawings. This gave him his distinctly complicated and precise style.
  • Rachel Maddow deliberately invoked this: while her show was under construction, Rachel deliberately avoided any advice on how to run the program. She now averages around 1.1 million viewers nightly, ranking her second in popularity among all cable news networks.
  • In one of the greatest running spectacles in history, an old man named Cliff Young showed up at the start of one of the world's most hellish and mind-numbingly long ultramarathons, totaling 875km between Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, in denim overalls and wellies. He never had the slightest chance at finishing the course, as everybody could see, but days spent rounding up sheep on his family farm had convinced him that he could make it through. Five days and fifteen hours later, he crossed the finish line a victor. Apparently, nobody had told him competitors in this race were supposed to stop for sleep breaks, so instead, he just kept going and broke the course record by more than two days. Not realizing that there was a prize for winning, he split the $10,000 reward equally between the next five competitors. His running style, dubbed "The Young Shuffle", was deemed by athletic trainers to be one of the most efficient ways to travel while conserving the most energy. Three other athletes copied his technique to win the race later on.
  • Burmese pythons are natural climbers when young. In the wild, however, as they grow to over 12 feet long and 100-150 lbs, the trees they used to climb no longer support them and, after falling a few times and hurting themselves, they learn to stop climbing and hunt along the ground. People who own Burmese pythons as pets keep them from hurting themselves, usually by catching them if they're going to fall. So they never learn they shouldn't climb anymore, and amusing pictures can be found of giant snakes on top of cat trees and bookcases and the like.
  • Tommy Wiseau may be the ultimate modern example. To describe the man as, shall we say, not handsome and bereft of filmmaking and acting knowledge or talent would be charitable. Fifteen years after his film debut, it still plays to packed screenings and became the subject of a biopic that not only won a Golden Globe but whose lead actor invited Tommy on stage to thank him for his gift to the world.
  • Author Mario Puzo admitted that when he adapted his 1969 novel The Godfather to a screenplay for the first two installments of the film trilogy, he had no idea what he was doing, having had no prior experience or instruction in screenplay writing. After The Godfather and The Godfather Part II netted him one Oscar each for Best Adapted Screenplay, Puzo decided to properly learn the trade and obtained a starter's book on how to write a screenplay; the first chapter read, "study Godfather I."
  • When Isaac Asimov was studying chemistry, he detested the subject and did poorly on lab work, continuing only out of inertia. Unexpectedly, one of his least favorite teachers began to fiercely advocate for him in his second year of undergraduate studies and was a large part of the reason he was allowed to stay in school to get his PhD. Why? The year he'd had the teacher, the man had deliberately given him problems above his level to try and make him drop out, but he hadn't realized that he was being tricked and had solidly worked through everything he was given without asking for extra help. As Asimov later wrote, "I stubbornly worked through them, however, and did so without complaint because I was too stupid to suspect conspiracy."
  • Betty Edwards' Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain is highly regarded as being one of the best books on drawing in spite of it initially being based on the "Left Brain/Right Brain" theory, which has long since been proven false. The reason? The techniques the books used to help others learn how to draw actually work. Newer editions of the book now speak of the Left Brain/Right Brain theory in a figurative sense instead of a literal one.
  • Downplayed with Arc System Works, who as a whole, had little to no experience with Unreal Engine 3 and managed to make it run Guilty Gear Xrd at a solid 60 FPS, with stylized looks and animation reminiscent of high-quality sprites - however they had plenty of experience in relevant fields: Their earlier sprite-based fighters were a ready reference for what they wanted the game to look like, and they underwent intensive research of how animation tricks the eye. The result is one that can't work with other types of games and takes a lot of work, but is perfectly suited for their purposes.
  • When he was 13 years old, Jim Shooter realized that his family needed money, and resolved to get a job to help them out. As he was a big fan of comic books, he decided to become a writer on Legion of Super-Heroes. His parents never bothered discouraging him because they knew that he'd receive nothing but a rejection letter anyway - except DC Comics liked his scripts so much they offered him a job. He remains the youngest writer ever to write comic books professionally.
  • There's a saying in Go that those who simply know Joseki (a series of standard, well-known plays) are worse than newbies. Newbies still make moves that are unpredictable, but those who simply play out Joseki are predictable. The point of knowing Joseki though is to understand when such moves are useful and when they are not to counter them.
  • In 1925, Marvin Pipkin succeeded in developing an inside frosted light bulb that wasn't brittle, not knowing that the task was assigned to him as a prank as developing such a lightbulb was supposed to be impossible.
  • Christopher Columbus' discovery of the Americas was pretty much because of this trope. Contrary to urban legend, both Columbus and the people he asked to fund him were perfectly well aware that the world was round and that, theoretically, one could reach Asia by going westward. However, the Earth's circumference was well-known to be such that a cross-globe journey would be ridiculously impractical with the technology of the day. Columbus thought he could do it because he badly miscalculated how big the Earth was (he thought the Atlantic was a little larger than it actually was, but didn't know about the existence of the Pacific). He persuaded Isabella of Spain to finance his journey, and did indeed find land where he expected it to be - it's just that said land was not actually Asia, but a giant landmass about halfway between Europe and Asia that no European knew existed before Columbus ran into it because he thought Asia would be there.
  • Shigeru Miyamoto says that this trope is exploited when Nintendo hires people. He says that applicants being Nintendo fans already can actually hurt their chances of being hired, the justification being that people who don't have any preconceptions about what Nintendo games are or should be like will have an easier time bringing new and innovative ideas to the table. Miyamoto brought this up in an interview about a year after the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a game whose radical reimaginings of Zelda conventions are credited in large part to bringing in a lot of fresh blood who had no compunctions about questioning why things were done in a Strictly Formula way before. Incidentally, Eiji Aonuma, the current manager of the Zelda series, had never played a video game before when he was first hired by Nintendo, which probably inspired them to take that approach later on.
  • In the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, the winner of the women's "Super-G" (a time-trial of downhill skiing) was Ester Ledecká, who specializes in snowboarding. Because of her inexperience, she ended up taking an atypical route that turned out to be slightly faster than what the experts thought was ideal, and she edged out the expected gold medalist by one-hundredth of a second. This was so unexpected that the main US network covering the games completely missed it, and even Ledecká herself couldn't believe it. She went on to become the first person to win two gold medals in the same Olympics using different types of snow-traversing gear, making history in stunning fashion.
  • Discussed by Ken Silverman, the creator of the Build engine on which Duke Nukem 3D is based. When he made it open source, he expected a hardware-accelerated port to come soon after; instead, all he found was angry people calling whoever asked for such a port an ignorant and claiming "it was common knowledge" that a hardware-accelerated Build port could not exist. Ken Silverman then proceeded to make it himself, naming it Polymost. On release, he quipped that if those angry people were right in calling others ignorant, then he had to be the most ignorant of all, because not only he kept claiming it was possible, but he actually proved it was.
  • In the 1970s, British Rail were looking to solve issues relating to trains frequently derailing, and their head of research decided to recruit someone from the aeronautics field to try and get some fresh input. The job went to Alan Wickens, someone who at his interview specifically said he had no interest in or knowledge of the design of railway bogies; he later discovered that this was precisely why he was hired, so as to get a fresh pair of eyes on the issue.

Alternative Title(s): Achievement By Ignorance, Achievement In Ignorance


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