I don’t know who said it to me first. I can’t even drop knowledge about what I’d do in retrospect. Today, it’s more an intervention than anything, hoping you’ll stop doing this one thing in your life and your business (like, right #$%^&*() now).
“You can’t do that.”
Why can’t I?
If you tell someone that they can’t do something, you’d best be lined-up in front of them with some substantive data explaining that, should they choose to proceed with said action, they will:
- Be eaten by bears
- Kill themselves or someone else
- Be participating in some sort of malicious act that no good can come of (and while some douchecopters deserve this stuff, we all know it’s stuff we shouldn’t do)
Me? I’m a huge fan of, “Sure. Go ahead. Let’s see how that works out for ya.” And than I grab a bucket of popcorn with a metric ton of butter on it, some napkins and a soft drink with a bendy straw shooting out of it and make sure my FlipCam is charged.
Maybe you’re in one of those jobs where you’re surrounded by people who revel in telling you what you can and can’t do. Maybe it’s one of those relationships. Maybe you’re the parent finding that phrase a primary part of your vocabulary (and yes, I know…kids touch shit. I know!). But why?
We don’t learn lessons by people telling us that we can’t do something. We learn in a few beautiful ways:
- Watching others and deciding to learn from their actions (there’s a key word in that sentence – it’s a Where’s Waldo)
- Doing something and failing
- Doing something and succeeding
The three sentences above are active. When people tell us what we can and cannot do, they’re forcing us into a passive role.
Personally, I think that’s crap. It’s crap with sprinkles on top, designed as people trying to look out for us or those who are just bitter, oppressive assholes who got pulled from the teat too early as a child. I’ve been told that I can’t do things so many times in my life that I just don’t hear it anymore. I don’t say it to clients. I don’t say it to friends and family. I do, however, say it to my dogs when they’re enjoying some crap snacks out of the kitty box – not because the crap will kill them or anyone else, but I just don’t want to kiss my dogs knowing they just ate at the Poop Buffet. So here’s the bottom line:
You can do anything. Absolutely anything you set your mind to doing. And here’s what you need to know going into that decision:
- You may not be good at it and fail miserably.
- You may be good at it and still be mediocre in light of the grand landscape.
- You may be good at it and succeed.
- You might suck at it and still succeed because the wind is blowing in the right direction at just the right time.
We have such an inherent fear of failure that we try to protect others from it when in all actuality, we should be pushing them (and ourselves) towards it. If ee cummings had believed 14 people who had rejected the manuscript of his first collection of poems, we’d be missing out on a legacy of literary beauty. If the Wright Brothers believed those who said they’d never fly, I wouldn’t be sitting in San Francisco right now. Just think of one thing you’ve accomplished in your life because you didn’t listen to the nay-saying ass monkeys. And then it’s time to rethink your life. If you’re surrounded by more people who tell you that you can’t than those who tell you that you can and support you…you might want to do something about that.
And that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard – to be told I can’t do something. I’ve been told I can’t say “fuck” and that people won’t hire me because I have tattoos. I’ve been told I can’t turn down work and that there’s no way I can succeed in “this economy.” Some have said I can’t say what I do. Okay – lots. But somehow, I keep doing all of those things and finding my kind of success lurking around every corner. I can only hope that your life will be filled with the only useful invocation of the “you can’t” iteration::
You can’t tell me what I can’t do.
“It is folly for an eminent person to think of escaping censure, and a weakness to be affected by it. All the illustrious persons of antiquity, and indeed of every age, have passed through this fiery persecution. There is no defense against reproach but obscurity; it is a kind of concomitant to greatness, as satires and invectives were an essential part of a Roman triumph.” ~Joseph Addison