There are people why say people should never use the word “can’t”, “don’t” or other words that generate negative thoughts. In one way they are right. It creates very negative attitudes and these thoughts can stop you from achieving anything in your life. But in another way there is a difference between knowing what you can and can’t do. It’s not about negativity, but knowing your personal limits.
Can’t do That
Have you ever heard someone say “I could never do that”? Truth is it is not that they can’t. They simply have no desire to. They have set personal limits. Perhaps they fear doing it. If they had any real desire then they would simply do it. Truth is most skills are learn-able, with some degree of effort.
Some skills are less appealing than others, lets face it computer programming or becoming a doctor is not for everyone. Overall society will have enough people with each skill that we don’t have to worry about gaining those skills, unless we wish to. When we need to get something done, there are normally people around us, with relevant skills. All we need to do is ask. This is certainly true in the corporate world, when you need a project completed. It my be less true when you are self-employed, but still options do exist.
“My first year at law school, I thought the lecturers were trying to kill me.” A student once told me. “Every night, I had more reading and more coursework than I could possibly complete.” Funny, I went to the same law school as this student, but didn’t feel the same pressure. True, there was always something to read, but it was a matter of prioritising that work. Lecturers constantly emphasised the needed to prepare for the next class, reading this case or another case. It is true they did push the boundaries, but it is always up to the students to know what their limits are and work accordingly.
The first lecture was the worst. In that lecture hall on the first night there were nearly 500 students. All the seats taken, people sitting in the aisles, on the floor near the stage, on the steps to the stage, and everywhere the was some square footage. In a couple of cases one student was sitting on the knee of another. By the end of the first year about 60 or 70 students remained, the rest had decided there was too much pressure and simply stopped attending. The university had limits too. That first year was necessarily hard, to remove those who were less than serious about the course.
What Shaped You?
What shaped you into the person you are today? It is largely the experiences you have had in your life. No matter how long of short that is. When you look back at your life, it does not persist of a long list with ticked items for the things we have done or empty boxes for things yet to do. Our life experiences are also impacted by the actions of others.
There was a documentary on TV about Apollo 13, the space craft that had a major incident. It never landed on the moon. Yet I think about that event, to me it is more meaningful than the first moon landing because it was about how all those involved worked together to get that crew home. They lived in freezing conditions for most of the trip to preserve energy. That 1 minute 27 seconds of extra radio silence had the whole world on edge, biting their nails. The crew survived because of the work of the teams that supported them through the flight.
We may be the sum of our personal experiences, but we also learn from the experiences of others around us. It is true we may not have experienced it, but it does allow people some knowledge in setting their limits.
Half read Books
I have a lot of half-read books, but I am certainly not unique there. All the fiction books read. Often more than once. It is the factual books that are different. I pick one up, knowing it has some information I wish to use. Locate that, read (or re-read) the relevant sections, then put the book away for future use. A book can sit for decades, indeed is could also do so for centuries and still be useful to the person picking it up and reading it. The point is to have it when needing information. The age of the book should only matter if there are more recent advances. Those don’t, necessarily, make the book useless.
London’s The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple has a fantastic legal library, which I once explored. What is the oldest publication they have, I asked myself. I discovered a bound a bound copy of the record of Parliamentary debates dating from the 1650s, which I selected from the shelf. From which, I could the read the words of English revolutionary leader Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth. Perhaps this edition should have only been looked at wearing white cotton gloves, but it was their in the library for anyone to see and read. I did treat the book with respect.
What do you make of it?
Truth is we all make choices during the course of our lives, they cannot always good ones. We err, it is a part of the learning process. Errors made should not set the limits, they should help us learn. What others think of us shouldn’t matter. Often though it does, and it can also impact our lives. You may know you are the ideal candidate for a job, but if you are not selected for an interview and therefore have no opportunity of explaining why you are.
Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to do it. Don’t let other people beat you up for it either. I am sure someone somewhere has lived a perfect life, not so, for the majority of us. Interaction helps make life happen. There are times we stub our toe, doing mundane chores. Then we make the impossible work against all odds. That is a part of the capability we have in us. Any person can be ordinary or great, often at the same moment.
Of course, we can help the course of our own lives along the way. We plan ahead and prioritise. We must also realise that we can’t do everything. I have however met many small business owners who try. They don’t have a choice. If they want to get things done they have to do it that way. It means they are the visionary as well as the cleaner. If they don’t, there is no-one else. But even there, most know their limits and get assistance where necessary.
Each of us should know them as well. I could re-wire a house, but will never touch water or gas pipes. I know how electricity works. The first time I worked on electrical wires I was 12 and the voltage was 240. But for my love of software at the age of 19, I may have been an electrician instead of getting into business through IT. Each choice we make takes us along a different path, none is right, nor are they wrong, they are simply different.
I am not saying people should not try new things. Of course they should. The boundary for some people is unknown. For others, it is discovered by doing things, seeing what is possible. I have climbed mountains and abseiled back down, but will not bungee jump, because I am the person for whom the rope breaks at full stretch.
I once met a would-be Everest climber, supremely fit, had climbed all the major peaks in Europe. Their problem started the moment they arrived at Everest Base camp. They could not breathe in the extreme high altitude of the Himalayas It was all physiological and worse there was nothing they could do about it. Their only way up Everest was with breathing apparatus, not fun, and not recommended.
Should people set unrealistic expectations for themselves? Yet there are plenty of people that do. Innovators reach beyond the sky and rightly so. without innovation we fail to enhance ourselves as a species. Truth is the person who wants it badly enough would just do it! For most other people there are limits.
Many people are fine with knowing their limits and staying inside them. Do these people achieve anything? Of course they do. It may be less than innovators, but what they do still matters. But, it is okay if that is what they want. Even super achievers, every once in a while, just sit back and just go along for the ride. Many people are scared, worried, insecure, or are clueless about what their future can hold. That is okay. Each of these emotions are valid and tend to drive people down well-trodden paths, because it is what they know. Each person needs to know how they function best.
The option to branch out and do the unexpected is always available. Take it when you desire it.
Deciding you won’t do something is different from ignoring it. One option is, always, to get someone else to do it for you, the skilled professional. Our world is built around that ability to call in the right person when we need them. The car mechanic we call when the car sounds funny. The photocopy engineer when the copies are dark. The same is true for cutting edge projects, it helps you achieve your goal. The home owner for example can update their entire house, and do it cost effectively provided they know their personal limits. The jobs they cannot complete themselves are farmed out to someone else.
If, you think you can’t do it because:
It makes you uncomfortable.
It might not work.
Perhaps it is best not to try. They are your limits and you decide what they are.
There’s a better way that is why there are specialists available that can help achieve each step that you are unable to take. There are many things I have no desire to do. I am comfortable with that. There are also many things I would like to do. How to make those happen is a challenge, yet to be undertaken.
It may sound too simple but it is true. If you perceive it, then it is possible. Want to be a movie star? Then you have to do what is necessary to make it happen, provided you can put yourself in front of the right people. Trouble is, the world is full of obstacles. There are few things we are incapable of, should we truly desire it. Desire can certainly be a powerful thing. If we put in the effort then we are capable of succeeding with whenever it is humanly possible. Getting others to co-operate with you is another matter.
What is Necessary?
People, are frequently the obstacle of their own abilities. How can you succeed if you have no real desire to? Have you heard that before? This may be one of the reasons people settle for second best and make a success of that. Not the direction this piece was intended to look at, but was inevitable that it would be reached.
This exploration of “can’t” was not in the context of lack of want, but in knowing your limits. The inventive spirit is available to us all. We simply have to come up with a great idea combined with the desire to follow through with it. Recognising that an idea is great can be problematic. This is a great stumbling block for most people.
Take the example of dating websites. There are thousands already available. To enter the market with a new one is possible, there is ready-made software, which you can tweak without spending a fortune. But the challenge is always — what is different about your intended offering? What will help you stand out from the crowd? Solve that and maybe you can head a new wave of trend-setters.
Crazies, Misfits, and Rebels
This is why I’m attracted to being “crazy” in the best sense of the word. Here’s to the trouble-makers, crazies, misfits, and rebels of the world, (he raises a glass of ale to each and every one of them). They share a strong desire to right wrongs, and put square pegs into round holes. Each, sentiments, I approve of. The people who see things differently are the very people I wish to be around. Not fond of rules? No respect for the status-quo? I applaud you — push a little more, we need it!
Quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them all you wish. The only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they are prepared to alter things, build new technology, stretch thought, and go a little further. They push the human race forward in one direction or another. And while some may see them as insane, we should see genius. The very people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the only ones who can.
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