Four Steps to Conquering Can’t

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Image of man conquering can't.We are like ants. Our strength is much greater than our size. Because of this, the possibilities for what we can create, or destroy, are endless.

Despite their diminutive size, ants have held our curiosity for thousands of years. We have both battled them as pests and studied their industry. We are amazed at their ability to construct, communicate, and destroy as a unit.

The great King Solomon advised us to “go to the ant and consider her ways.” When we do this, we are amazed that such a little creature can do so much.

“Ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment. They farm fungi, raise aphids as livestock, launch armies into war, use chemical sprays to alarm and confuse enemies, capture slaves, engage in child labor, exchange information ceaselessly. They do everything but watch television.” Lewis Thomas

Can’t is a Four Letter Word

Over the past few years, the word can’t has made it onto my list of inappropriate four letter words. When used, this word is like a colony of ants in their destructive mode. This single word can quickly tear down all possibilities.

Why is can’t such a terrible word? It is most commonly used as a first descriptor of a given situation. When we don’t have any answer, or know how to do a certain thing, we quickly say, “I can’t do this,” or I can’t do that”.

It’s almost an auto response for many people.

On a Mission to Exterminate Can’t

I’m on a personal mission to exterminate the use of the word can’t. This tiny word is one of the most destructive words in the English language.

  • Can’t is water on the flame of innovation.
  • Can’t eliminates even the most simple possibilities.
  • Can’t is the needle to the balloon of enthusiasm.

Strong words, you say. Absolutely. When battling the destructive can’t species, I believe only the strongest pesticides will work. How do you use can’t? Are you using this little destructor in your personal relationships, in your business? Pay attention to your own speech. You may be using it more frequently then you realize.

As a child, I often heard, “We can’t do it because we don’t have the money.” In businesses I’ve worked with I’ve often heard the same thing, “We can’t do it because we don’t have the money.” Of course these may both be accurate statements at the moment they are spoken, or they may only be a perception of the situation.

I’m not apposed to identifying that at a given moment an activity may or may not be possible. “At this exact moment, I can’t purchase the item, because I don’t have the money.” However, this is where most people stop in their personal life and in business.

Instead of stopping at the moment, I encourage you to quickly move beyond what may be obvious to you and simply entertain the idea that you can, in fact, do it, simply by finding a way.

Change Can’t to See Ants

Let’s go to the ant for a moment and evaluate their ways.

  • Some ants can support up to 100 times their weight while hanging upside down on glass.
  • Ants move an estimated 50 tons of soil per year in one square mile.
  • Ants and humans are the only creatures that farm other animals.

Now let’s go to the human and just glimpse what we can do.

  • Humans can find a way to go to the moon, and now, Mars.
  • Humans can find a way to capture the sun in a tiny glass sphere.
  • Humans can take an empty void and fill it with amazing structures.

“Not to engage in the pursuit of ideas is to live like ants instead of like men.” Mortimer Adler

Can’t is death to ideas. It snuffs out their life at an early stage. Throughout human history we have seen dreamers, imaginators, visionaries, describe the seemingly impossible. Everyone of them had their detractors. And yet, through their courageous vision, we have all benefited from what “can’t” be done.

Humans are superior to ants, and yet we so often forget this.

  • “We can’t go to the moon, it’s not possible.”
  • “We can’t keep the patent and trademark office open, everything has already been invented.”
  • And on and on it goes.

Thank God there are those visionaries who turn the can’t into “see ants”. They see the possibilities. Instead of saying “I can’t,” they say “How can I?”. Everyday we benefit from what these visionaries create. How much more could we do in our own lives if we would just eliminate that little four letter word, “can’t”?

Four Steps to Conquering Can’t

Step One – Listen

Listen to your conversation, both audible, and what goes on inside your head. Recognize your use of this word. You don’t have to mention it to anyone. You don’t even have to acknowledge to anyone that you are committed to eliminating it from your vocabulary.

Step Two – Ask

Every time you catch yourself making the statement “can’t”, turn it around into a question. Ask yourself, “How can I do it?” “How can I get the money?” “How can I write the book?” “How can I take the trip?” “How can I go back to school.?” Whatever it is, there is very likely a way to do it or get it. Don’t forget to ask Google.

Step Three – Write

Write down any options that you come up with, no matter how silly they may seem. This is very important to your creative process. Do not prejudge any options or solutions that you or anyone else comes up with. Many times, your solution will appear farther down the list. Prejudging your options is a negative attitude that can often cause the flow of creative solutions to dry up before the right solution is created.

Have fun with this step. Fun fosters creativity. Get your family and friends involved. Play a game with two rules; 1) Anything goes. 2) No negative attitude.

Need 10 million dollars? Robert Schuller did. He made a list entitled “10 Ways to Get a Million Dollars”. An idea on the list fit the need. He raised the money and built the Crystal Cathedral.

Make your own list; “10 Ways to ________”. You may be surprised to find a simple solution to your own challenge.

Step Four – Take Action

Select the best option from step three and create a list of tasks or actions that you need to take. The victory goes to him who takes action. When take creative action, you can end up at the moon.

“Men of action, above all those whose actions are guided by love, live forever.”
Jose Marti

“Words are also actions, and actions are a kind of words.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

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