You Can't Do That!
You’ve heard this phrase before I’m sure: You can’t do that! It may have come from one of your parents or siblings while growing up. But then you start hearing it in school. Later, you hear it at work, even from colleagues. The phrase brings up feelings of being scolded and reprimanded. But You can’t do that doesn’t just relate to doing something wrong. It can make you feel like you’re not good enough to attempt what is before you. You can’t do that can apply to trying something new, taking a risk or doing a task differently than everyone else.
A colleague of mine told me she received the comment, You can’t do that! when first putting together her one-woman music show. Granted, it’s not easy to sell one-person shows, whether starring a woman or man. However, she ignored that advice and proceeded to produce a very successful show. If she had listened, she wouldn’t be where she is today, happily living and working in New York.
Reasons People Discourage You
Others will apply their own fears and failures to your situation. Maybe what you are attempting to do is different than anyone else’s methods. Maybe nobody has done what you want to do. It may be risky and they’re afraid of you failing. Your failure could also bring a sales team or a company down. Or it could cause embarrassment for friends and family.
One of the biggest examples of facing your fears with the jobs no one wants to do is with the show Dirty Jobs. Host Mike Rowe is shown performing difficult, strange, disgusting or messy occupational duties. What makes the show so intriguing is to see Rowe in situations most would never attempt. His attempts and successes, all of which could have ended in some sort of failure, were rewarded with five Emmy nominations. When you combine Rowe’s comic personality and bizzare jobs, you have an extremely entertaining show.
Leaders and thought leaders don’t always follow the normal path. In the book Blue Ocean Strategy, authors Kim and Mauborgne suggest the answer to competitive problems is to create a blue ocean, or a brand-new market for an innovative idea. In redefining a new market, you will come up against many naysayers, especially if your method has not been done before. With the rise of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, this digital technology using blockchain is questioned by many as it’s risky. However I think we will find many exploring using NFTs in the future to negate the You can’t do that philosophy. You can already find fine art and collectables using NFTs.
What to Do When You Do Fail
Failure happens. There is always a risk of failure when trying something new. How do you respond when you feel like you’ve failed? Many make excuses or try to cover up for what should have been a successful venture. I have done this with certain programs I planned to produce where I’ve just cancelled them with lack of signups. But if we continue to shove failures under the rug, we won’t learn from our mishaps. I think the biggest thing we can learn from a so-called failure is what not to do. There are very few experiences that should be called a total failure as there’s usually a part of what happened that is redeemable and something very positive to build upon.
In 1967, Apollo 1 never launched because of a fire in the command module that killed the crew and destroyed the module. It took until 1969 with Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin on Apollo 11 to land on the moon. There were test flights for other Apollo launches between those dates but they had to fix what caused the fire and any other issues in order for the astronauts to land successfully.
An important note is that space travel does not stop because of accidents. Even the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, killing all seven crew members when it reentered the atmosphere, did not stop space travel. Elon Musk with SpaceX is offering commercial flights to both earth and lunar orbit. Even with all the tests and trials, I guarantee there will be a certain amount of risk. Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic is offering tickets for future spaceflights. I am sure they and their team have taken a step back to evaluate what goes wrong with every flight. Each failure is an opportunity to build upon what did work. And there are people who have actually already bought their ticket!
Mindset of Success
Elon Musk quotes, When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor. This takes a mindset to get beyond the feeling that You can’t do that. If Henry Ford had listened to the naysayers, he would have never produced the automobile. People thought we just needed faster horses, not a noisy machine with wheels. In fact, Ford’s first attempt was with Detroit Automobile Company in 1899 and it failed. The automobiles were of a lower quality and higher price than he wanted.
Success came with the Model T in 1908 and Ford Motor Company when he was able to produce a simple and easy to drive automobile. It was also affordable. Fail Fast is a philosophy that values extensive testing and incremental development to determine whether an idea has value. It seeks to take the stigma out of the word failure to build on what is working to succeed faster. Eric Ries in his 2011 book The Lean Startup championed the fail fast term.
Changing Your Language
In the book The Summit, the main protagonist, Mallery, had to change her language from I Can’t to I Can; I Won’t to I Will. As she did, her situation seemed to change and her eyes were opened to new possibilities. This book is a realistic fantasy, so logic tells us that principle may not hold true in all situations, but I believe there is power in our words.
As you hear yourself speak affirmative phrases, you look to the future with a hopeful and positive attitude. Hope is one of the strongest emotions we possess and we can see how it has cycled through our history. (see Historical Cycles of Hope) Mallery can’t get to her summit without her little yellow band of hope that her guide gives her to wear on her right wrist. When she loses it, she all but gives up her journey.
This simple principal of language is so very powerful. Most couples and partners understand how important communication styles are with each other, (see The 5 Love Languages) but we don’t pay much attention to our self-communication. Take some time to write down your thoughts, then speak them aloud. You will discover the power of words in your life.
Make sure you add I Can and I Will to your everyday language!
Others will apply their own fears and failures to your situation. You don't have to listen to them.
Thought Leader, Keynote Speaker, Author
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