Before you say “I can’t”, you pass by “I can.”

When I first learned this simple statement from Gay Hendricks, I have to be honest, it didn’t stick.  It seemed too easy to say, and too hard to implement.  Could I really just choose to think “I can” over “I can’t?”  I thought about that for some time.  It finally clicked for me when I added two words: because and if.  So, for me this simple statement now reads like this:

Before you say “I can’t because”, you pass by “I can if.”

This thought process has worked for me in business, and in life.

In times of struggle or doubt, turn your focus from the obstacles to success and instead focus on the means to overcome the obstacles.

In the last thirty days I was overwhelmed with two major opportunities and obstacles.

–          My son was accepted into a competitive private high school that is not within driving distance.  We now need to sell our house and move.

–          My first book The Leadership GPS was published. I have learned that books don’t sell without the author investing significant resources into its promotion.

If there was ever a time to focus in on “I can” this was it.  Thankfully, also over the last thirty days my daughter has been rehearsing every day for a speech competition.  Her choice for her speech could not have been more timely.

It Couldn’t Be Done by Edgar Allen Guest; enjoy.

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But, he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.

So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one has done it”;
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.

With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.

But just buckle it in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That “couldn’t be done,” and you’ll do it.

8 Responses to Before you say “I can’t”, you pass by “I can.”
  1. Marnie

    Denis, this is a great post and the poem is very timely for the upcoming year. I think I will share it with my folks at our quarterly. I can certainly relate to passing by I can, as so often in today’s environment we have so many initiatives to focus on, that we often overlook the opportunity that comes with “I Can”. This will be a definate “wall reminder”!

  2. Denis G. McLaughlin

    Marnie, thank you for your comment. You are right, We all need this reminder once in awhile.

  3. Joy

    Awesome poem. Too often, we focus on the 10 reasons we can’t do something, rather than the 1 way to get it done. Attitude can be the key driver to your success on something difficult. When you do accomplish something that started out as a huge issue or problem, it is so rewarding once you finish to look back and see what you accomplished! And celebrate that success!

  4. Denis G. McLaughlin

    Thank you Joy. I agree it only takes 1 way to find success.

  5. Lee Gardenswartz

    Terrific Denis…never goes out of season. I heard it years ago and forgot about it but thanks for reminding me…appreciated your post and the poem. Your kids are lucky to have a dad how reinforces this thought…I know because my parents raised us this way and it matters.

    • admin

      Thank you Lee. I am also blessed with a wife and children who reinforce me.

  6. Artee

    Nice encouraging poem.
    Whenever I would ask my partner to do something new, be it in business or ‘simple’ home DIY etc, he would always come up with : ‘ it cannot be done or it requires such and such skills or I will look into it later …. For a while, I fell into his ‘trap’ thinking that he was concerned and would do what I asked for, may be not now… but he would it later .
    When nothing was done after a year and after several reminders, I realized what he actually meant. ‘ Later ‘ or ‘ I’ll look into it..’ was in his language : ‘ I won’t do it ‘or ‘ I just couldn’t be bothered’ and that to him, if he can’t do it, then I would not be able to do it either.
    And for some reason, whenever he would say ” …can’t or this is impossible…’, I became skeptical and started to do the stuff myself and …..guess what, I always succeed !
    Now, whenever he says ‘ ..can’t..’; I smile to myself and do it straight away myself and till now, I have succeeded in all tasks and some of my success were even beyond my expectations.
    You are right, Denis, the 1 way to find success is to at least try and indeed, your wife and kids are lucky to have you around.
    I am happy that I came across your page.

    • admin

      Artee, Thank you for your encouraging comment. I believe your actions have not only benefited you but are an example of “I can” to your partner.