?

Log in

No account? Create an account

The Power of Can't

« previous entry | next entry »
Apr. 23rd, 2012 | 06:43 pm

This speech may be listened to or read (or both, if you're feeling ambitious!). The written version is a close, but not exact, transcription.

Listen here.



* * *

‘Can’t’ means ‘won’t’ and ‘won’t’ means pushups.

I say that on the first day of circus class.

I say it to nine-year-olds.

I say, we’re not here to quit. We’re here to be amazing.

And when you try a new trick, and you fall down and say, “I can’t!” that’s the same as “I quit!” You are giving away your power to learn something new.

So kids, when you’re having a hard time with a move, holler for a coach. Maybe you just landed on one.

Identify the problem.

I’m not sure where to put my hands.

Why does my foot keep slipping?

My partner keeps dropping me.

That’s something I can help you with.

But if I hear you say, “I can’t!” well, ‘can’t’ means ‘won’t’ and ‘won’t’ means pushups. And you will drop and give me ten. And that will make you stronger next time you try the trick. Everyone’s a winner.

As adults, we are still in the ‘can’t’ habit.

Oh, I wish I could make it tonight, but I can’t.

I wish I could find a good relationship, but I just can’t.

I wish I could be a writer or an artist or running my own company, but I can’t. 

As adults, can’t means won’t and won’t means being powerless. We are assigning ourselves the inability to accomplish something, instead of recognizing that we are always, always in the driver’s seat.

That is our hand on the throttle, that is our body in the wheelhouse and that map in front of us? The one full of Do Not Enters and No-U-Turns and Dead Ends?

We drew that map.

Maybe we typed it out in undergrad when we were supposed to be studying, or drafted it in AutoCAD in our first job, or scribbled it on the back of a napkin at the coffee shop or finger-painted it on the wall in great, beautiful colors that are still not showing the picture of the life we want to create.

Now I’m not saying we all have the power to run out and become everything we think we want to be.

For example, I’m a trapeze artist. I’m a 39-year-old trapeze artist with no gymnastics background. I’m unlikely to work for Cirque du Soleil until I build up my resume as a director.

So the first thing we can do to avoid that crippling, crushing feeling of being trapped in our current life is to make a goal that we genuinely want, and that we can genuinely achieve. For me, “Cirque du Soleil aerialist” is not an achievable goal. But “Make a full-time living as a performer, travel a lot, and love my job” is.

For a writer, “New York Times bestseller list” may not be achievable. But “Finish a novel and try to sell it” is. So is “Develop an income stream from my writing.” And on your way to those goals, you will probably get a realistic idea of whether New York Times Bestseller is a possible future, whether “write full time” is a possible future, and at what scale you can realize your goal.

Later tonight, we’ll talk about creating the road map that gets you to that goal, how a goal is a dream plus a plan.

But for right now, the biggest shift we can make to feel good about our lives is to recognize that ‘can’t’ is not a lack of ability. It is not a lack of time, a lack of money, or a lack of talent.

Can’t is a choice.

And recognizing that choice is the first step towards making change, because that choice tells you what you’re placing importance on in your life.

For example:

I can’t be a writer because I can’t quit my day job and I don’t have time.

What this choice says is, “There’s something about my job I value and am unwilling to give up.”

You might value cash, to support your family, to pay your rent. That “I can’t” means, “I value being a breadwinner. I will need to make sure my family is provided for, or that we are willing to accept a change in lifestyle, before I spend my limited pool of time on writing instead of working.”

And that’s a choice.

I know a beautiful trapeze artist – she’s the best in her local group. I would hire her in an instant – she’s strong, flexible, brave, and fun to watch in the air. Clients would love her. Audiences would love her. If she wanted to, she could build a successful freelance career doing something she loves.

She’s a veterinarian.

And after twelve years of becoming a very, very good, specialized veterinarian, she has an investment she’s unwilling to give up to run away with the circus.

She loves animals. And when she walks into work and intubates a dog—you can perform CPR on a dog without a tube, but it’s kind of icky—that feels as good as applause.

So it’s not that she “can’t” be a full time aerialist. It’s that she has something else she loves more, that she’s put a lot of time into, that makes her want to stay in town, perform twice a month, and be content with a fun hobby.

Does it make her wistful sometimes? Sure. But she knows it’s a choice. And every day she actively makes that choice is another day of happiness in her life instead of resentment and anger. Another day of knowing she’s at the right place on her map.

Successful people have often made a big choice.

John Grisham. New York Times Bestselling author. Boring characters, dull dialogue, and an incredible mastery of page-turning plot. Two hundred and fifty million copies sold. Movies. TV series. Whenever I’m on the road and I’m bored, I can always find The Pelican Brief in the Salvation Army for a quarter.

But before John Grisham was a full-time writer, he was a full-time lawyer with a family. And every morning he woke up at 3:30AM so he could write from four to six and then go put in ten to twelve billable hours.

Clearly, here is a man who made the choice that he wanted to be a writer more than he wanted to sleep. And, I’m guessing he also wanted to be an attorney more than he wanted to spend meaningful after-school time with his children.

That’s a choice. Grisham could have said, you know, I care more about family time, I’m going to scale back my billable hours until the kids go to college, sleep longer, and write when I retire. And that’s a valid choice, too.

Some of you are parents. And your kids are probably among your highest priorities.

I am not a parent. I don’t want to hear the little hands tugging at the locked door while I turn up the volume in my headset and finish a chapter. And I could phrase that as, “I can’t have kids.” Or I can say, “Parenting looks incredibly rewarding for some people. But it’s not my first choice on how to spend my time.”

If your kids are why you “can’t” start pursuing your dream, remember that that’s a positive. You have chosen something important to you – being a parent – and assigned it higher importance than another dream.

If you “can’t” move to the city with the best opportunities for your dream, you may have chosen security, or living near people you love, or living in a pleasant neighborhood instead of a sixth-floor walkup in Queens with no A/C, as more important to you.

Those are all valid choices. But they are choices and not reasons. They do not make you untalented. They do not make you unable to realize your dream.

And when you have identified those choices, when you have rooted through “I can’t!” and figured out what “I can’t” is protecting, you can start planning your dream and turning it into a goal. If you value cash, maybe you want to be a part-time writer until it generates income. If you value family, maybe you love them first and starting your own business second and sleep or vacations or a second car gets short-changed. If you value security, maybe you become an actor at your local theatre, or do summer stock between semesters, instead of slogging it out on Broadway.

Can’t means won’t and won’t means pushups.

It’s up to you. You can be miserable and trapped and doing pushups while the other kids learn cool tricks.

Or you can identify your priorities and make a choice.

It’s not your obstacles.

It’s not your luck.

It’s not your talent.

It’s your choice.

What do you value? And based on those values, what can you do?

Step back into that wheelhouse. Put your hand on the throttle. And let’s start drawing the map.

whipchick is an aspiring motivational speaker; this will be the first segment of her first speech.

Link | Leave a comment | Share

Comments {45}

Page 1 of 2
<<[1] [2] >>

MEE-shee  kay-TIN-skee  :)

(no subject)

from: michikatinski
date: Apr. 23rd, 2012 10:56 pm (UTC)
Link

You can inspire me any day.

Lovely job here, lady. I think most of us around Idol can afford to hear this now again. <3

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 24th, 2012 03:20 am (UTC)
Link

Thank you, and you're welcome :) I got the voice post up if you feel like hearing me rant!

Reply | Parent | Thread | Expand

Ellakite

(no subject)

from: ellakite
date: Apr. 23rd, 2012 11:14 pm (UTC)
Link

I wish I had known someone like you thirty years ago...

As you will see, my piece is all about what happens when you have a few too many "demotivational speakers" in one's formative years.

Well, that and I had something else that I enjoyed doing much more, rather like that veterinarian you mention...

But yeah: you're a great motivator. Very well done.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 24th, 2012 03:21 am (UTC)
Link

I'm excited to read your piece! I'm sorry I wasn't able to beta this week - it has been an awesome but totally draining weekend.

We gotta get on this dating thing.

Reply | Parent | Thread | Expand

Kristen

(no subject)

from: pixiebelle
date: Apr. 23rd, 2012 11:26 pm (UTC)
Link

My philosophy exactly :)</p>

My ex hated that about me. He said I was a dreamer and needed to be practical. I couldn't live in California someday, only rich people do that (or crazy homeless girls like I'd become). I love that I proved him wrong. It's not easy, it is expensive and I miss my family like mad, but don't ever tell me I can't do something. It just makes me want to prove you wrong.

So I'm 29 and would love to take circus classes. I discovered that dream after seeing a local group of kids... I worry I'm too old sometimes (no gymnastics training), but I'm looking forward to trying!

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 24th, 2012 03:22 am (UTC)
Link

I'm glad you proved him wrong, too. And I love that you recognize the sacrifices you're making and staying glad to make them,

There are a ton of circus schools in CA - and you are NO WAY too old! I started at 28, and tonight's workshop had a ton of 30-50 year olds in it. You just need a good teacher who starts you at a safe but challenging level. Go for it!

Reply | Parent | Thread

medleymisty

(no subject)

from: medleymisty
date: Apr. 23rd, 2012 11:34 pm (UTC)
Link

I like the line about not being here to quit, but being here to be amazing. That's like my life philosophy right there. :)

Personally, I have a sort of anti-value for cash, lol. My day job plus my husband's keeps us in a house and fed, and that's all I need. And I do not want more money than I need.

So I make the choice to work on my writing because I love it, because it's important to me, and I make the choice to not seek cash in return for my writing because independence and freedom and living by my values is also important to me. Personally, I'm perfectly happy sharing my writing for free online, so that's what I do. And I love it. :)

I think you'd make a great motivational speaker. :)

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 24th, 2012 03:23 am (UTC)
Link

Thanks on all counts, and it's inspiring to me to hear your self-determination! You're a fabulous writer and I'm so glad that writing serves you in the ways you need. And I agree - excess money is nice, but also kind of a nuisance :)

Reply | Parent | Thread

(Deleted comment)

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2012 08:50 pm (UTC)
Link

Thanks, glad you enjoyed!

Reply | Parent | Thread

(Deleted comment)

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2012 08:52 pm (UTC)
Link

Thanks :) The music is from Cirque Eloize, and it's what I was listening to while I wrote!

I think you're right about doing the impossible when you can't stand the alternative - working for myself is darn hard, but boy I'd never want to work for anyone else.

Reply | Parent | Thread

Jemima Pauler

(no subject)

from: jem0000000
date: Apr. 24th, 2012 09:21 am (UTC)
Link

Sometimes "can't" also means physical limitations... but yes, all too often we build our own cages, one iron-threaded "I'm not good enough" or "it's too hard" at a time.

This is a lovely reminder. Thank you. :)

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2012 08:56 pm (UTC)
Link

I agree - I think part of the value of the not-saying-can't thing, too, is to allow ourselves to work at our own level and have our own achievements - my experience is more in circus, but I know a 65-year-old aerialist who's still in great form and performs professionally, and I've taught people of all shapes and beginning strengths. One of my favorite performers is a woman who uses a wheelchair and has very little leg muscle due to a congenital condition, and it was really cool to figure out choreography that took advantage of her powerful arms and very light lower body. The toughest part was figuring out a way to climb, since most performers climb with their feet, and it's been cool to take some of the new moves she's created and try them with performers not working with the same obstacles!

Reply | Parent | Thread

theafaye

(no subject)

from: theafaye
date: Apr. 24th, 2012 10:24 am (UTC)
Link

When people say they don't have any choice, what they usually mean is "I don't like the choices I have." Big difference. Once you've realised that, it's pretty liberating. Although once you've achieved everything you've set out to achieve, you do get left with a feeling of "what's left...?"

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2012 08:57 pm (UTC)
Link

Ooooh, I love that distinction!! I'm totally going to be using that further down in the speech :)

Reply | Parent | Thread

SuperCAILEfragilistic

(no subject)

from: caile
date: Apr. 24th, 2012 11:48 am (UTC)
Link

Oh, this motivativational speech is very motivating! I love it. Weirdly, my sister is a hobbyist aerialist, so parts of it are much like conversations that I've had with her.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2012 11:22 pm (UTC)
Link

That's such a cool coincidence! Where does she train? Glad this was motivating for you - thanks!

Reply | Parent | Thread

C.S. Inkheart

(no subject)

from: frecklestars
date: Apr. 24th, 2012 01:48 pm (UTC)
Link

There are not enough ways to describe how awesome you are. Seriously.



(Brief babbling aside: my current issues with circus are stemming from a similar argument. I think there are two ways to go about inspiring students to continue trying. One, which my first silks teacher did, was to push and push and continually tell us that we _could_. Once we'd say "uncle" though, because it hurt too much or we knew we'd hit our limit, she'd let off immediately. She had a shoulder injury that eventually resulted in surgery and being out of commission for 6-9 months, so she knew not to push. My current teacher, on the other hand, doesn't appear to believe that injuries are a thing. She says we are lazy when we tell her we have limits. This is clearly not a healthy or productive way of going about pushing. I have no doubt you fall into the category of my first silks teacher, but I still figured I'd say this out loud, just in case.)

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2012 11:24 pm (UTC)
Link

Urgh...that's a tough one. Do you like what you're getting from your teacher enough to deal with the bad parts, or are you in the market for another teacher?

Thanks for the compliment!

Reply | Parent | Thread | Expand

Aleph

(no subject)

from: alephz
date: Apr. 24th, 2012 03:58 pm (UTC)
Link

GO-POWER ENGAGE!

No lie, this entry helped me get my head in gear for work on a project today. Many thanks!

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2012 11:24 pm (UTC)
Link

You're welcome! I'm thrilled it was helpful!

Reply | Parent | Thread

similiesslip

(no subject)

from: similiesslip
date: Apr. 24th, 2012 05:31 pm (UTC)
Link

I think you have a great future as a motivational speaker. It was almost 4 years ago when I finally realized a lot of things you say here. So I was 29 almost 30. I wish I had learned these things younger but at least I know them now. What you say is so true. We have so many excuses when actually, we ARE making choices. And often we are excusing ourselves before we even try.

Thank you for sharing this. You articulate these ideas so much better than I do.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2012 11:25 pm (UTC)
Link

Thank you! And I'm excited to write more on this speech, too - I'm glad you think it's hitting the mark!

Reply | Parent | Thread

A Karmic Sandbox

(no subject)

from: karmasoup
date: Apr. 24th, 2012 06:22 pm (UTC)
Link

Fantastic job of summing up a way of thinking I use for properly directed propulsion buttkicking, myself, my friends and family, and anyone who needs and wants it. Another important part of this process is after you recognize the choices, recognize the steps. Not right now doesn't mean no, either... it means there is a process to getting to yes, and a map that must be followed. Fabulous first howto step here in teaching the outlining of the map.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2012 11:25 pm (UTC)
Link

Thanks! And yeah, the map is the next step - I'm looking forward to writing the next stage, about how to make a realistic map without being totally overwhelmed. (Physician, heal thyself).

Reply | Parent | Thread

basric

(no subject)

from: basric
date: Apr. 25th, 2012 02:45 am (UTC)
Link

I can certainly see why you are a motivational speaker. It was inspiring.


Not unlike asking can I do this?
With the answer, I don't know, can you?

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2012 11:26 pm (UTC)
Link

Totally! And thank you :)

Reply | Parent | Thread

Myrna

(no subject)

from: myrna_bird
date: Apr. 25th, 2012 02:50 am (UTC)
Link

I love this. I love how you speak to children and teach them to be responsible for their actions/choices. We all need to be reminded that we do have the power to do whatever we set our mind too. Excellent entry!

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Apr. 25th, 2012 11:27 pm (UTC)
Link

Thank you! And I was so pleased - I taught some professional workshops this week, and a number of high school kids from former circus programs turned up and were able to run with the big dogs, and it felt so cool that they were working so hard!

Reply | Parent | Thread | Expand