"I Can’t"

I do not think that term means what most people think it means.

As my kids would quickly confirm, that phrase was not allowed in our household when they were growing up. I simply didn’t want to hear “I can’t”. If there was an obstacle to accomplishing a goal, and I was going to hear about it at all, I only wanted to hear what the obstacle was, and what their plan was to overcome it. Ideally, I would only hear about it in retrospect and get a report in the past tense: what the obstacle had been and how they overcame it.

Sure. There actually are some things in the world that as human beings we physically “can’t” do on our own.

A human being “can’t” lift a 2 ton block of granite to the top of a 480 foot pyramid.

A human being “can’t” fly to the moon.

A human being “can’t” make it from New York to LA in less than 48 hours.

But, as history and technology demonstrate, those are not limitations, but obstacles to overcome.

In common usage, when the average human being says “I can’t”, it doesn’t really mean that they literally and physically cannot achieve their goal; what is means is “I choose not to.”

Two completely different things.

“I can’t” in this context is a cop out. By saying “I can’t” they relinquish control of the situation and give themselves permission to quit. To give up. To not accomplish that which they know they should accomplish.

And that’s a shame.

“I can’t” is the most debilitating phrase known to mankind and it should be stricken from our language.

There are many things in this life that I didn’t do, didn’t accomplish, didn’t achieve. But not a single one of them was because I couldn’t. They were because I chose not to. I chose not to put the effort into overcoming the obstacles. I chose not to invest the time, endure the hardships, continue the struggle. I chose to invest myself in other priorities…or I just chose to quit…but every one of those was a choice. And it is my responsibility to live with the consequences of those choices…both good and bad.

The obstacles we face in life are irrelevant. There are ALWAYS obstacles. The only thing that is relevant is whether we have the determination and will to do what it takes to overcome them.

“Try not. Do; or do not. There is no try.”
–Yoda

9 thoughts on “"I Can’t"

  1. "I can't .. right now" has a place. Of course while accepting opportunities may pass you by.

    If you tell the driver, "I can't get on the bus right now" that's fine. But how long does the bus wait? And are you willing to miss the bus? Is the corner where you're standing a place worth staying while opportunities move by?

    In short, start waving bye or suck it up and get on the damn bus.

    What drives my crazy is seeing kids (and adults) limiting their opportunities either actively choosing like you mentioned in your post or passively by letting the bus drive away.

  2. I can't carry a firearm to work, because I'd like to continue to not be a felon.

    Outside of that, that word hasn't really come up much in my life.

  3. Teach us more. I agree with your logic, and would love some advice on common lessons along with your gunsmithing.

    Laughingdog, I won't fits in your statement as well. Just sayin, symantics is everything, and nothing.

    Jason
    III

  4. I also am employed in a job where I can't carry at work…but remaining in this job is my choice.

    I have every opportunity to find another employer or position that is not "gun-unfriendly"…or to go into business for myself…which is the goal I'm working toward.

    Jay21: Thanks for the kind words. I'm not much of a philosopher, but at times something going on in my life or in the world around me prompts me to share something that I feel is important. My views aren't really much different than those of my father and many multitudes of other people who were raised under the rules of good, old fashioned, rural common sense.

    Not that there's anything wrong with being raised in the city, or that a city upbringing precludes common sense…but you just don't get that sense of independence and self-reliance when you're raised in an environment where not only is self-help not necessary or "normal", but it's actively discouraged.

    Having lived in both environments, I can say unequivocally that city life engenders a whole different mind-set than a rural existence.

  5. I think more often that "I can't" means "I don't know how" (or maybe "I don't even know how it's possible, let alone how to do it if it were possible") or "I have other priorities that preclude me from doing it" than that it means "I don't want to".

    Look at your examples of going to the moon or cross country quickly, etc. There was a point in time when nobody knew how to do such things. Saying "I can't" during those times to those requests would almost certainly not have meant "I don't want to, therefore I won't".

    Yes, the expression is used entirely too often. Often, it's more of a time/location issue. If I've committed myself to be somewhere at a certain time and someone wants me to be somewhere else at that time, then I can't do it. I can't be in two places at the same time. Technically, one could say that my response would more appropriately be "I have given my word to be somewhere else at that time, so therefore I choose not to", but that's awfully cumbersome.

  6. I forgot to say…

    I got a fortune cookie recently that said "Do or do not. There is no try."

    It's hanging on my cubicle wall.

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