As a child my Grandfather used to say to me and my cousins that can’t is not a word. He’d ask us all to take on new tasks from putting new wheels on Skates to discovering the population of China. As children we would always respond first with I can’t, at which point he wouldn’t show us how to or even tell us how to. He would just say that “can’t isn’t a word”. As we all knew that not working out for ourselves would only mean that we would have to keep trying in front of him and until we figured it out or frustrated him to the point of being chastised, we would work very hard to go from can’t to can. This in itself was one of the many priceless life lessons that he blessed us with.
This lesson is how I took myself from being a child who couldn’t really read, to one who really could. I was a fan of DC comics as a child, I remember being given a huge box of comics by a friend of my mothers older son. Amongst these comics were a series of Green Lantern comics filled with words that at the time had me in the ‘Can’t’ read these words phase. The pictures were so interesting to me that I kept going over them until I was in a space of can. Once I could read and pronounce the words I was so proud. This was until I spent a holiday with my grand parents and my Granddad asked to explain what one of the words meant, I told him “I can’t explain it”. And yes he sent me off to turn that can’t into a can. This was how I learnt to read beyond Cat and Dog, it wasn’t taught to me by the government school system but through the lesson from my Granddad and this mindset to “can”.
The philosophy of ‘You can’t, until you can’ has been my approach to learning everything I have put my mind to. Around 7 years ago I started a party with a couple of friends and realised that I would need someone to put together flyers for us. I had 2 issues with this. The first being that we didn’t have any money to pay a designer and the second being that we couldn’t find anyone who understood our message. So I downloaded Photoshop and Illustrator, at this stage I can’t use any of the Adobe packages, but through my need to have marketing materials that represent our vision I got to a point where I can produce what is needed. The work wasn’t great at the time but it served it’s purpose. For months I…actually years I told people I can’t get with Illustrator. I can’t even draw a straight line in this illustration package. I can’t understand why something so simple is so hard. Through countless nights, of speaking to friends who are University qualified Graphic Designers, to watching hours of YouTube videos, endless nights of trial and error here I am a few years later in a place where I really can. A place where Adobe Illustrator is my go to work tool. At a point where I use Photoshop and Illustrator hand in hand. Where I can create professional digital artwork for paying clients as well for myself to tell my story as I want it seen. I even used Illustrator to create the draft for the design of this very website.
Around this time last year I said that I need a challenge to complete before my 40th Birthday, something physical that I think I can’t do. I decided that I would run a Obstacle Course Race. I put this out to some friends of mine and a group of 19 of us decided that we would train together for this. From this group we had people with differing levels of fitness. A lot of us with things that we believe that we can’t do. I can’t do pull ups, I can’t swim, I can’t deal with heights, I can’t run. Being that I had been raised with the mindset that Can’t isn’t a word I refused to hear the can’ts from my team mates. So many of them through not being allowed to give up because of the Can’t found out that they can. This was the biggest reward for me seeing people over come these can’ts. One friend in particular had a can’t for everything which frustrated me through training and had me doubting them entirely. On the day they made me truly proud by diving straight in, literally diving straight in to a tank of Ice water even though they had said that they can’t swim and they can’t do that kind of cold.
As humans we are born with very few constraints on what we can do, as we get older and let fears in we make up our minds to what we can’t do. Nobody is born a Doctor so it’s not something that you can’t do, you learn until you can. Nobody is born a marathon runner, but you train from 400 metres to 26 miles until you can run that marathon.
So remember “Can’t isn’t a word!”.