Originally published October 5, 2009
I am looking for a lot of men with an infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.
— Henry Ford
When I was a kid, teachers would often say: “Can’t is a four-letter word.”
This never made any sense to me. Of course “can’t” is a four-letter word. Just count the letters, it’s obvious. It just didn’t make any sense in context. The statement always came up when I (or some other student) claimed they couldn’t do something like long division, spelling a long word, climbing the rope in gym class (okay, that last one was me). It wasn’t until much later, when I figured out that “four-letter word” was another way of saying “swear word” that I got it: “can’t” is a dirty word, because by saying you can’t do something, you’ve assumed defeat.
The attitude factor of success is a well-known topic of inspirational speeches, articles, and self-help guides. When researching this post, I was looking for some key quote from some key historical figure who accomplished some feat that the world said couldn’t be done. There are a lot of them. I chose the Henry Ford quote above because I thought it was funny, but history is replete with tales of crazy individuals who had some dream and were told by everyone that what they wanted to accomplish was impossible. Without those crazy people who ignored the word “can’t,” we’d probably still be living in caves.
In the end, your confidence that you can do something does not guarantee success (Amelia Earhart, how are you doing these days?). However, your confidence that you can’t do something guarantees your failure. Which brings me to the second Good Stuff principle:
Don’t Assume You Can’t Just Because You Never Have.
Last Monday, we talked about Rule #2 (Don’t Overestimate Your Abilities). However, it’s important to remember that when realistically assessing your abilities, don’t limit yourself to things you’ve already done. What you’ve already done can serve as a framework for what you’re comfortable taking on while hiking and camping solo, but it doesn’t have to be the outer boundaries.
Push yourself, just a little bit. If last time you hiked four miles, when you see a five mile trail don’t assume you can’t handle it (you probably can). If last time you only brought along ready-made food, don’t assume you can’t have a campside cookout (you can, and we’ll talk about food soon).
If last time you hiked with a group, don’t assume you can’t do it alone.
Give yourself a little credit. If you don’t, no one else will, either.