Don’t Tell me What you Can’t do Tell me What you CAN!

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Why hello there! If you’re new to SID welcome to the coolest place on the internet! If you’re a returning reader welcome home! I’ve got a fun or uncomfortable topic for you today. We’re going to talk about vocabulary specifically, the word can’t.

For years as my daughter grew up I outlawed the word can’t in my home. At the age of 3 I told Addisyn that every time she said she “can’t” do something she would have to do 5 push-ups! I actually got the idea from my friend and favorite MLM mentor Mr. Josh Wyles. Check him out on Facebook here, he’s a fucking riot in skinny jeans.


One day I saw that he had implemented a similar policy in his household with his two daughters. They were a little older than Addi, still it didn’t seem like a bad idea. Now I know what you’re thinking, “isn’t it kinda harsh to make a 3 yr old girl do push-ups?” First off I didn’t make her do proper push-ups they were actually pretty pitiful, ha ha! The goal wasn’t to do a perfect push up. The point was to create awareness around what she was uttering before even thinking. And to and teach her to re-frame her thoughts about her ability to do things. You see Addisyn like many of us adults had a bad habit of saying “I can’t…” before she ever really tried. We all say it so much it comes out almost unconsciously.

Don’t get me wrong.

I know you’re thinking I’m some authoritarian type parent but I’m not. I’m actually relaxed most of the time. I looked at this punishment as a fun way to build some positive habits at a young age. Also it was a way to hold each other accountable. Yeah that’s right, this punishment is a two way street. As a father and a leader I could never ask someone to do something I would not do myself. So when I say the “C-word,” you bet your ass I’m down on the ground doing push ups. This raised Addisyn’s awareness of her own vocabulary as well as people around her. Further building her skill set as a future adult. And that’s one of the ways I do my part to raise a dope ass adult.

If you think that’s an elaborate way to teach a lesson… You’re right! I could have just as easily  punished her with spanking or time out for saying she can’t. I might have even gotten similar results as far as awareness goes. But I found that making lessons fun as well as explaining the reason for the “punishment” serves to relay a deeper understanding.

Back to the word can’t…

So what the heck does “can’t” mean anyway? Welcome to English class… Can’t is a contraction of the words can not. Originating around 1350-1400; this negative modification of the word ‘can’ means – to not be able to; have the ability, power, or skill to. Its interesting the way we use this word, don’t you think? Most people overuse can’t when they mean to say something else.

For instance… we say…

…I can’t stand John/Jennifer. But we mean, we’re annoyed with that person and don’t want to deal with them anymore. If what we said was actually true, wouldn’t we drop dead or cease to exist?

…I can’t wait to go home. But we mean, we don’t want to be where we are and are counting down the minutes until we can get back home. If what we actually said was true we would go home right then and there.

…I can’t survive on the Sun’s surface. But we mean… well actually that’s true.

…I. Just. Can’t. But we mean… Umm… I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean.

What’s the point here?

The point is that very rarely are there things that we can’t do. Sure you can’t turn into a bat and fly way, I get that. Still be careful with the word can’t. Can’t kills possibility. For instance, say you’re trying to open a spaghetti sauce jar. You try hard but the lid isn’t coming off so you say “I can’t get it open,” and quit out of frustration. Typically quitting accompanies can’t, by the way. Now you don’t have any more options that you can execute yourself. If instead, you said “how Can I open this jar,” now you open your mind to more possibilities. Could you use a rubber dish glove to get better grip? Yes. Could you squeeze the jar between your legs and use both hands? Yes. Could you ask for help? Yes. Could you in the garage and put the jar in a vise and get a large set of pliers to open the jar? Yes, albeit extreme. These are called re-frames and that’s what I invite you to do, re-frame your thoughts about challenges. Every time you find yourself wanting to say you “can’t” switch that with “how can.”

Think yourself out of your problem. Often you are only going through a temporary struggle. When Addisyn would struggle to take off her shirt at bath time, she would cry saying “I can’t take it off.” Then she would plop down on the floor in defeat. Instead of letting her give up I would encourage her to try again and coach her through her struggle. Then make her hit those push-ups of course. Often times all we need to do is calm down and coach ourselves through our struggles. Asking the right questions can lead to a solution more often than not.


It’s like 2 am and I’m losing my train of thought so before I start to drift into another topic, I’ll end today’s blog here.

Do me a favor, track your language for the next week. Every time you notice that you “can’t” do something, ask yourself if that is true or if you don’t want to figure it out on your own… Then act accordingly.

Until next time!

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