You Can Be Anything

Jan 20, 2016

Which lies do we tell yourselves to make our lives simpler?

<em>"I can't teach"</em>.

<em>"I'm not creative enough to be a designer"</em>.

<em>"I don't know how to write"</em>.

<em>"I'm not talented enough to be a musician"</em>.

I've noticed recently how we say or think things like that on a daily basis. Things that dicourage us from doing what we want to do; from taking ideas to action; from exploring new frontiers. Lies that we tell ourselves to avoid having to leave our precious comfort zone. Let's talk about them.<!--more-->
<h2>The Mental Walls We Put Up</h2>
When was the last time you thought about doing something, and then quickly discarded the idea because you didn't feel up to the task? These can be simple things like cooking a meal, or complex ones like starting a business or writing a book. We sometimes seem to back off from new and unknown experiences almost reflexively, with the ever-recurring non-argument: "<em>I can't do that".</em>

Why do we put up these mental walls that prevent us from exploring uncharted waters? I've got a few ideas.
<ol>
<li><strong>To protect ourselves from failure.</strong> Doing new things is hard, and the rate of failure is high. To protect ourselves from feelings of inferiority, we refrain from taking the risks that come with following our ideas.</li>
<li><strong>Because it makes our lives easier.</strong> We're often lazy people, physically and mentally. We don't want to think more than necessary. If we can get away just by saying <em>"I can't do that"</em>, we often tend to do it because it simplifies things a lot.</li>
<li><b>Because we make a habit of it.</b> I could observe myself doing that just yesterday. Somebody offered me a promotional flyer on the street, and I'd said no and shaken my head before I'd even fully processed what she actually wanted to give me. I'd let my routine take over, shielding my from the unknown. If we continue to do this, it eventually takes over other areas of our lives. (I still didn't take the flyer.)</li>
</ol>
These factors constitute the gravitational force that pulls us toward our comfort zone. We're quite comfy there, and <em>"I can't do that"</em> is a great way to just keep things as they are and avoid new ideas and experiences - certainly not something that is desirable.
<h2>But You Can!</h2>
Consider <a title="Florence Foster Jenkins - Wikipedia" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence_Foster_Jenkins" target="_blank">Florence Foster Jenkins</a>. Her lifelong dream was to be an opera singer, and she wouldn't give up on it even though she had virtually no talent and her parents were strictly against it. At the age of 41, after her parents had died, she started taking singing lessons and had her first appearance on stage in 1912, at 44 years old. Because of her utter lack of skill and talent, she is known today as one of the worst singers in history. She was ridiculed by the audience and mocked even by her own piano accompanist. Sounds like she failed completely, doesn't it?

Quite the contrary. Florence's rare performances always sold out weeks in advance, people offered hundreds of dollars to get seats. During her career, she entertained thousands and was even granted an entry in the Guinness World Records. She was completely aware of her lack of skill, but didn't let that stop her:
<blockquote>"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."</blockquote>
Her story shows us an example of a person who didn't let anything stop her from pursuing her dream - to me, that's an amazing success.
<h2>Redefining Failure</h2>
Let's change the mindset that tells us that failure is something to be ashamed of. The complete opposite is true. <strong>Failure doesn't mean to try without success; it means to never find the courage to try.</strong> This means that every time we try something new (and might not make it), we've still succeeded. If we never tried, however, we've failed. If we adapt this idea and make it part of our core values, the perspective on new experiences shifts completely.

I hope that we can all attempt to change our minds about what failure actually means. If we were a little more open and courageous about giving new things a chance and adapting new ideas, we could be rewarded with fulfilling experiences.

<small>This post was created during Winnie Kao and Seth Godin’s <a title="YourTurnChallenge" href="http://yourturnchallenge.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">YourTurnChallenge</a> and also appears on their Tumblr.</small>