The human mind is an incredible thing. Given the proper motivation and inspiration, an individual human can invent the seemingly impossible device or pioneer an unprecedented procedure.
Individual men and women, not much different than you or me, have changed the course of human history with little more than a thought, a drive to bring that idea to fruition, and a heaping helping of persistence.
They all failed miserably, by the way. Over and over again, until ultimately they came out on top. There are few great successes that aren’t preceded by a series of failures. That’s what makes these folks worthy of mention in our history books. They are the few. They kept at it. They believed they could achieve their dream in the end. And so they did.
In direct contrast, most of us short-circuit our fondest dreams in favor of something less fulfilling and more traditionally acceptable. We fear being seen as living outside the lines our society, our family, or our friend group sees as normal.
We learn the most debilitatingly short sentence in the English language and we hold it close to our hearts and minds throughout the majority of our lives. It provides protection of a sort. But the shelter we seek is a devious thing. It limits us far more than it protects us.
Is there any more pessimistic way to view our own potential than to become comfortable with the term “I can’t?”
I don’t think so. No, in fact I’m sure of it.
Because you can. I can. Any of us can, if we decide to focus on the positive rather than the negative.
There was a time when you could not walk. You could not speak intelligibly. You couldn’t eat a meal without coming away looking as if Jackson Pollock had used your head as a scratch pad. And yet you learned to do all those things. Fairly well, too.
As infants we have no fear of failure. We stand, we fall, we stand again. We take a step, we do a faceplant into the living room floor, we cry. Then we stand up, attempt another step, and keep doing it until we find ourselves running at top speed after an ice cream truck on a hot summer afternoon.
Everything works out in the end. Somehow, one way or another, everything works out. But only if we keep trying. Giving up is the only real failure there is. Anything short of quitting is part of the learning process.
Giving up is the only real failure there is.”
Bouncing a check for the first time teaches us the value of addition and subtraction and that we should apply that skill to keeping an accurate checkbook balance. Running a car out of gas late at night is an incredibly good reminder to keep an eye on the fuel supply whenever we travel, near or far.
Life is filled with lessons. We only have to pay attention to find them. We only have to participate to improve in any given area that might interest us.
It’s not at all unusual for me to meet people in a social setting who somehow learn I am a pilot. The topic of conversation almost universally shifts to aviation.
Not so much because I’m a participant. I involve myself in quite a few activities, few of which others seem to find appealing enough to get into a protracted conversation about them. But aviation is different.
Most Americans have flown, or fly often enough to believe they have an understanding of what’s happening when they fly. They usually don’t understand much at all. But they believe they do, and that’s something.
Some are nervous fliers who white-knuckle it from departure to arrival. Others are excited by the experience, even though they have little understanding of what causes the airplane to rise into the sky, speed through the air, and come down in the exact spot where the flight was advertised to arrive.
Of all the conversations I’ve had with people who find a discussion of aviation to be worthy of their time, the one theme that deflates my mood more than any other is based on the joy-killing, life-limiting, scene-stealing excuse “I can’t.”
It’s not the money. They usually own a car, or a boat, or a motorcycle, or a time-share that represents a greater investment than the cost of learning to fly. Of course those other things all devalue over time. A pilot certificate is forever.
On a cost-analysis basis, learning to fly is the better deal.
It’s not for a lack of time. They’ve all got the exact same amount of time in a day you have, or I have, or anyone else has. If they really wanted to fly, they’d do it.
But then, they’d have to really want to fly, not just talk about flying. Not just dream about it. And for far too many of us, it’s more convenient to hide behind “I can’t” than it is to try to do something that might make our lives more enriching, more appealing, and more satisfying.
“I can’t” is a dangerous limitation we put on ourselves. Dangerous because it cheapens our lives. It cramps our style. It impedes our progress towards being the person we could be if we only believe “I can.”
For the benefit of those who might wish to push past “I can’t,” the next step is to commit to “I will.” But “I will” is not a destination. It’s a waypoint. It’s a place we pass through on our way to “I am.”
Now, “I am,” that’s some powerful stuff. When the day comes that we can say, even if only to ourselves, I am what I dreamed I’d be, that’s when we find real success.
May you be what you dream of being. Here’s hoping “I can’t” never hinders you again.
Because you can. Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever your state of being, you really can. And that is something worth believing in.