If Instead of Cannot

Many years ago, when I was a Senior Programmer with a consulting company, one of my clients commented that I never said anything was impossible – I never said "No, it cannot be done."

Now of course there are times in my career I have said no.  And when I said things could be done, I also noted the costs – which is a way of saying "I can do this, but boy is it going to cost you or disappoint you."  However the fact is that in your career, "it cannot be done" is not something you want to say to anyone – including yourself.

Saying "can't be done" is a bad habit, because in many cases, it's not true.  When you say something cannot be done, you may be saying many other things:

  • You don't want to do it.
  • It would cost a lot.
  • You'd rather do other things.
  • It will take longer than you'd like.
  • You don't have the skills, yet.

Really "it can't be done" is a way of saying either "I don't want to do it because . . ." or "you don't want to do it because . . ."

Instead you want to say "It can be done, if"

You can get that degree – if you go back to school and work part time.  You can write that program – if you give up weekends for a month.  You can get that new job – if you create a killer resume.  You can be the CEO of that company – if you spend ten years on the career track.

Looking for the "if," looking for the options, helps you turn "can't" into an understanding of the choice you've made or that you have to make.  You might find, that upon looking at a "can't" as an "It can be done, if" that you made some bad choices – or some wise ones.

Just remember "can't" limits you.  Go for the "ifs" and expand your horizons.

You might find yourself getting a lot more "cant's" done.

– Steven Savage