You Can’t Do That!

Have you ever been told that you can’t do something? Worse yet, have you ever told yourself that you can’t do something? Who says?

(c) Dollar Photo

(c) Dollar Photo

Do you believe it?

I created a project about the Female Reproductive System for the 6th Grade Science Fair and set it up with all the others. I was told, “You can’t show that in public.” My friend Janice Johnston “yelled” at the principal. And then I could.

(c) Kathleen Thompson

(c) Kathleen Thompson

I wanted to take woodshop in Junior High School instead of home-economics . I went to the principal to request a change to the school policy. I was told, “Girls can’t do that. “ And then a few years later they could.

Annie Kenney wanted to vote in England, and asked a member of Parliament about women’s voting rights. She was told, “Women can’t do that.” Several years and protests later, they could. Not only in England, but in the United States and other countries too.

Rosa Parks wanted to sit on a city bus like a human being. She was told, “Black people can’t do that.” And many protests and arrests later, she could.

Patrisha Wright wanted disabled people to have the same rights as all citizens. To work, have access to buildings, parking, shopping. She was told, “Disabled people can’t do that.” After a lot of lobbying, they could.

Sara Bahayl wanted to drive a taxi in Afghanistan. She was told, “Women can’t do that.” She bought a car, and got her license. And now she can.

Throughout history, people have been told “People like you can’t do things like that.” Most stopped trying. Some did not. They kept on, testing the boundaries, challenging the status quo. Things changed because of their decision to make a ruckus. Because of their commitment. Because they chose themselves.

They chose the difficult path, and we have more rights, more equality, more freedom than ever before. Not perfect equality or freedom. But more. The freedom to choose a safe, comfortable status quo path, and the freedom to choose a boundary-breaking path. A path that makes a difference. Makes a real connection with real people in this very real world. A rocky, treacherous, and uncertain path. A path with danger and disappointment, adventure and vitality.

It doesn’t have to be grand, take up your whole like, get you arrested, or change the entire world. As Seth Godin  says in his book, “What To Do When It’s Your Turn,” it could be your turn to

  • Ship.
  • Speak Up.
  • Stand Out.
  • Build a following.
  • Market a product.
  • Make a connection.
  • Solve an interesting problem.
  • Write, sing, invent, create, ask a question, launch a project, organize a protest, open the door for someone, question authority, make a short film, direct, product, create, or adopt.
  • Learn a new skill.
  • Help someone who needs you.
  • Be missed if you’re gone.

Have you been waiting to be picked? Are you secretly hoping you won’t be picked? Have you been hiding behind comfort? Do you want so much to take your turn and are too afraid to do it?

News flash: WE’RE ALL AFRAID.

Steven Pressfield is afraid to write.

Placido Domingo is afraid to sing.

Michael Flatley is afraid to dance.

Shepard Fairey is afraid to paint.

The difference is that they do it anyway. They face the fear (the Resistance, as Steven Pressfield calls it in “The War of Art”). And they do what matters. Because doing matters more than their own comfort.

Do something that matters. Find a place to plant your feet and take a stand. Have an opinion. Look fear in the eye and say, ”People like me can do this.” And then do it.

What do you want to do? Let’s start a great conversation in the comments below and encourage each other to go for it. And share with a friend who could use some encouragement…or a gentle nudge.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.