Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Man Who Can't

He was told “no” so many times as a child that, as an adult it became his standard operating procedure (SOP). His parents’ rule was to say no unless they absolutely had to say yes. We will call these the “no parents”. And so, with his own children today, he leads by the same rule of “no”. His life plan does not allow big dreams to become reality. In fact, his life plan doesn’t allow for dreams at all because he knows that somewhere along the way he will be told “no” and he will have no other choice but to stop, thus resulting in a failure. In his childhood “no” meant “do not question my absolute authority or you will face the most severe consequences. Therefore, you will accept no without exception and you will surrender.”

This “no” did not allow for the opportunity to learn because there was no reasoning or discussion allowed at this point. It was the only answer and the final answer, and it was the precursor to a life that would only allow for small dreams, if any at all, and low ambition. Therefore, he would settle for the status quo because it created a lower risk of disappointment and ultimate failure. Who in their right mind wants to be a failure? Why go there if you don’t have to? There is safety and relative comfort in keeping the status quo.

Now he lives in the world where “no” is the default assumption and one can never lose if one never plays the game. Thus he maintains the status quo in his own life. “No” has become his SOP and he will pass this legacy down to his own children unless he can learn to dream and take the risk of acting on his dreams.

I call him “the man who can’t” because he can always tell you why something can't be done, and when you ask him to explain the logic of his reasons the best answer he can usually give you is because he said so. It infuriates him to be questioned. His parents didn’t allow it when he was growing up and he will not tolerate it either. After all, that is the way he was raised and he turned out just fine. (Or did he?) Now that he is an adult, no-one can tell him what to do. He is the captain of his own ship now, and the course he chooses to navigate is the right one. After all, he has his reasons. Unfortunately, the man who can’t is one who is stuck in a bubble. Inside this bubble, he can’t fail if he dosn’t try. The view from the outside of the bubble, however, is quite different. He is self defeating but he can’t see it. He can’t see outside of that bubble to all of the possibilities awaiting him if he would only take a risk and dare to dream.

There is hope. We can take steps to change our way of thinking so we do not perpetuate the “no” lifestyle. We can learn to transform ourselves from “the man who can’t” to become the man or woman who can and will. We can learn to turn our dreams into reality.

This can be broken down into six simple steps that I like to think of as “stupid simple”. These are rules that anyone can use to achieve their dreams.

Step one: Dream
Step two: Write it down
Step Three: Set a goal or goals
Step Four: Risk Assessment
Step Five: Create a map to get there
Step Six: Take Action

These are not complicated rules or obscure business formulas made known only to college graduates. They are just the basic building blocks for success that anyone can use to turn their dreams into reality. They are so simple and uncomplicated that I call them “stupid simple”.

Dare to Dream

No dream is too big or too small. Dream little or dream big but just start dreaming. Give yourself permission to dream. After all, there is no-one who can tell you “no” in this arena. What can it hurt to dream?

Need some help getting started? Think back to your childhood dreams before you let the expectation of “no” shut down your desire and willingness to dream. Most parents – even the “no parents” – tell their children they can be anything they want to be when they grow up. Unfortunately, most of those parents, and especially the ”no parents”, inadvertently teach their children that they shouldn’t dream too big or expect too much out of life because they will only end up disappointed in the end. These parents were also the children of “no parents”, and they are simply trying to protect their progeny from the prospect of failure. As you can see, this “no parenting” is a repetitive cycle that has been handed down for generations. It is a curse that has to be broken or it will continue to plague our lives and our society for generations to come. It will turn your life into the status quo with no hope of escape.

Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying about saying “no”. There are appropriate times to say no (“No” you cant jump off the cliff without a parachute. No you can’t run with knives. No, you can’t throw poop on the ceiling with your brother in the middle of the night.), but when we make it the rule instead of the exception we set ourselves and our children up for a lifetime stuck in the dulldrums – our own self inflicted form of prison with no possibility of parole, no hope, no dreams and very limited possibilities.

Take a moment to examine your own life and ask yourself these important questions. Are you a “man or woman who can’t?” Or, are you a “no parent”?

If you answered yes to either of the above questions, ask yourself these questions: Do you want more than just the status quo for yourself and your family, but you are afraid of failure? What is the worst that can happen if you reverse your way of thinking and start saying yes unless you absolutely have to say no?

Say "yes" because it is the appropriate thing to do and reserve "no" for when it is clearly the appropriate answer that you can express a logical reason for. If you can’t give a clear, logical reason for saying no, consider the alternative “yes”. Ask yourself, “is there a moral, legal or ethical reason to say no?” Sometimes we say no to our children when we really mean “not now”, or “leave me alone. I’m too busy to take the time to interact with your world”, because we are not willing to take the time to explain why it needs to be postponed or done a different way. “No" is often used as a cover for our own laziness or unwillingness to move out of our comfort zones and interact with the world around us.

Start saying "yes" as often as you can and open yourself to the world of endless possibilities.

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