“I can’t doesn’t exist.” That’s what I learned from Mamie McCullough. As a former public school teacher and principle, Mamie heard “I can’t” frequently. “I can’t get my homework done.” “I can’t finish my paper.” “I CAN’T DO IT!” Sound familiar? Anyone with teenagers knows the familiar litany. Apparently, Mamie was equally frustrated and set out to prove “I can’t” doesn’t exist and “I can” does.
The Nonexistence of “I Can’t”
One day, Mamie asked her students to bring a can to school. Demonstrating the individuality of the students, they brought everything from soup cans to tuna cans to the giant trashcans from the schoolyard.
When the students gathered, along with their cans, Mamie asked them to describe what “I can’t” looked like. They stared at her; dumbfounded. No one could depict “I can’t”. Why? Because “I can’t” doesn’t exist.
“I Can” Does Exist!
Like Santa and M&M’s, the “they do exist” commercial, Mamie quickly set out to prove “I can” exists. Distributing eyes cut from magazines, Mamie had the students glue them on their cans. By giving the students something tangible, she proved that “I can” exists. Get it? Eye-Can (Aaaaahh! It really does exist!)
Mamie went on to say that “I can’t” usually means two things: I don’t want to” or “I don’t know how”. For small business owners, “I can’t” is much more.
Under the Hood of the Small Business “I Can’t”
“I can’t” is the story a small business owner tells him/herself. It’s the story we convey about who we are, what we’re capable of, and what is possible. It’s the story we communicate to ourselves — over and over and over. However, if you were to search for your story of “I can’t” on Amazon, it would be found in FICTION.
This neatly told fabricated fable affects your small business growth, limits opportunities, contributes to underperforming, and continues to keep you underearning. But, I don’t really need to tell you that, do I. Any small business owner who has uttered those words, privately or publicly, knows the magnitude of those two simple words.
The “I can’t” uttered by a small business owner is generally wrapped around an assumption (usually false) made years earlier that is no longer relevant. Following this example of an “I can’t” frequently uttered by small business entrepreneurs, you understand how false assumptions fuel “I can’t”.
I can’t charge more. (Why not?)
I’m afraid to charge more (Why? Even if it’s needed for your business model to be viable?)
No one will buy from me. (Why won’t they buy from you?)
I’m not good enough. (Really? Who says?)
You get the picture. Most people, when asked to provide proof of said assumption, struggle mightily to prove its existence. Yet, the made-up story continues.
Take the “Eye Can” Challenge
Like our favorite stuffed bunny from childhood, false assumptions can be hard to let go of but Mamie (and Synnovatia) is on to something.
The next time you utter, “I can’t”, look under the hood. Uncover the assumption. Question yourself as thoroughly as you would your teenager coming home late from the prom to get to the “truth”. Probe deeper to test the relevance and validity of the story beneath your “I can’t”. Like most small business owners, you’ll likely find that assumptions fueling your “I can’t” are no longer applicable.
And, while you’re at it, create your “eye can” to remind you that “I can” exists for you! Then, go to our Facebook page and upload your “eye can”. Don’t delay! You have until January 31st at midnight (Pacific) to post your “eye can”.
A random winner will be selected from the “eye can” submissions to receive a $25 Amazon gift card and have their small business profiled on our blog, Bite-Size Chunks of Wisdom.
Stay tuned! The lucky “eye can” will be announced on Monday, February 3, 2014.