I Believe in the Power of “Can”
I believe in the power of “can”. Whether from the admonishment of my third-grade teacher on her retirement that “You can accomplish anything you set your mind to” or my father’s challenge “You can’t fix that”, “can” has been a persistent motivator in my life.
As the Florida summer heat and sizzling concrete turned my sneakers into something akin to Silly-Putty, my father’s’ benediction verdict “You can’t fix that” seemed more like a curse. My younger brother and I had broken our go-kart engine, again, and this time the oily pieces were outside the engine instead of inside it where they should have been. As a rebellious teen-ager, that challenge was a watershed moment in my life. I scrounged parts from lawn mower shops, devoured car magazines, and made numerous mechanical “enhancements”. Some months later, the engine did run again, however briefly, before it essentially melted under the withering combustion of fuel that didn’t belong in a go-kart, and some of my “enhancements”. I was triumphant. After the satisfaction of proving my father wrong had passed, I realized that I had learned things I might not have otherwise bothered to learn, and I became fearless. If someone else engineered or designed something, I didn’t hesitate to disassemble it, modify it, or use it for some purpose other than what it was designed. I would tackle any problem.
My father’s challenge that day, and what I did with it, was one of his greatest gifts to me. I learned to apply the same “can do” attitude to many other aspects of my life that some might not have thought I could develop. In high school, I was a so-so track-team member, but in my 30’s after most of my former teammates had long-ago hung up their shoes, I developed myself asbecame a competitive distance runner, including completing marathons, including the qualifying for such as Boston Marathon. I built my own house. I went back to graduate school at age 51 and received an MBA with honors, after a lackluster undergraduate technology degree in my 20’s. for my MBA, and graduated with honors. I learned to appreciate history and the arts. I have broadened my horizon to consider a “world view”, learning about and engaging peoples of other countries on many fronts. I share this story not for my own accomplishments, many have done far more with far less, but to suggest that nothing is impossible when we set our minds to a challenge. I will continue to re-invent myself to fit a changing world.
As a society, there are many things people say can’t be fixed: healthcare, our education system, our energy infrastructure, the environment, social & and political ills, how to peacefully accommodate different faith systems – the list goes on. Some say that, as a country, we have lost the will to solve problems, be creative, inventive and focused. Some believe that, individually, we have become too comfortable to learn, too entrenched in habit to stretch ourselves, and too numb to the world around us to re-learn how to be curious, to re-light the fire. Some would say these attitudes are irreversible, and that we cannot change and succeed.
I believe we can.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.