My Dad taught me a number of really great sayings, but among the best he ever taught me was “’Can’t’” never gets anything done. Keep it out of your vocabulary.” Actually, the exact words he used were, “Can’t” never could do anything.
You see, Dad always believed that if you try hard enough, work hard enough and never give up, you can succeed. Through his encouragement, I came to believe it, too.
Now neither I nor my father believe that anything is possible. Some things are plainly beyond reach because of limitations in talent, or opportunity, or for some other reason. But history is replete with stories of people who meet with disaster and defeat, but never gave up and ultimately achieved their goals.
Take the story of Thomas Edison. He failed making the lightbulb over 100 times before he finally succeeded. His quote, that he’d succeeded in finding over 100 ways not to build a lightbulb is fairly well known. But despite the cliche of “try, try, again” the fact remains that Edison truly believed that electric lights were not only possible, but inevitable. We owe him for a wholesale change in our way of life.
Or how about the story of NFL quarterback Kurt Warner? Warner went undrafted in 1994, then tried out for the Packers only to be cut before the season began. He went to work sacking groceries for minimum wage until the next year when he made an Arena football team and played several seasons in that league, and the European league, before being given a shot at the NFL. He went on to a successful NFL career, winning Super Bowl XXXIV and being named league MVP for the 1999 season. Warner believed in himself, and worked hard in order to gain success. I doubt if the word “can’t” is even in his vocabulary.
Growing up, Dad made sure we learned the “never give up lesson”, and it paid off time and time again. In Little League, I never expected to make the “Majors” my first year in–but I sure did my second year. When I was relegated to the “Texas” league the second year in a row, I was disappointed. Dad wouldn’t let me give up, though. “Hang in there,” he said, “just do your best and it will all work out.” During my first week of practice, it was plain to me that I was much better than most of my teammates. I worked out with that team for about a week before I got “the call” from a Major League coach! He told me about my new team, and that it was my attitude that had prompted him to call me up. Despite having a terrible tryout, despite being out of sight on my Texas league team, I was getting “the call” for my stick-to-it positive attitude.
Now, no one can promise success. Like most, I’ve had my share of failure, but it’s my view that true success comes as much from now you handle adversity, as how you handle the win.
Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 28 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.
Mickey is the author of six books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own Leading Leaders blog, and GeneralLeadership.com.