And Then You Realize You Can’t

There are points in your life when you realize you can’t. Somehow you imagined that you would be able to do something, but at some moment you realize that it’s just not in you to achieve. I will never be a professional football player. I will never become an astronaut. At some point, I have to embrace the fact that I can’t.

I am about to release a product that I talked about earlier this month. I’m making a video and a landing page of a minimum viable product to see if people are interested in it. It is an online portal that organizes your work so that your projects get done on time, and so that your boss and clients will know so much about your project that they will be able to talk about it more than you can. I hope that this project resonates with people. Last night I was finishing the product video. I realized that even though I want to sell like I think a startup should. I am not sure I can. I don’t know if the video is interesting or exciting. I don’t know if it will resonate with people. I don’t know if people would care to buy it. I wonder if releasing a viable product is one of those things that I can’t do.

We often use “can’t” as a wall that we have to get through. It is a proclamation as to the truth of what is possible. Earlier I mentioned that I couldn’t play football or be an astronaut. But I’m not sure that is true. Nothing says that I can’t be an astronaut. I could still learn what I need to go into space. With the lowering barrier to entry (more launches, more automation that removes the need for human intervention) it is possible that there is a time that an older version of me could go into space. And a professional football player? I have no idea what it would take for me to get there, so my default of ‘I can’t’ is the simplest short-cut to not trying.

A ceramics teacher divided their class into two groups. One was told to focus on the number of items produced, the other quality of the piece they created. At the end of the term, it was those students who concentrated on quantity who provided the best work. You have to keep building, keep making things. Your best work will come because of what you tried, not because of the perfection you put into one piece. [Read Jeff Atwood’s blog post about this study.]

Maybe I can’t release a viable product. But perhaps I am not ready to yet. Maybe there is something that I need to learn yet. Or maybe this is a product that will resonate with people, and it will be useful in their life. I don’t want to build a wall that blocks my success just because I have the idea that I can’t do something.