Don’t Let Anyone Tell You that You Can’t

Don't let the Army of Can't stop you!It seems that whenever I’m in a group of writers or entrepreneurs, there are always a few battle stories stories swapped. No matter what you want to do, there will be someone (or sometimes a lot of someones) who feel obligated to tell you that you can’t. Maybe I’m naive, but I’m always astonished at the sheer arrogance of some of the negatives I hear.

In the April issue of The Writer, Dr. Jacob M. Appel writes about the naysayers he’s encountered, from the high school counselor who told him that being a writer wasn’t “realistic,” to the college professors who tried to discourage him from pursuing writing as he was studying to become a physician. Years later, while practicing medicine full time, he teaches writers’ workshops and has published more than 150 short stories. He makes a convincing case that it’s entirely possible, even desirable, for a writer to have a profession and cites many, including poet Wallace Stevens, who have done so. Yet conventional wisdom clings to the idea that you can “be” only one thing.

Other writers and entrepreneurs have reported being told arrant nonsense such as:

  • “It’s just too risky to go out on your own– a steady paycheck is much safer.” (Tell that to thousands that have been laid off in the past couple of years.)
  • “You can’t make a living as a writer– there’s too much available for free.” (My goodness, what have I been doing for the last few years?)
  • Everyone knows how to . . .– no one will want to buy a book/course/video about that.” (Sentences that involve “everyone” and “no one” are usually are an indicator that the speaker knows nothing of the subject.)
  • “Going back to school at your age is crazy. Your kids are out of the house and you could be having fun.” (Thank you. I am.)
  • Who do you think you are? You’re nothing special- who’d listen to you?”
  • “There’s already a book on that. What’s the point in writing another?” (And who reads only one book on a topic?)
  • “There’s no point is starting something like that. You’re just trying to make yourself feel valuable as a human being [insert alternative amateur pop-psychology diagnosis here].
  • “There are millions of [shops, restaurants, whatever]. You can’t possibly make it work.”
  • I can’t imagine anyone paying money for that (housecleaning, tree trimming, sewing, editing, whatever).”

And so forth, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. The funny thing is, while these helpful people are happy to dispense pearls of wisdom between clicks of the remote, they can’t be bothered to actually do anything themselves. It’s much easier to stay with the pack and take pot shots at anyone who dares to march to the beat of a different drummer. A brief internet search provides ample evidence that no matter what the field. someone somewhere is making it pay.

The reality is that it’s entirely possible to be more than one thing. On the path to creating multiple streams of income, you may find that being more than one thing creates the ideal balance in your life. The other reality is that none of the other nonsense you hear has any real meaning if you’re motivated and diligent. Remember Pilgrim’s Progress? Christian had a terrible time getting started on his journey because of the doubts and jeers of family and friends. Don’t let it happen to you.

Remember, excellence is always out of the ordinary. Creativity is abnormal, and living out a vision is just plain weird. That’s why we notice and remember people like Mother Theresa, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Tasha Tudor, Eric Liddel, Jane Austen, William Morris, and Grandma Moses. Get comfortable with being different, because there’s a lot to be done, and few who have the courage to act.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.