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Words Successful People Never Use

By Jeff Haden | December 15, 2017 << Back to Articles

The ISSA Leadership Summit is a new three-day event designed for business owners and key staff at residential and commercial cleaning companies. Three nationally-known keynote speakers will reveal tools to help the audience think more strategically and catapult their businesses to the front of the pack.

I’m opening the summit on Friday morning, April 20, discussing What You Can Learn from Iconic Business Leaders. My blog on Entrepreneur.com has great information on the qualities, characteristics, and behaviors of strong leaders. In the blog below, I share five words that successful people would never use: “I couldn’t ever do that.” 

I carried my paddle board to the beach. “I could never do that,” a man walking by says. “I’d be too scared.”

“Sure you could,” I think as he walks away. Paddle boarding is hard. First you fall off. Then you fall off some more. But soon you get better. And what’s to be afraid of? You get wet and climb back on. And very soon, paddle boarding is relatively easy... and if it’s easy for a nonathletic guy like me, it can be easy for anyone. You just have to be wiling to try.

I walked offstage after speaking to 4,500 people. A sound tech shakes his head. “I could never do that,” he says.

“Sure you could,” I think. First, you struggle because you haven’t figured out what you might say to benefit your audience. Then you write and revise and find your hook and your story. And you practice.

In time, speaking becomes relatively easy... and if it’s relatively easy for someone as shy and insecure as me, it can be fairly easy for anyone.

I climbed, stiff-legged and sore, off my bike after riding 92 miles and climbing four mountains to complete the inaugural Alpine Loop Gran Fondo. “That was impressive,” a volunteer says as he hands me a water bottle. “I could never do that.”

“Sure, you could,” I think. First you ride three or four miles. Then 10 or so. In time you work up to 25-mile rides, then 50-mile rides. And occasionally you throw in a longer ride.

After months of training (in my case a little less than four) you can finish a tough gran fondo... even if you’re a bird-legged old guy who initially possessed the speed, power, and cardio fitness of a possum.

Life throws us enough barriers. Genetics. Education. Intelligence. Athletic ability.
The list of reasons we can’t do certain things is endless. No matter how hard I work, I’ll never be as talented as LeBron James. Or Allyson Felix. Or Serena Williams. Or Stephen King, or Stephen Hawking or Stephen Colbert....

They’re all bigger, stronger, faster, smarter, more creative, or funnier. The barriers I need to overcome to achieve their level of talent are likely impossible to overcome. I can go far…but probably not far enough.

Yet there are the hundreds of barriers we construct all on our own without any justification. We don’t know, we can’t, we just decide we can’t. So we decide we shouldn’t.

We decide whatever we might want to do is too hard, too challenging, or too scary for someone like us.

And that’s why five of the worst words you can ever say are, “I could never do that” because, in almost every case, you can. Maybe not to a world-class level, but definitely to a high level. The biggest difference between people like us and people who do things we would like to do is they didn’t reflexively decide to put up their own barriers. They didn’t automatically decide they can’t. Instead they just decided to try…and then keep trying.

Granted you may never become Steve Jobs. Or Mark Cuban or Richard Branson or Sara Blakely. 

But you can still be better you than you currently think possible. You can achieve amazing things…and average things…and silly, frivolous things that have meaning only to you.

Decide to Try
If you decide to try, you’ll quickly find you no longer put up those barriers. You’ll be too busy enjoying all the things it turns out you can do—and dreaming up more things to try.

You can’t always control your level of success, but you can control whether you take the first step toward success.

Just in case you didn’t get the point: I’m definitely nothing special. So if I can occasionally do somewhat challenging or interesting, imagine what you can do... if you just try. 

Jeff Haden will be speaking at the 2018 ISSA Leadership Summit, April 19-21, in Tucson, AZ. For more details on this event, visit www.issa.com/2018leadership

This article originally appeared in the December 2017 edition of ISSA Today.


Jeff Haden is a ghostwriter, speaker, LinkedIn Influencer, contributing editor to Inc., and the author of The Motivation Myth.

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