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Jeff Osterman
Wichita State University
WBB Office / 1845 Fairmount Street ~ Box 18
Wichita, KS 67260
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I Can't

“I can’t.”  This is an expression that is vilified in our minds beginning at a young age.  Every time a young child announces this decision they are corrected.  The first adult that hears it asks them whether or not they have even tried.  Generally, this confrontation will result in the child giving their task another attempt, until their attention span moves on to something else.  The adult will see this, and chuckle to themselves with the knowledge that this is just a child who has yet to learn the art and virtue of perseverance.  By the time this child comes of age, however, they will have been told by adults more times than they can count that there is no such thing as “can’t.”

It is interesting, then, to think about how many adults seem to proclaim this expression in their lives.  Is it because, like many things that adults tell children, they are simply telling the child a general rule that children must follow, but can be broken once one is grown?  Or is it because these adults are simply repeating what they were told as children without thoroughly examining what the phrase, “I can’t,” truly suggests?

If you confronted an adult that claims they can’t do something with the same question about whether or not they have tried, the answer will almost always be yes.  Adults have learned enough to know that it is unreasonable to say they can’t until they have at least tried once.  Therefore, the real question that we should be asking in response is, “have you tried EVERYTHING?”  Have you exhausted every possible option, scenario, combination, tool, and approach?  I do not simply refer to the ones that you knew of at the time you decided to undertake your task.  I mean, have you also researched possibilities that you hadn’t known about?  Have you determined whether or not there is another person out there that has performed the exact same task you are attempting, or at least something similar?  Have you exhausted this research?  Have you read every book, blog, journal, magazine, bathroom stall, and website?  If the answer to any one of these questions is “no,” then go back and try again.  Because you don’t truly know if you can do something until you have tried absolutely everything.

The fact of the matter is, that rarely, if ever, is the answer to all of these questions “yes.”  Therefore, what is it that people actually mean when they say, “I can’t?”  A more accurate, but more verbose, way of saying it would be, “I don’t care about or want enough this task or the resultant benefits of it in order to do all that is necessary to achieve it.”  I was told a countless number of times by people during my Month of Marathons that they couldn’t run one marathon, let alone 31 straight.  Every now and then, when I had time, I would discuss what they said.  We would jointly conclude that if something they cared about depended on them doing so, it would be possible.  The most common example I used was, “if someone had a gun to your child’s head, do you think you could do it then?”  Therefore, the phrase, “I can’t,” denotes a lack of investment as opposed to a lack of potential or ability.  I do not mean to say that every person I had this conversation with should have had the motivation to run marathons.  It was something that I had decided to do, not them.  I merely wanted to express to them what I am expressing here: given the right purpose, and enough time, you can.

What happens if someone has said they can’t, we have asked them if they’ve done everything, and the rare case happens, and they honestly say, “yes?”  Do we then concede that they can’t?  Nope.  If everything in existence has been attempted enough to determine that it won’t work, then congratulations, you have been awarded the honor of being the person who must invent the method.  Or the tool.  Or determine the right combination.  Whether or not you will, once again, boils down to how much you care, and time.  It may end up being that a person ends up trying for their entire life.  But, I suggest removing the phrase, “I can’t,” from your lexicon and replacing it with, “I can’t YET.”  Do this, so that you don’t risk being on your death bed saying, “I didn’t.”


I Can't 

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Playing Time Squabbles & Roster Politics      by Ric Bucher

Jimmy Buffett - Master Brandiing    by Martin DeAngelis

Lost In America    by Luke Cyphers

Oak Hill Academy    by Alejandro Danois

Bill Bayno ~ Battles Back

Attack the Day ~ Shaka Smart    by Brian Hamilton

Bench Strength  by Brendon Suhr  

Jim Engles - NJIT's postseason run inspires memories of a friend lost on 9/11 by Steve Politi

US Marines - Who Are We     by Gen. James Amos

Unbreakable Madden      by Dan Pompei

The Tao of Shaka     by Michael Litos

A Big Heart Open To God    by Antonio Sparado

Looking Back 10 Years Later   by Jimmy Patsos

How to Erase the Sting of Losing

Hurry Up & Wait    by Michael Weinreb

The Art of Talent Evaluation      by Eamonn Brennan  

The Courting of Marvin Clark      by Brad Wolverton

The Gifts We Have Missed     by Blair Watson

Ollie is proof of a brand that works      by Myron Medcalf

Affiliated: One journey to Making the Minors          by Jake Seiner

7 Steps to Achieve Your Dream      by Chris Widener

Ross Comerford - Sanity Within the Madness     by Todd Sliss

Decisions, Decisions    by Kevin McKeon

20 Things 20 Year Olds Don't Get    by Jason Nazor

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When Adversity Hits        by Jon Gordon

Rick Pitino still cherishes one stat above others       by Pat Forde

How athletes manage depression     by Stanley Popovich

4 ways to unify your team     by Dave Ramsey

Excellence or Success      by Jon Gordon

5 Inspiring Steve Jobs Stories

Imagine Me and You       by Chris Ballard

10 Lesson That People Learn To Late 

12 Lessons in Leadership From The Wizard John Brubaker

Jim Harbaugh's Unique Mind-Set     by Ron Kroichick

The Marine & The Orphan        by Michael Rosenberg

Popovich's Solace: His human index card hasn't left Spurs yet by Buck Harvey

Why Butler Basketball Holds The Key To Organizational Success    by Jason Belzer

When Adversity Hits, Tell Yourself A Positive Story     by Jon Gordon      


The Next Zig Thing    by Jeff Bendict

Passionate People      by Scott Dinsmore

12 Community Lessons from Aspen Trees    by Jon Mertz

Great Stories About Coach Pat Summitt    by Debbie Antonelli

From Wall Street to the GridIron: Coach Joe Moglia   by Dan Wolken

7 Hiring Mistakes & How Not To Make Them    by Anthony Iannairno

10 Tips to Keep Your Community Engaged     by Kathi Kruse

Chuck Pagano - Stays Strong    by Rick Reilly

7 Fundamentals of Building a Successful Business   by Karlee Weinmann

Bill Belichick - Coaching Philosophies      by Nick Underhill

St. John's Star Shenneikia Smith Making Her Former AAU Coach Apache Paschall Proud    by Joeseph Stazewski

Anthony Grant & Frank Martin's Friendship     by Mike Herndon

Why Your Ego Can Stop You From Achieving Your Dreams  by Sam Oblitz

16 Things Leaders Never Do     by Dan Rockwell

What Keeps Bill Parcells Awake At Night    by Michael Lewis

The Power of 'Thank You'      by Joey Faucette

Cross country runner saves life, finishes race    by Geoff Calkins

Playing for team & country makes the Ryder Cup golf's most compelling rivalry                   by Michael Bamberger

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Collective Commitment

5 Ways To Find Your Future    by Dan Rockwell

54 Point Personal Branding Checklist  by Hajj Flemings

Tom Coughlin - All You Need Is Love     by Ralph Vacchiano

4 Ways to Unite Your Team              by Dave Ramsey

NY Jet Curtis Martin Forgiving His Father            by Steve Politi 

You Are A Basketball Warrior When ....     by Coach Don Meyer

How to Push Past Fairy Tale     by John Maxwell 

Cary Williams overcame abuse and anguish on way to NFL   by Keith Van Valkenburg

When a teammate struggles with depression & anxiety   by Stanley Popovich

10 Development Goals for 2012     by Dan McCarthy

"How athletes can deal with their fears & stresses"    by Stanley Popovich

"3 Steps to create a vision for 2012"     by Lisa Petrilli

"Dare to be your Best"     by Coach Lok

"The Difference between Trying and Doing"     by Michael Hyatt

"Embracing the Joys and Fear of Pain"     by Dan Rockwell

"Preparing for Adversity in Sports"          by Kevin Smith

"Leadership Lessons from a Army Ranger" by Lisa Petrilli

"25 Temptations of Leadership"          by Dan Rockwell

"Positivity is the Key "       by Debra DeVita

"Tim Tebow - Natural Born Leader?"     by Adam Morris

"Shake the dust off your feet"      by Doctor Carolyn 

"Do You Have Superstar Potential"    by Penolpe Trunk

"Tom Izzo gives $1,000,000 to Michigan State"    by Rashaun Rucker

"What if the Secret to Success is Failure"    by Paul Tough

"Wooden & Love" by Joe Ponanski

"Lessons learned from Pat Tillman's Death" by John T. Reed

"A Power Outage Brings Out the Best in People" by Matt Youngblood

"A Letter To My Father 10 Years Later" by Kieran Darcy

"9/11 (10 years later) The Fr. Mychal Judge Story" by Michael Daly

"For players at West Point, post-9/11 instantly became way of life" by Dennis Dodd

"The Shame of College Athletics" by Evan Kafka

"FDNY Chaplin killed on 9/11 honored in "Walk of Remembrance" by Lore Croghan

Rick Pitino Remembers" by Dana O'Neil

"Dave Gavitt's Impact Was Huge"  by Bob Ryan

"Shake the Dust Off Your Feet"  by Doctor Carolyn

"What if the Secret to Success Is Failure"    by Paul Tough 


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