Can’t is a four letter word

Posted on March 22, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

On Sunday I ran my first ever Half Marathon.  Yesterday one of the guys at Hyperpublic asked me if it was hard.  I thought about it for a minute and said, “you know, it really wasn’t that hard.”  There were 10,000 other people of all shapes, sizes and ages who were able to run the 13.1 miles, and the reality is, it’s not some huge accomplishment to run that distance.  There are hundreds of thousands of people who run at 2x the distance in traditional marathons every year.  As I reflect on the race, I am drawn less toward the physical implications of completion, and much more toward the mental aspects of it.  The coolest thing about finishing that race was that I took something that at first glance, seemed unattainable, and then I attained it.  I had never run 13.1 miles before (i think the furthest i had ever run was about 8), so when faced with the prospect of running, my mind immediately assumed that I could not run 13.1.  Typically, it is at these moments, where I confront something unattainable, that I am most motivated to attempt.

Each time, in life, that you reach something that at first seems impossible (or even improbable), it inspires you to attempt the next. Having repeatedly attempted the unlikely across facets of life ranging from physical, mental, professional, romantic, and beyond, I have developed a confidence that the seemingly unattainable, is in fact within reach.  There have been times when I have reached for these improbabilities and come up short…but i have defied my “instinctual odds” enough times to know that initial disbelief is not a good barometer for what I should and should not attempt.  My dad asked me if I felt proud to have finished the race, and I replied, “no, I don’t feel proud, I feel empowered.”  Empowered to attempt something greater, or harder, or further away, because I yet again proved wrong the rational or fearful side of myself that ascribes to a mantra of “can’t.”

I often tell people who feel trapped or incapable of doing what they really want that “there is no such thing as can’t,” and I genuinely believe that.  I literally cannot thing of a single thing in this world that is impossible.  There is much that is hard, or highly improbable, but there is no goal that is not worth attempting for fear that it is not reachable.  If you’re an entrepreneur, but really if you are anyone at all, try to isolate the moments in your life that your mind reverts to a concept of “can’t.”  Take a couple hacks at things that seem impossible.  As soon as you attain one, the world will never look the same.

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6 Responses to “Can’t is a four letter word”

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“As soon as you attain one, the world will never look the same.” This right here, is the gold. Shifting your perception of what you can/can’t do is pure amazingness, and allows for bigger and bigger reaches.

You’re not the only person I’ve known who has experienced this in a marathon. I’m happy to read your experience was less about gratification in crossing the finish line and more about your ability to run the race, that is really exciting and meaningful.

Each step of life may in itself seem insignificant, a non-event, but I lost the use of my left arm 20 years ago and have lived with constant pain and limitations from this injury ever since. It took 2 years to type with the hand, 5 years to move the shoulder, 10 years to lift something and while I still am not be able to open a can of soda or grip a pickle jar with it, 5 years ago I bought a guitar and started practicing and… surprise now I can play.

While it still may take another 30 years to reach a standard performance level, each step is just that along the length of a journey and I’ve learned how to relish the how far our human spirits allow us to run. That faith in myself and my willingness to believe in others keeps me running forward.

erik, you are a great writer. i hope you have a blog. link?

Jordan, I don’t. I hadn’t even considered it. I prefer to dialog in response – to have a conversation, which is why I respond when other people’s blogs resonate and seem relevant in my own life and make comments.

I’m enjoying the community for that reason. I’ve always considered myself a poor writer, although I try and overcompensate by being a strongly opinionated one… 🙂 Thanks for the kind words.

I had a similar experience when I ran my first half marathon. It was an amazing experience going from not being able to run 3 miles to being able to blow through 13 miles. The growth both physically and mentally was incredible and so I decided to run a full marathon, and now I’m setting my sights on a triathlon. Pushing yourself beyond preconceived boundaries opens your eyes to what you are willing to endure and what you can actually achieve. By constantly pushing myself to go beyond what I thought I could do I’ve become quite addicted to this process. I’ve found that in both physical and career endeavors there is a point at which you go from not believing you can achieve a goal to believing it is actually possible. In many ways, getting to this point of convincing yourself you can achieve what was previously considered unachievable is more exciting and rewarding than actually getting to the end goal.

“Each time, in life, that you reach something that at first seems impossible (or even improbable), it inspires you to attempt the next.”

As a first time entrepreneur, I experience this so often that when I read this I was really excited that you could so clearly express what I’ve been feeling. These are what I consider high-points in life. They are the empowering ones that make you keep reaching, keep exploring, and keep learning. I wouldn’t trade these moments for anything and I now completely understand why serial entrepreneurs exist. The doubt, fear, and stress are easily forgotten and you feel like you can change the world. I whole-heartily agree with you, that anything is possible.

I am going to change the world. One seemingly impossible feat at a time.

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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