Don’t Tell Me You Can’t, Tell Me You Don’t Want To

This is my 100th post on AKC so I wanted to write something a bit different than I typically do.  The title of this article is a piece of wisdom I learned from my father.  He didn’t teach me too much growing up due to my parents being separated and him having his own interests in mind, but as a teen I worked for him doing masonry work.  These years were the only time we really had time to be around each other and I learned a few things about life.  Today, I’ll recall my favorite saying and mindset I learned from my dad and what it actually means to me.

I was 14 years old doing brickwork in Philadelphia.  The mid-August heat combined with Philly’s humid as fuck summers made for some shitty work conditions.  We were repairing some brickwork in center city and I was tasked with mixing the cement for the guys laying the bricks.  Pretty easy ratio to get right as long as you’re paying attention.

Later in the day people began getting tired and my dad gave me a brick trowel, a level, and said “Alright you’re helping”

I looked at him confused and nervous as I said “I can’t, I don’t know how”

That’s when he looked at me and said “Don’t tell me you cant, tell me you don’t want to”

I was taken back, the way I spoke about when a boy’s dad is real with him.  I realized that he was correct and that if I never even tried what good was I.  I started, fucked up a lot, and probably made things worse in the long run, but by the end of the job I was doing alright.  Fast forward 7 years later before I quit to do the college/IT thing, I was pretty damn good.

Still to this day I think about this interaction and how it holds true in every mans life.  How many times are we faced with a task we’ve never done?  How many times do we have to force ourselves out of our comfort zone?  It is not when things are easy and come to you instantly that you truly know victory; but when you struggle, fail, adapt and overcome these failures.

Real Application

I truly don’t think anyone can teach you how to do anything.  They can show you how they do things, but very rarely have I learned from just watching someone else do a task.  You have to get in and get your hands dirty.  You have to know what it feels like to fail and how to succeed.  I don’t care if its a language you’re trying to learn, a new instrument you’re learning to play, or a new career you’ve taken on, getting out there and just doing it is the way to succeed in life.

Also, saying you can’t do something is a fucking cop out.  Obviously if its something ridiculous then sure, but generally telling yourself that even if you try you will instantly fail is a negative approach.  If you go into something new with a defeatist attitude and negative approach, then you probably will fail.  Keep your mind open and accept that you may royally fuck things up, but that is okay.  Remember this is where we learn.


I kept this short but felt the need to share it all with you.  When the time comes I’ll teach my boys this very same lesson.  Kill that voice that tells you that you don’t have the know how or guts to even try something new.

-J. Nyx

Author: Jnyx

Fitness addict, DIY guru, tech nerd, member of Memesters Local 419.