Limits

Often times we say, “I can’t do that” or “I’m not good at that.”  (I am as guilty of this as anyone.  There’s a lot I sometimes believe I can’t do.)

When we say the words, “I can’t,” we are limiting ourselves.  As a result, I believe that some of the most damaging words in our language are “I can’t.” 

When we say we can’t, we make our own lives poorer – not richer.  When we say we can’t, we eliminate the possibilities and the learning that comes with and from new experiences.  When we say we can’t, our world becomes smaller, our interests become fewer, and we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to learn more about ourselves.

When we do this to ourselves, we limit ourselves.  And that’s a shame. 

One might argue that the limits we place on ourselves as adults comes from a lifetime of experiences.  One could argue that we say, “I can’t” because there are times when we positively absolutely cannot do certain things.

(I always wished I was handy.  There was a period in my life where I tried to fix things around the house.  When I did this, I often didn’t really know what I was doing.  I usually had the wrong tools.  I always asked the wrong questions.  I typically made a big mess.  Sometimes I’d hurt myself.  As often as not, if I could get things back together at all, I would put them back together backwards. 

My efforts to make things better resulted, ultimately, in making them worse.  I broke things.  I got frustrated.  I got angry.  A job that was supposed to take five minutes would take me an hour.  After the hour, with parts and tools all over the place, I’d finally have to give up and all of this usually resulted in a call to my father-in-law to have him come over and fix whatever it was I had broken and made worse.

As a result, maybe today when I see something broken and I say, “I can’t fix that,” I’m actually being realistic.  Maybe.  But while what I posited above still rinks true, by giving up, by not trying, by saying, “I can’t,” I am putting limits on myself.  I am weaker for it.  Every time.

I also have to recognize that for all of the times I have failed on the Home Repair Circuit, there have been some success stories along the way.  I have fixed things.  I have even built things. 

But, by and large, I’m better at breaking things…)

Still, the truth is, with effort… We Can! 

With focus, we can.  With determination, we can.  (A wise man once said Impossible is an Illusion.”)

We can really do anything. 

But, more than this being about us, it is about the children we work with every day.  Knowing what we know, we should never, ever, ever put limits on kids.

Just because a child can’t do something now, doesn’t mean that that child won’t be able to do it in the future.

To illustrate this point, I shared the following true story on Back-to-School Night last week with the parents of my school:

There was a little boy growing up who liked football, but never played the game. Finally, as a high school freshman, he went out for the team.  At that school, only two kids tried out for quarterback.  He was one of the two kids.  He made the team, but only as the back-up.

The team had a poor season.  They went 0-8.  They didn’t win a game.  Actually, it’s worse than that.  The team didn’t score any touchdowns – the entire season.  None.  Zero.  The team wasn’t bad; it was legendarily bad.

The coach thought so little of that back-up quarterback that he didn’t play at all the entire season.  On a team that never won, and never even reached the end zone, the back-up quarterback was deemed not good enough to play.

When that kid went out for football his sophomore year, he made the team as the starter!  No, it wasn’t that he became miraculously great.  The truth is, the starting quarterback from the previous season decided not to play the next year.  He got the job by default.

After playing high school ball, and having some success, this kid went to the University of Michigan where he was the #7 quarterback on the depth chart well behind better players who were recruited by the school.  These players were all more talented, more polished, stronger, and faster than this kid.

Still, the player believed in himself – even if no one else did.  The world might have said, “You can’t,” but this kid was special, he didn’t believe it.  He thought, “I can!”

By his sophomore year, he leapfrogged some those other players and was competing for the starting job at quarterback.  He fell short though and appeared in only four games.

In his junior year, this player started every game and won 10 of the final 11 games, but, even with that, he was pushed for the starting job his senior year by a hotshot sophomore.  Instead of giving the job to the senior, the coach hedged his bet and rotated between the two quarterbacks for much of the season, until the player we have been discussing, played so phenomenally that he was made the starter.  It was a reluctant promotion.

In this player’s last game in college, he led Michigan to an impressive victory in the Orange Bowl.

The next step in this player’s journey was the NFL Draft…

Most people still said, “He can’t.”

The Michigan coach received only one call from an NFL team about his quarterback.

At the NFL Draft Combine (an event where the players demonstrate their skill and athleticism under the watchful eyes of scouts and executives), this player had the worse ever time in the 40-yard dash.  He didn’t stand out.  He left no lasting impression.

The pre-draft scouting report on this player said, among other things, that the player had a “poor build,” that he “lacks strength and mobility,” and that, because of his poor arm, he “can’t drive the ball downfield.”

In the NFL Draft, this player wasn’t chosen in the first round. 

He also wasn’t chosen in the second round.  Or the third, or fourth, or fifth rounds.

He was, eventually, chosen in the 6th round.  He was the 199th pick.  Six quarterbacks were chosen before him.

No one seemed to have any belief in this player.

Except for the coach of the New England Patriots.  This player went to that team and was the 4th quarterback on the depth chart.  He sat on the bench his entire first professional season.

In his second season, an injury to the starting quarterback gave him his chance.  He never looked back.

This player who no NFL team seemed to want, who seemed to lack all the requisite skills to succeed in professional football, who didn’t have his coach’s confidence even as a college senior, who didn’t even begin playing the game until he was in high school…is Tom Brady.

Tom Brady, the ONLY quarterback in NFL history to start seven Super Bowls.

Tom Brady, the ONLY quarterback in NFL history to win five Super Bowls.

Tom Brady, who ranks in the top four all time in passing yards, completions, touchdowns, and so many other areas, was the ultimate “I can’t” person.

They thought he couldn’t.  There were times along the way when he didn’t.

And, yet, he did.

Today, Tom Brady is considered by most experts as the Greatest Quarterback of All-Time.

Who says “Can’t”?

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