Can’t Lives on Won’t Street
When I moved into my first classroom, the teacher who was moving out was taking his things off the wall. When he came to a poster that said: Can’t Lives on Won’t Street, he looked at me and said, “I’m going to leave this one up for you; being the rookie teacher you’ll need all the help you can get.”
I thanked him, and said I wasn’t sure what it meant or how it would help. He replied that after a few weeks around thirteen and fourteen year olds, I would understand. Truer words were never spoken. The list of things my students claimed they couldn’t do was endless:
I can’t do the homework.
I can’t write an essay.
I can’t get to class on time.
I can’t read the whole book, and on and on and on.
Nike brand shoes were just getting popular around then, as was their advertising slogan – Just Do It! I bought the biggest Nike poster I could find and put it on the wall under the Can’t Lives on Won’t Street poster. When students started giving me their pitiful excuses I would simply point to the two posters. End of discussion.
I wanted my students to understand that there is a critical difference between can’t and won’t. We believe that we aren’t able to do the task, and the other implies that it is our choice not to do it. When we use the word ‘can’t’, we are often only fooling ourselves because in most cases ‘can’t’ is a lie. There are, of course, appropriate uses for the word, such as saying we can’t sprout wings and fly.
We limit ourselves, as did the students, by thinking that things can’t be done. It’s the one who doesn’t know it can’t be done who does it. If we think we can’t do something, we can’t. But if we think we can, we may be surprised to discover how easily we did it. Henry Ford once said: “Think you can, think you can’t; either way, you’ll be right.”
When we convince ourselves that we can’t do certain things we may just not be confronting our true feelings. ‘Can’t’ is always the easy way out. Instead try substituting the word ‘won’t’ in place of ‘can’t’, or even ‘I don’t want to’ in its place to make the statement ring with more honesty. We can try to shape our thought processes and virtually guarantee our success with just the tiniest little shifts. Attitude and perception are everything.
Can’t Lives on Won’t Street flashes across my mind on certain mornings when I think I just can’t get up for meditation. I might not want to get out of my warm and cozy bed, but of course I can.
Baba Ji has said that he does not understand the notion of ‘I can’t do my meditation,’ but that he does understand, ‘I won’t do my meditation.’ Our Master would never have initiated us if we could not do it.