Purpose Driven Leaders Say, “I Can’t”

Yesterday as I was getting ready for the new work week, I thought about the principles I will teach my children to live by.
If you know me, your eyebrows are likely raised, since I don’t have children. But as someone who wants children and has used visualization to prepare throughout life, it is an exercise I frequently engage in.
Today’s newsletter isn’t about the power of visualization, but on what I was visualizing.
As my mind wandered toward what I want my children to know, I thought of a trend that has arisen in entrepreneurial circles in recent years: Eliminating the word “can’t” from one’s vocabulary.
The rationalization behind banning the word “can’t” is the presumption that it is a word built on limited beliefs. Some claim that uttering it signals a willingness to accept less than one is capable of or a lack of desire to push through boundaries.
Envisioning my future parenting style, I imagined a home where my children are exposed to a belief that anything is possible and encouraged to pursue their wildest dreams. As I imagined this, my thoughts instantly jumped to, “Oh! And in my house, we will not say the word ‘can’t!’”
As this thought sprang into my mind, my visualization stopped dead in its imaginary tracks, because I realized the problem with eliminating the word “can’t” from your vocabulary.
The problem with eliminating the word “can’t” from your vocabulary is if you don’t say “I can’t” to some things, the purpose you were meant for will slip away.
Recently I was listening to NPR’s “Planet Money” podcast and the episode featured two economists discussing how to optimize dating. To explain this, they used a key economic principle called, “opportunity cost.” Briefly explained, “[o]pportunity costs represent the benefits an individual. . . misses out on when choosing one alternative over another.”
My visualization was stopped dead in its tracks, because I realized the opportunity cost of never saying “can’t”: To achieve one’s purpose, “can’t” must be frequently said.
To attain an entrepreneurial purpose, one needs three things: an idea, time and resources. Without saying “I can’t” to certain matters, an entrepreneurial purpose will never take off.
To make an entrepreneurial purpose a reality, one must say, “I can’t” to:

  • Social invitations with those who doubt your dream or hold negative mindsets
  • Giving time to endeavors not directly related to your purpose
  • Spending money on frivolous items that drain your seed funding

When faced with these opportunities, an emerging entrepreneur must evaluate them from the lens of opportunity cost.

  • When you say “yes” to spending time with negative minded people who doubt your dream, you are saying “no” to the benefit of spending time with people who will pour into and provide direction to achieving your dream.
  • When you say “yes” to endeavors not directly related to your dream, are saying “no” to precious time spent building your enterprise.
  • When you say “yes” to purchasing frivolous items, you are saying “no” to investing in your brand.

The key to being a purpose driven person isn’t eliminating the word “can’t” from your vocabulary. Rather, it is recognizing what you CAN’T DO if you are truly going to get to where you want to be. It is about fully assessing your priorities, time and resources and eliminating any encounter, action or expenditure not in alignment with the path you must travel to attain your purpose.
This week, grab a journal and document what you do each day for three days. Write down who you spend your time with, how you spend it and how much money you spend. Over the weekend, review how you have spent your energy, time and resources. Do your expenditures line up with your identified purpose? If they don’t, what can’t you do next week? Engage in this practice weekly until you have pared down your life to a point where you know each moment is spent purposefully.

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