What are You Unable to Do?

Let’s pretend this is one of those blogs that asks for reader interaction. Well, it’s not even pretending today because with this post I am asking just that. And here’s the ask: Think of something you can’t do. Please stop reading; don’t continue reading until you’ve thought of something you’re unable to accomplish. Even better if you write it down! Something small or “insignificant” is fine, but I’d encourage you to pick something you can’t do that you’re really bothered about.

There are many things I can’t do. I can’t reach things on high shelves or far away. I am unable to play ball. I can’t write or type. I can’t crack open and eat a half dozen crabs at a late summer gathering with friends. Tying shoes. I certainly can’t feed / clean myself, let alone drive a car! Errr wait… that’s what many people who don’t know me think I can’t do.

My list, for real… First, I can’t seem to gain muscle mass, or weight in general. Second, I can’t get out of my own head long enough to see my own worth. Third, I can’t play piano.

So what’s yours? You wrote it down, right? Is it a personal goal like losing <arbitrary number of> pounds or letting your natural hair color come back? Maybe it’s having that difficult conversation with someone. Is it a trade or piece of knowledge such as doing basic maintenance on your car? Or is it a craft or skill like playing violin?

What makes you unable to do that particular thing? For me, first I can’t deal with time required to bulk up with proper exercise on a consistent basis and I don’t like the feeling of being full so eating a ton is uncomfortable. Second, I’ve been in therapy for a year and a half learning so much about why I get stuck in my own head. It’s a process to figure out what makes me tick and recognizing patterns and trends in my life that contribute to this unfortunate mental state. While I still often find myself stuck in my own head, I have learned a few ways to break the routine and continue to find more ways. Third, I guess I’d have to learn how to read music (maybe) and there’s that whole thing where I’m missing a few fingers and have a limited reach. But there was that dude who re-thought how to compose music for and play piano after losing use of an entire arm.

please enjoy this musical intermission…

What were we saying about not being able to play violin?

Seriously, go watch it. At least listen to the first song and a bit of her first talk. (Come on – you’re working from home anyway, right?)

Gaelynn has what many would consider a “severe” disability. She broke 30-40 bones in utero, and they healed with major contractures and fused bones. But check out her incredible artistic ability. She plays a violin like a cello and creates an amazingly beautiful, folksy tune. Besides adapting the instrument itself to suit her own needs, she uses a looping pedal to play nearly all of the parts of her works herself. Her sound is amazingly unique, and that’s a great thing!

Now, look at the ability you think you can’t do. Look at the reasons you can’t do it. Is it really that you can’t do it, or that you don’t want to do it? Looking at mine, it’s all really stuff that I don’t want to do, or things I am working diligently to try to change, with the help of some tools or assistance. Just like you’d need a ladder to clean the gutters, is there maybe something you could do that would assist, such as a looping pedal for Gaelynn? One of my assists was seeking out a professional counselor to help me get out of my head. Protein shakes are another assist to help build muscle mass.

You might require different tools or assists, but also realize that it might take you longer to accomplish than it would take others. The end result might be somewhat different than you expected, but probably not worse. (The discussion between ability and talent can come later.) Continuing to look at the music example, there’s no rule I am aware of dictating how quickly something must be done; it’s art!

We might think that the use of tools or different equipment is somehow cheating… but when others apply their ingenuity to their craft they’re thought of as genius, aren’t they? And for the issue of achieving results that are different from what’s expected I would say, “Isn’t that the point?” Nobody’s talking about the artist who does something just as well as someone else unless it’s Arnel Pineda replacing Steve Perry in Journey. People are looking for the different ways of performing. Those are the memorable performances! So be brave and explore the creation that is uniquely yours. Be bold and embrace the unique ways others approach tasks and goals.

It’s all about the approach. Think of a new approach to those things you “can’t” do and look at it with new perspective. You don’t have to do it like everyone else; in fact, it’s better if you do it differently because that’s what’s going to bring true meaning to the accomplishment.

In watching Gaelynn play and hear her talk about her approach to every day life as well as her musical gift, I realize that nearly all of the things I think I can’t do are really just things I don’t want to spend time trying to figure out how to do. And that’s fine, too. My way of looking at it is to compare the investment to the reward. Is this something I will see a return of investment on, or just a passing thought or something to do? Maybe try to apply the same perspective to your own perceived limitations. What do you have to gain from doing it? What would you have to put into it? What do you have to lose by not trying? Is there a net gain from all of those answers?

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