Week 7 – The 5 “I Can’ts” Successful People Say


“No one can  go to the highest level and remain a generalist.”  – John C. Maxwell

Despite what you may have heard, there actually IS a time and place to say, “I can’t.” The truth is, it is not actually possible to do everything.  As soon as we choose one thing, we give up something else. For example, if I wear my red dress, I can’t wear the blue one at the same time. I can’t be at the grocery store and the book store at the same time. If I’m writing my next blog article, I can’t be doing something fun at the same time….Oh, wait, that last example doesn’t work. Writing my blog is TOTALLY fun!!  I can’t be on Facebook and writing my article at the same time. OK, that works.

The point is, life often forces us to make a choice.  What matters is that in the process of choosing, we choose what will take us to where we want to go. “Can’t” can sometimes play a role in success!

Below are the 5 “Can’ts” successful people adopt.

New Picture (12)

1. I can’t know everyone—I love people. I love connecting with people and hearing their stories. That being said, there are just simply not enough hours in the day to connect with everyone. Relationships require time and attention—that is as true of our friendships and business relationships as it is of our family ones. It’s simply impossible to know everyone. Successful people don’t try to know everyone, however they do choose a strong inner circle of friends that provide tremendous support personally and professionally. They also work to provide that same quality support to others. Quality support of others means focusing on a few select relationships. You don’t have to know everyone. However, do your best to create an inner circle of people who make life’s journey more pleasant.

2. I can’t do everything—have you ever heard that old adage, “if you try to do everything you end up doing nothing?” Well, it’s true. There are only a few exceptional opportunities in life. The choice is often between creating excellence in a few exceptional opportunities, or good performance in many mediocre opportunities. Success (however you define it) often requires us to choose excellence in a few things. Perhaps you’ve also heard about the 80-20 rule. This is the rule that states 20% of our options provide 80% of our results. In sales, 20% of our clients usually provide 80% of our income. Most people make the mistake of putting 80% of their energy into the 80% that doesn’t matter.  Since you can’t do everything, make sure 80% of your time is spent on the 20% of the things that will bring 80% of your results!

3. I can’t go everywhere—As noted earlier in the article, we can’t be two places at the same time. We have to choose. I don’t know about you, but I am invited to upwards of 5 networking, workshops or social events PER DAY!  In addition to that, I have clients, events I am running, friends, family, a commitment to my health and hobbies/interests. It is impossible to go to every event to which I am invited. Unfortunately, we have to choose. And sometimes we have to choose between 2 or 3 really interesting options! Successful people don’t try to do everything. But they DO pick activities that feed them. Sometimes they might pick an activity that feeds a business goal, other times they might choose an activity because it feeds and rejuvenates their soul. Whatever you choose, make sure it gives you the highest return—whether its business or rejuvenation, you can only be in one place at a time.

4. I can’t know everything—We live in an information age that changes at a rapid pace. It is impossible to know everything all of the time. As Maxwell says in the quote above, “No one ever reaches the highest level being a generalist.” At some point, we have to specialize. We have to focus and hone what we know. A person who is a “Jack-of-all-trades” never becomes a Master at anything. Success requires mastery. It requires us to go a mile deep and only an inch wide. In other words, to know a lot about a few things. Stop trying to know everything. Focus on what you want to be known for and “know” everything you can about that!

5. I can’t be well-rounded—Well rounded is over rated. It also rarely leads to success. Successful people are focused, sometimes even obsessive about the thing they do. There is a wonderful quote by Orville Redenbacher (my favorite popcorn, by the way) Orville says, “Do only one thing, and do it better than anyone else.”  Stop trying to be well rounded. Pick your one thing and become a master of it.


This week’s success tip is: Start using the above I can’ts! Create streamlined focus in your life. Start exercising the law of CAN’T. Stop pressuring yourself to be all things in all areas. Choose the things that give you the biggest return (mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, or financially) and say “I can’t” to the rest.


  1. As you go through your week, stay on guard for all the ways you are trying to say “I can” to the above “can’ts”.
  2. Pick one thing each day and apply one of the “I can’ts” to that thing.
  3.  Notice what happens and opens up when you stop trying to do everything and start being selective.
  4. At the end of the day, take out your success log and jot down what you experience when you said, “I can’t”.
  5. At the end of the week, use the weekly review process outlined in the About tab to review your progress.


Adapted from How Successful People Think, by John C. Maxwell.


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