If you’re a fan of the TV series “Lost”, you already know what the title of this post is from. It was one of my favorite “Lost” moments ever as it really resonated with me. In the scene, one of the main cast members on the show (John Locke, who was crippled) was being told he could not do something he was asking to do. He responded back in the scene with the line “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”. At first glance, it was a frustrated man who was paralyzed from the waist down tired of people telling him what he could physically not do. As we all know with “Lost”, the first message was never usually the final message. Dig deeper and throughout the entire life of the show “Lost” there were many moments that John, and others, were told they could not do something and the producers continued to remind viewers of the line “Don’t tell me what I can’t do”.
Step away from the TV show for a second with me and let’s relate this line to our own lives. Never in the history of human civilization has there been one person who was never told at what time or another that they cannot do something. I have been told it, you have been told it, and everyone we have ever known has been told it. Some people have caved into the relentless band of people who have over and over told them they cannot do something. Meanwhile, some people have found ways to ignore or better yet, use this doubt of others as a motivation and driving force to continue their work. CEO’s, managers, comedians, athletes, doctors, blue collar workers, inventors, scientist, and for those religious folks, even Jesus, has been told that he could not do something. Yet, what put them in the positions I just listed was the ability they had to not allow the doubters to stop them in their pursuits or dreams.
I once worked for a company where my job title was “office admin”. It was a relatively small company, an office of around 25 people or so. This company was in the business of sales, and I was hired to support them by processing the sales that came in, verifying said sales, and maintaining spreadsheets that tracked the sales. Of course doing light office work in addition to these duties was expected. Being there less than a year I took on more and more responsibilities as any ambitious person would do. There came a point when the sales were slow when the owner had a manager tell me to do sales as well as my original job responsibilities. I let the manager know that I was not hired to do sales and therefore I would not. I hated sales, never enjoyed it enough to try hard and be good at it and, so I had no interest in doing it at this company. Not long after I was advised if I did not do sales each day like they requested that I would be fired. Doesn’t sound like a very fair or smart decision for a CEO of a company to do, but fine, your company, and your rules. As promised, I was brought in a day or two later and told by a manager that I was being fired due to not complying with their demand of me doing sales. After going back and forth with the manager explaining I have done everything I have been asked to do, even outside of my original job duties, that I think this is ridiculous and the company will never succeed with such poor decision makers in charge. Mind you, in my interview with the company, I specifically asked if I would have to do sales and I was told no, unless you want to make extra money. As we were leaving the room that I was just fired in, the manager says to me “What are you going to do now?”. I told him I would be fine, failure is not an option for me, I have a family to provide for and I would never jeopardize that. His parting words were ones that would stick with me for the rest of my life and continue to be used as motivation to this day. As we shook hands, he says “You will NEVER find a job where you don’t have to do stuff you don’t want to do. EVERY job you have you will have to kiss someone’s ass and do what they tell you to do. I am much older and been through more than you, so you can’t dispute me on this fact.”
It would be cool to add here that I responded back to him with “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” in the infamous words of John Locke, but I didn’t. Instead I told him, “I’m sorry that you believe that, and feel you have to live your life with that mentality”. Not half as badass as John Locke would have done it, but it was enough. I honestly felt bad for him. First, he didn’t want to fire me, his hand was forced to do this by someone who didn’t have the heart to do it themselves. Second, he really believed what he had told me about not having a choice and that’s sad to me. But I vowed to never become the same man he did or have the same mentality as he did. It’s a losers mindset, and words of a man defeated. A man, who like many others, has likely been crushed over and over by the words “you can’t do it”. People with the same train of thought as the manager who fired me that day will read this and think its corny and just another one of those motivational talks that go nowhere. I promise you, it’s not. This is real. It works.
When we were kids, people always told us we could do and be whatever we wanted. We believed them, between their words and imagination, it made life so fun and the possibilities endless. As adults, we are told the opposite. Constantly being told we cannot do something and at the same time losing the imagination that made life so great. Today is a new day, and every day that follows, the same. Take advantage of each day and better yourself and your environment around you.
You can do what you want to do, that’s the beauty of life. Don’t ever let anyone take that from you.