I Can’t, Said the Ant. But He’s a Brainless Arthropod. What’s Your Excuse?
When I was 2 or 3 years old, my mother took me on almost weekly trips to the library. While she checked out the latest mystery novels, I always went to the same shelf in the children’s section and pulled down the same worn, tea-colored book called “I Can’t, Said the Ant”. I must have made my mom check that book out 50 times. I had every word memorized, every illustration emblazoned on my brain, and every character befriended in my daydreams.
In case you missed out on this epic, the basic plot is that a teapot falls off the counter and breaks its spout, and if it isn’t put back up, it will die some horrible teapot death. All of the denizens of the kitchen—from the dinner bell to the pie to the pot—beg the (oddly, single) ant in the kitchen to get the teapot back to the counter and repair the broken spout.
Much rhyming ensues (“I can’t bear it, said the carrot” is one that still sticks with me), and ultimately, the ant, who initially, as you might guess from the title, doesn’t see how he can manage it, rounds up a work crew of insects and rescues the unlucky teapot from the floor.
Yes, this is going somewhere.
To this day, dozens of years later, I still think about that ant and his creative solutions to an impossible task when I think about the people I meet for whom “I can’t” is the final answer, and the much smaller group of people I meet for whom “I can’t” is just the beginning of the problem-solving, support-finding process.
Maybe someday I’ll figure out why 2 people in nearly the same situation and looking at the same set of facts can come to 2 different decisions about whether or not they “can” do something that’s important to them.
I’m not here to judge, but I can describe endless examples of folks who’ve said something along the lines of, “I REALLY REALLY want to do this [the membership, class, property purchase etc] and I know that it’s exactly what I need, but I CAN’T because [I can’t get off work this weekend, I don’t have the money, I can’t get a babysitter for 3 days, I already bought x, y, and z]”
…all while people who are in every measurable way LESS capable of affording it/taking the time off/etc are moving forward and doing it ANYWAY.
And, thanks to people I’ve encountered who simply wouldn’t let “I can’t” get in the way, I have come to realize that, no matter what the excuse, that’s all it is: an excuse. It’s never about the money or the time or the effort—because if it was, everyone in a difficult situation would react by not doing the hard thing.
To wit: I recently sold a property in Columbus to a father of 5 (with a 6th on the way) who was 40 years old and positively determined to buy his first house.
This property needed fairly major work—new furnace, wiring, flooring, paint, carpet etc—and was priced accordingly ($750 down, $300/mo for 7 years), but Don is a skilled handyperson who was going to have no problem either doing the work or making the payments.
What he WAS going to have a problem with was paying for the materials. His day job—working as an automotive technician—pays his rent (which dropped by $325/month when he moved) and supports the large family, but doesn’t leave any spare cash to buy the approximately $7,000 in materials he’ll need to put this house into good shape for his family.
But Don wasn’t going to take “I can’t” for an answer. He applied for the property, then went out and got a part-time job AT HOME DEPOT so that he could 1) get the employee discount on materials and 2) earn enough extra to pay for them.
He explained to me that he’d figured out that he could work there for 6 months, get everything he needed, and then quit, and that he and his wife had agreed that this was a necessary and desirable sacrifice to get a home that they could raise their kids in for the next 20 years.
WOW. Would you consider doing such a thing to get together the down payment for an investment property? Or the money to take that course you swear you want to take? Because some people do.
Another investor I know raised $18,000 delivering pizzas as a 2nd job to get the money to start buying notes (and has now made literally millions doing so).
And one of my own students sold everything in his house that he could spare on eBay to raise the money for mentoring (and now flips well over 40 properties a year).
And another quit his job because his boss wouldn’t give him Friday off to go to a class even though he’d asked for it weeks in advance (and has been full-time in real estate, shortsaling dozens of properties a year, since then).
And another attended my wholesaling bootcamp with her 11 year old in tow because she couldn’t find a babysitter for 4 days.
And another went, as an adult, hat in hand to her parents to get $2,500 to attend a wholesaling bootcamp that she positively couldn’t afford, and has literally flipped hundreds of properties making millions since then, and now supports those same parents.
Oh wait, that was me.
So WHY can’t you put together $500 for marketing again? And WHY can’t you go to that out-of-town seminar?
Bottom line is, you don’t really want to, or you’d find a way to do it, as thousands have before you.
We spend so much time telling ourselves that X is out of our reach because of money, or time, or hassle, or whatever that we don’t think outside the box about how to MAKE it happen. Or better yet, refuse to believe that there IS a box.
So ask yourself, what’s REALLY behind your excuses?
Are you worried that even if you spend the money on the marketing/property/class/membership, you can’t or won’t make it work for you?
Are you afraid that your family/friends/colleagues won’t support you in your efforts and sacrifices?
Or have you just not sat down and thought about what you could do/sell/cash in/change to get what you’re telling yourself—and me—that you want?
Ya know what? If one of those things is true, that’s absolutely fine. Just stop telling yourself that you can’t. It’s disempowering.
“I choose not to” is a better, more honest way of saying what’s really going on. “Part of me wants to but I’m not going to” invites you to explore why you’re not going to, rather than shut the door.
As for me, I’ve taken the words “I can’t” out of my vocabulary.
I may say “I don’t want to do what it takes” or “I don’t want the results that badly” or “I won’t” or “It’s not worth it to me”, but I try to be honest with myself about why I’m not taking on another project or making the time to travel to an event or expanding my business to include another strategy.
“I can’t” is not only untrue—it’s demoralizing and doesn’t let your creative thinking ability solve your problem.
So. Can you? Or Not?