Why do we say what we can’t do?

I can’t come because…

I can’t do x it’s not our policy…

I can’t do that, I haven’t got the resources…

I can’t, I’m busy…

Is it can’t or won’t?

If it is can’t, would ‘unable’ be better language?

And why announce it?

I saw a lovely LinkedIn post last week where someone was celebrating achieving a professional qualification.

It had taken them three years working evenings and weekends and they were feeling really proud.

Right in the middle of the comments was this: ‘I couldn’t do a ……. as I don’t have the time

Why even write that?

I think it’s that sneaky human need for significance. What do you think?

How about a couple of days focusing on what we can do.

Be Brilliant!


PS If we’re not connected on LinkedIn, we should be. Here’s my profile https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelheppell

And we always love your comments.  Please leave one below.



  1. August 6th 2020 by Elizabeth Chandler

    This is a very deep email made me think I should take that word out of my vocabulary.

  2. August 6th 2020 by Kirsty Thomas

    Thank you Michael. I really needed this right now

  3. August 6th 2020 by tim parker

    A very negative phrase which i was try and flip to give a positive outcome.

  4. August 6th 2020 by Gillian Greening

    I shared a post on FB about wonderful cream teas at our local restaurant. One ‘friend’ posted a comment saying what she couldn’t eat, didn’t like etc. I wanted to ask her why she’d bothered, all she had to do was either ignore it or like it! So thanks Michael, very timely.

  5. August 6th 2020 by Roger Wilkinson

    I always read ‘Can’t’ as ‘can try’…….an old school teacher comment that has stuck

  6. August 6th 2020 by Alison Higginson

    Great point. Have spent this morning looking at goal setting from my business and what I can achieve. From a business point of view, I try not to say unable either as it can be construed as unwilling. Going to try to have a can do attitude going forward.

  7. August 6th 2020 by Mike Rainey

    As always Michael, you concentrate on the positive. Thank you

  8. August 7th 2020 by Joe Watling

    Great email Michael,

    I am right in the middle of the prep for the house move and the amount of times I have encountered “I can’t do that” or “we don’t do that” when trying to get something booked or changed or done . . . I have always countered with “what can you do then?” or “Why not?”

    9 times out of 10, they either don’t know why they can’t do it or can’t because it’s complicated!? That’s why I love my job. It gives me the chance to ask why? At every opportunity like a toddler trying to learn about anything and everything 😃

  9. August 7th 2020 by Matthew Chandaengerwa

    Mike you used my name to illustrate your point so I could not resist commenting lol
    My many years in logistics have made me banish the words “i cant.” These two words block initiative and innovation,
    thanks for this thoughtful re-enforcement.

  10. August 7th 2020 by Laura Dawson

    Someone once said “there is no such thing as ‘can’t’, only ‘not willing to'”. This has stuck with me for years and it made me realised I was being dishonest when I said ‘I can’t’. Dishonest to myself and to others. I should have been braver, said it as it is and said it as ‘I don’t want to do this’ or ‘I am not willing to do it’. Maybe a harsh lesson, but do yourselves a favour and be honest with yourselves.

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