Can’t or Won’t

Handul of Cant's

Handful of Cant's

When I was in 3rd grade, my principal came up with a novel idea.  He had all of us bring in to school an aluminum can and set them on our desks.  “Can’t”, as he told us, was not to be used in any circumstances.  If we uttered the word “can’t” we would have to carry our can around with us for one hour.   He then went desk to desk attempting to coerce the word from our mouths.    Well the inevitable happened, the dreaded word crossed my lips. What happened after that I am not proud of, there were tears, short uncontrollable breaths,  basically a meltdown.  I am not sure if this was his intended result, but consequently it seared the memory into my mind.

Today, I run into many who say the word can’t.  It seems so effortless, so quick to be spoken.  From subcontracts to home owners, business owners to everyday people that word is overused.   Here is why I don’t like the word can’t.

1.  The ugly memory of 3rd grade. 🙂

2. Can’t creates a dead end mentally.

3.  More than naught the individual means won’t but isn’t brave enough to say it.

4. The word eliminates a future.

I love to live in the world of possibility.  It is on the edge of ability that we find our creative soul and our most inventive of minds.  Every great invention comes from ignoring the word can’t.  Think about the many advances that an ignorance of that word yielded fresh growth.

The same can be said for advancements in building.  How can we as builders and subs find ways to ignore the word can’t.  Can we push forward with new building techniques that save energy, material, and finances?  Can we give the client a spa experience? Can we have our cake and eat it too.  Perhaps perfection can be pushed aside for a bit and we can focus on ideas and techniques that will enable us to excel.  I want to bring the art back into the act of building, to see respect and hope built into youth who want to be framers, masons.  This can happen.

Here are a few things in the building industry where I want to see can’t disappear.

1.  That time line can’t be met.

2. We don’t have to look/be professional.

3. I can’t keep my jobsite clean.

4. I can’t build that way.

5. I can’t communicate  to my client, they won’t understand.

6. I can’t be on the cutting edge.

7. I can’t require an educated work force.

The can’t mentality has achieved its goal, its complacent nature has allowed the building profession to slide into the current state.  Without guidelines and a target, all companies slide.  Amazingly if clientele reinforce the behavior of hiring strictly on the basis of being cheap, I can see continued problems.  Perhaps if we hire based on professionalism, expediency, customer experience, that will be expected of all.  Instead of being a rarity only found among the most expensive, it will be found everywhere.

What are your ways of leaving can’t behind?



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3 Responses to Can’t or Won’t

  1. Gail Hyatt March 12, 2009 at 8:47 AM #

    This is the very reason why you are set apart from all the others. I’ve seen this, not only in your professional life, but also in your personal life. You live this philosophy. This is also what will enable you to survive in this economic environment. May we all live in the world of possibility.

  2. chriscrimmins March 13, 2009 at 10:43 AM #

    Thanks Gail. My dad used to say “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I think being tough is about seeing the good even if you are covered in mud while planning to get yourself cleaned up. Thanks for your very kind words.

  3. Ellen Weber March 15, 2009 at 9:50 PM #

    Hey Chris, what a great post and inspiration to all of us to jump on those cant’s and run with the cans. I find it interesting that you listed time at the top – and am amazed at how that skill of organizing time and tasks can pop a few more cans into a list.

    This was the perfect post for me to read at the start of a busy week, and I’ll be interested to see how you continue to toss the art back into building. Any specific or hot plans in that direction in the coming week?

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