This was my second speech in the ACB track. Time allotted was 10-12 minutes. Some of the portions of the speech were in dialogue format with involvement from the audience.
“I would if I could, but I can’t so I won’t”; I read this quote on a poster in my friend’s living room and realized how far pessimism has penetrated our four walls. Friends, how many times have we heard our friends telling us – ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I don’t think it is my cup of tea’, ‘I guess this is a near impossible task’.
Let me do a reality check – How many of us say these or similar statements to ourselves every now and then? And now another one – How many of you know that these statements aren’t really true! Today, I am here to strengthen your belief in the later statement. I am here to convince you to say ‘I can!’ and I am confident that ‘I can!’
Starting with a small exercise –
Sir, could you please spell Impossible? Now, can you break the first two alphabets and pronounce it – I M Possible. Another one – Can you eat an elephant? Yes, you just have to take smaller bites.
Before going any further, I wish to get my audience’s opinion on why do they think this can’t do attitude overpowering our rationality and courage to say – I can!
According to Psychology Today, by the time a child reaches the age of 18, the concept of “No, you can’t!” has been reinforced 187,000 times, whereas the concept of “Yes, you can!” has been reinforced only about 25 – 30 times. With this in mind, is it any wonder why so many people grow up to be less than successful? Today’s society ‘programs’ us this way. We simply do not “believe” we can win. We are made to believe that we can’t win. This sort of societal upbringing has led us to believe that saying ‘can do’ is not important, following ‘you can’t’ is! However there have been sole voices every now and then in the history on time axis and every here and there geographically which have tried to make us think otherwise. One of these voices is that of Dr. William W. Purkey, Author and Professor of Educational Psychology at University of South Florida
“I can is more important than IQ.”
To back up this statement and my belief, I would want to introduce you to one Mr. John Roebling. In 1883, this man, a creative engineer was inspired by an idea to build a spectacular bridge connecting New York with the Long Island. However bridge building experts throughout the world thought that this was an impossible feat and told Roebling to forget the idea. It just could not be done. It was not practical. It had never been done before. Now what has been done before is not and should not be the sole inspiration for future. In the words of Howard Roark, my fictional idol, an integral architect – Why should we be building Copies in steel and concrete of copies in plaster of copies in marble of copies in wood? Roebling seemed to go by the same ideals. Roebling could not ignore the vision he had in his mind of this bridge. He thought about it all the time and he knew deep in his heart that it could be done. After much persuasion he convinced his son Washington, an upcoming engineer, that the bridge in fact could be built. The father and son developed concepts of how it could be accomplished and how the obstacles could be overcome. With great excitement and inspiration, and the headedness of a wild challenge before them, they hired their crew and began to build their dream bridge. The project started well, but when it was only a few months underway, a tragic accident on the site took the life of John Roebling. Washington was injured and left with a certain amount of brain damage, which resulted in him not being able to walk or talk or even move.
‘We told them so.’
‘Crazy men and their crazy dreams.’
‘It`s foolish to chase wild visions.’
Everyone had a negative comment to make and felt that the project should be scrapped since the Roeblings were the only ones who knew how the bridge could be built. In spite of his handicap Washington was never discouraged and still had a burning desire to complete the bridge and his mind was still as sharp as ever. He tried to inspire and pass on his enthusiasm to some of his friends, but they were too daunted by the task. As he lay on his bed in his hospital room, with the sunlight streaming through the windows, a gentle breeze blew the flimsy white curtains apart and he was able to see the sky and the tops of the trees outside for just a moment. It seemed that there was a message for him not to give up. Suddenly an idea hit him. All he could do was move one finger and he decided to make the best use of it. By moving this, he slowly developed a code of communication with his wife. He touched his wife’s arm with that finger, indicating to her that he wanted her to call the engineers again. Then he used the same method of tapping her arm to tell the engineers what to do. It seemed foolish but the project was under way again. For 13 years Washington tapped out his instructions with his finger on his wife’s arm, until the bridge was finally completed. Today the spectacular Brooklyn Bridge stands in all its glory as a tribute to the triumph of one man’s indomitable spirit and his determination not to be defeated by circumstances.
Let me quote my hero again for an example further back in history. ‘Thousands of years ago the first man discovered how to make fire. He was probably burned at the stake where he had taught his brothers to light, but he left them a gift they had not conceived of, and he lifted darkness off the earth. Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision. The great creators, the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors, stood alone against the men of their time. Every new thought was opposed. Every new invention was denounced. But the men of un-borrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered, and they paid – but they won.’
Were they different from all of us? No, they just did things differently! They missed the classes that taught everyone else about their limitations. Each one of them had said, – ‘I can!’ Ellen Mikesel, real estate guru has said, ‘There are only two choices; make progress or make excuses.’ These men seemed to have taken the former one!
There are a zillion examples to quote:
Sudha Chandran earned fame as a dancer with a wooden leg.
W. Mitchell lived his dreams, in spite of physical handicap.
Beethoven, the world renowned musician, was born deaf.
Stephen Hawking is one of the world’s most respected orators and authors even with his neuro-muscular dystrophy, which has left him almost completely paralyzed and unable to speak.
Mutthiah Muralidharan, first wrist-spinning off-spinner in the cricket history, has a handicap in his wrist.
When with all their disabilities, they have left a mark because they could and they can, Can we not? Henry Ford, Founder Ford Motor Co. had said, ‘Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.’ So, let us be right in positive, friends, I can!
Yes we can!