Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The "I Can't" Voice

An interesting moment in class today. After we raced through a rollicking version of Irish Polka on the xylophones, one of the students (these are teachers between 20 and 60 years old) was lamenting to a classmate that she couldn’t get it and needed the written music. I happened in on the conversation and told her that she could do it without any written music. “No, I can’t!” “Yes, you can!” “No, I really can’t!” “Yes, I know you can!” Back and forth we went and then I took over to the xylophone and said, “Let’s go.”

We sat down, she showed me what she knew, I helped her by going slower and giving her my complete one-on-one attention and sure enough, after two minutes, she said, “I’m sorry.”

“Who should you apologize to? “ I asked.

“Myself,” she said.

“That’s exactly right. Tell yourself that you’re sorry you listened to that pesky “I can’t” voice when you should have know that indeed you can. Don’t apologize to me! It’s my job to help and that job begins with confidence that you can and just need to find the right way into the music that works for the way you’re put together. And it’s my job to help you find it. So thank you for giving me the opportunity to help you. “

After the break, I shared the story with the whole group and began by asking, “Who here has an
I can’t” voice that talks to them? (Hands all around.) How do you live with it? May I suggest just adding one short word? Yet. I can’t yet. These days, this is called Growth Mindset and I highly recommend it. We all have a thousand things we can’t do and we know it. And some of it we’re absolutely fine with. I know I can’t fix my car, but I’m very happy to pay a mechanic to do it and it doesn’t bother me.

But if we find ourselves upset or disappointed or frustrated that we can’t do a particular thing, it means that we actually want to do it and need to do it. So the next step is to get to work and believe me, that “I can’t” voice is not a good companion for that journey. I suggest putting that away in a box somewhere and shipping it to some distant place.

In fact, why don’t we all put it in an enormous container and send it to the President and every single one of his appointees. Because here is a group of people that think they can and they really can’t, have no right or reason to be in the positions of power they’re in and have no idea how to do their job in any kind of functional way that actually helps people and yet, they think they got it and get it and deserve it. The only think worse than having a pesky “I can’t” voice is having no “I can’t” voice when you really deserve one.

I have 15 assignments to grade and I’d rather go swimming and it’s a lot of work and I hear the whisper of my “I can’t!” voice and am tempted to listen to it! Should I?

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