The big lie that stifles your greatness

by Craig McBreen · 28 comments · Breaking out

Why are you holding yourself back?

Really. If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you would like to make a small dent in this world of ours. I also have a hunch you think you could improve in some way.

My father always said, “When You Assume, You Make an Ass of U and Me.” Well, call me an ass if you want (I’ve been called worse), but there are some untruths that might be torpedoing your efforts. And there is one vile untruth that you need to stop telling yourself right about now.

Think about how often you’ve said, “I can’t.”

And this statement translates to the crap we tell ourselves over and over and over. “It’s too hard.” “I’m not smart enough.” “I’m not a people person.” “I suck at writing.” “I’m not creative.”

False beliefs carved into our brains and taken as gospel.

Layers of almost undetectable little fibs, internalized, but camouflaged by years of conditioning. Bogus and distorted stories that hold us back from our true potential. And they usually translate to: “I can’t.”

Beliefs that keep you from making that one big change because years ago someone told you it was stupid or you weren’t capable.

You held on to that and 10,000 other layers of bullshit. Assumptions that are toxic and stifling.

Terminate the self-limiting “I can’t” and change it to “I can.” And stop assuming that certain “super-smart” people know something “super-special” that you’re not privy to. Or that others are just better than you. Or more creative. Stop!

For much of my life I’ve felt like I was on the outside looking in. A refugee without a clue and a stranger who could never corral these magical skills. I believed there was some inside track I was missing out on and I would never catch up.

But guess what? This mindset is pretty damn common, it just took me a while to realize this and it’s compounded by repeating, “I can’t.” So that phrase just needs to go away.

We’ve all heard stories of successful people who are deeply insecure. No matter how confident they appear, they kinda make it up as they go. And like us, they sometimes feel as if they’re on the outermost layer, but they believed in themselves enough to push through that whopper of a self-limiting statement.

If you want to flourish, dial down the fear and the belief that others are so “in the know” and they can while you can’t. Simply rip into the work, and be okay with not knowing everything.

And part of letting go of “I can’t” means embracing discomfort. But guess what? Discomfort doesn’t suck.

Well being stuck on the tarmac for seven hours straight really, truly sucks (JetBlue anyone?). I’m not talking about that kind of discomfort though. It’s more about this pernicious belief that comfort is the goal of modern life. Granted, this is a First World issue, but a little blood, sweat and tears does bring a bit more meaning to life.

Fighting dispassion is a daily struggle, but don’t let passivity rule your life. You know a quick ticket to nowhere? Letting comfort seep in and dominate, which is really easy to do with the “I can’t” excuse.

So, embrace discomfort now, ’cause comfort does hinder greatness. Start today.

The more you let “I can’t” rule, the less risks you take, the less creative you are, and the more insular your little world becomes. And you then have layers of barriers between you and those great accomplishments on the other end.

Self-limiting statements. Lies. Assumptions based on “I can’t.” They’re insidious, vile and unruly creatures and it’s time to call the exterminator, because they will suck the life right out of you.

Don’t let them erode your greatness.

Ditch the self-limiting statements. Jump in and stop playing outsider. And do something today to give discomfort a big, fat, nasty old kick in the chops. Figure out what matters.

Stop holding yourself back. You can.

Hit me up with some wisdom or let me know what you think in the comments below.

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Jane McKay October 25, 2012 at 5:43 am

Very well said Craig! 2012 has been my year of discomfort and great risk. I don’t know whether becoming a parent nearly 2 years ago or just taking that great leap into the unknown has made me realise the capacity I have for, well, DOING. I can do so much more than I used to; more than sitting at a desk 9-5, more than sitting in front of the TV from 6-9, more than sleeping from 9-6. I can do so much more in so little time (and at times on so little sleep). People keep telling me “You can’t do all that, you’re doing too much and you’ll burn yourself out”. Well I have more energy than ever and I’ve kept this pace up for a year now and you know what I tell them? Watch me. I can and I will and I AM!


Craig McBreen October 25, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Hi Jane,

Thanks! Becoming a parent will certainly motivate you. If it wasn’t for my first son coming along when he did, I probably never would have went into business for myself.

Glad you are DOING! It is amazing how much you can fit in when you cut out the crap, huh? I do need my sleep though.

If you’re doing something you’re excited about and have a mission, well the energy is always there.

You go! And thanks for stopping in.


Josh October 25, 2012 at 7:22 am

Build a tribe of fans and supporters. Practice what you preach and preach what you practice.


Not hooey or hoopla, just a simple way to provide support for yourself and to teach yourself the discipline it takes to create to move from point a to point b.
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Craig McBreen October 25, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Hi Josh,

Working on that for sure!

I’m a big fan of practicing what you preach and not too much hooey or hoopla here.

I’ve found lot of supporters and am grateful for that.



Carolyn @ Wonder of Tech October 25, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Hi Craig, My girls know that “can’t” is a four letter word that is banned at our house. Any time they utter that forbidden word, I insist that they show me that they are wrong.

My favorite part of your article: “If you want to flourish, dial down the fear and the belief that others are so “in the know.” and they can while you can’t. Simply rip into the work, and be okay with not knowing everything.” So true.

You’re right, seeing people who are insecure is heartbreaking. You know that all they have to do is believe in themselves and rip into the work and it will all be okay.

Thanks for the inspiration, Craig!
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Craig McBreen October 25, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Hi Carolyn,

Good for you! It’s great to teach your kids this stuff from an early age. I like that it’s a forbidden word in your house.

Seeing people who are insecure IS heartbreaking, and I should know, I was one of them ;) Hopefully this will motivate a peep or two to get off the comfy couch of life and get busy.



Jackie October 25, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Beautifully Stated!

Hows that old saying go Craig?…whether you can, or whether you can’t, either way you’re probably right.

I C.A.N. I Cease At Nothing!
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Craig McBreen October 25, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Hi Jackie,

Thank you!

And it is all about perspective.

I know you don’t settle. Cheers! :)


Ralph October 25, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Wow. Just wow.

Doing is a big deal. I now know what it’s like to have an idea that no one in my industry will try not because it’s not possible but because it is a huge risk and a cap ton of work.

I like the idea of dreaming the impossible dream.
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Craig McBreen October 25, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Hi Ralph,

Glad you enjoyed!

Keep on dreaming and yes, the “crap ton of work” thing is usually when people lose their motivation. Heck it happens in the blogosphere every day.

“I like the idea of dreaming the impossible dream.”
–So. Do. I. !!


Mary Stephenson October 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm

HI Craig

The biggie is getting out of our comfort zone. Second to “I can’t” is “I will try”. It is lame for “I think I will probably fail, so don’t be surprised if I do.”

Okay today is my big day for standing up for my rights, been working on this for a month and it is totally out of my comfort zone. But I imagine only success as I am well prepared. Every time these little negative thoughts try to creep in I change the subject in my brain, so far so good. Been given a lot of support from a few people and that helps. Knowing I am right about something is a conformation for success.

It is always easier to give up than to put the work in to become successful. Maybe when a person is in a place in their life that giving up would be scarier than pushing forward with fear is when they finally see the no option phase. Or that the consequences for no action is larger than they want to give up.

Great motivator post today.

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Craig McBreen October 25, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Hi Mary,

That is a biggie. Was the biggest for me. And you’re right, “I will try” IS another way of saying “I’ll probably fail” or “I have no real intention of doing that.”

Glad you are making a stand. The negative thoughts always do creep in, but wrangling that old lizard brain is a daily challenge. The thoughts are always there, just need to learn to press “ignore” and it gets better and better as you go.

It’s way easier to give up for sure. I think most often it’s about tackling the small problems, incrementally. Facing up to little things adds up. Those problems don’t become larger and you gain strength as you go.

Thanks and glad you stopped in, Mary!


Tim Bonner October 25, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Hey Craig

I’ve slowed down a bit recently, so that I can be more focused on what I’m doing and keep myself from thinking ‘I can’t’. Family life also overrides anything else I want to do.

It’s helped me feel more creative in my blog and given me the space to think about other things I’d like to do.

Loving the positivity of your message Craig!
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Craig McBreen October 25, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Hi Tim,

Good for you. Family life is way more important than any of this business, and slowing down and taking a bit of a step back to regain focus … always a good thing in my book.

Glad you’ve been able to give your self some space for creative thought. It’s fun the imagine the possibilities, then set a plan and act. Baby steps, right?

Thanks, Sir!


Joe October 25, 2012 at 8:50 pm

I have a teenager, and an almost teenager. So, discomfort right now is part of the gig. :) Seriously though, great post! I’m always working on doing more interesting things with life. Fear isn’t my current issue, I’m thinking it’s more a matter of focus. Once I get that licked…
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Craig McBreen October 25, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Hi Joe,

Me too … ;) and oh man, I don’t even know where to begin. Discomfort is a HUGE part of that gig, fo sho.

Thanks! Sounds like you’re a man on a mission, Joe. Good thing. Hope you regain that focus and make some progress.

Appreciate you coming by today!


Sheila Bergquist October 26, 2012 at 8:48 am

When I first started trying to make money on the Internet, I found copy writing sites and thought…you guessed it…”I can’t do that.” I had a tiny bit of faith in my writing skills, but just couldn’t believe people would pay me to write for them. I finally thought, “what the h*&l, just try it…all they can do is say no, and so what? At least you’ll know if this is a possibility.” I was shocked (pleasantly so!) and surprised that I succeeded right off the bat. So, if you never even try, you will miss so much.
I love this article and hope that more people will heed your advice.
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Craig McBreen October 27, 2012 at 12:41 am

Hi Sheila,

Now, that’s what I’m talkin’ about :)

Yeah, sometimes all it takes is that tiny bit of faith to push you through and lead to great opportunities. All they can say is “no” correcto, and “so what?” I like that attitude.

Glad you liked it and thanks so much for adding your story to the mix.

Have a great weekend!


Jeevan Jacob John October 26, 2012 at 11:25 pm

My motto is to challenge myself and my ideals (Don’t care if I strongly believe in it, but I will question it!).

Because that lets out my creative mind – find the answers I need (Rather than what I want!)

I can’t! And I can! (It is equally important to know our limits, right? But, we must use that knowledge to help us! Go beyond and improve upon our limits :D Redefine them!)

We all have the capacity to do great things, but our life experiences, the people around us and the situations we face “shape” us into something we may not wish to be (I won’t say that we should resist that change, instead adapt it and evolve).

I recently saw a video in which a scientist talks about how people who were in solitary confinement for a long time boosted their abilities with thinking (depends on their occupation etc, for instance a person who was a wood cutter, I believe, built a house inside his mind and then when we got out built that house for real!).

(The scientist also points out the reason – when you are in solitary confinement, you have nothing to do, but think! And over time, you get better at it!).

Anyways, great post, Craig!


Craig McBreen October 27, 2012 at 12:47 am

Hi Jeevan,

Nice motto to have and glad you’re challenging yourself. You grow intellectually and creatively and I say the sky’s the limit.

And yes, we must know our limits, but how are we going to know them without testing? But you’re right, we all have that capacity.

That’s an amazing story. Can you send me a link to the video? I wouldn’t want to be in solitary confinement, but do know solitude is great for creativity. Wrote a post about it way back when :)

Thanks so much and love your comments, as usual. Have a good one!


Jeevan Jacob John October 27, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Yup, we can’t know the limits without experimentation!

Yeah, sure. Here is the video link:

By the way, it wasn’t a woodcutter (it was an admiral named shoemaker – the first time I saw the video, I didn’t hear admiral :D; and when I wrote the comment, I remember the shoemaker as a woodcutter).


Craig McBreen October 27, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Good play on words there ;) Thanks, I’ll take a look!


Ryan Hanley October 27, 2012 at 12:32 am


Discomfort forces us to make the change that we need to be successful.

Love that idea. Love the thoughts…

Thanks dude

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Craig McBreen October 27, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Hi Ryan,

So very true! It’s the only way I’ve made big changes. I’d say you’re doing this quite a bit. It’s obvious you love to challenge yourself!

Thank you, Sir!


Jayme Soulati October 27, 2012 at 4:16 pm

I will only say, that in my house, I refuse to allow my Kidlet to say “I CAN’T.” That and the word, “HATE,” are banned. In fact, there was a time when I charged her for using “hate.” She had to pay me a quarter.

At 10yo, it’s already tough to help a little person maintain confidence and have a positive self-esteem. When you’re self-employed as I’ve been for eons, there is no time for “I can’t.” Where there’s an obstacle, you find a way to climb over it.

Good stuff.
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Craig McBreen October 27, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Hi Jayme,

Good rule! Carolyn mentioned the same. Sounds like you’re a great parent and raising a smart, little kidlet ;) Agree with the “hate” thing too. I’ve always done the same.

“When you’re self-employed as I’ve been for eons, there is no time for “I can’t.” Where there’s an obstacle, you find a way to climb over it.”
–Me too and this is for sure! There is no time for “I can’t”

Thanks and great comments!


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