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Why You Can’t Do Anything You Put Your Mind To

by Don Smith

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“You can do anything you put your mind to.”

Ahh, the sweet innocence of optimistic thinking. I love the intent behind that quote; hard work, practice, and dedication make many things possible.

There's just one problem.

You CAN'T do anything you put your mind to.

Occasionally someone will post a question with a completely unrealistic goal like, “How can I become a billionaire in the next ten years?”

Well, figure out a way to consistently make $11,416 an hour 24 hours a day for the next ten years, and you'll be there. You've got a 0.00003% chance of EVER becoming a billionaire, much less in the next ten years. You're 100,000 times more likely to get hit by lightning than to become a billionaire.

Become a millionaire in your lifetime?

Sure.

A billionaire in the next ten years?

It's almost certainly not going to happen unless your last name is Buffett.

No matter how hard you train, if you're 4 feet tall with a peg leg, you're not going to play in the NBA.

If you are a guy, barring some futuristic procedure, you're not going to get pregnant.

When I was younger, I wanted to be a fighter pilot. I started looking into it and quickly learned that I needed to have 20/20 uncorrected vision. My vision is more like 20/blind as a bat without glasses. No amount of positive thinking was going to change that fact.

What's the Point?

The problem is that some people have been told this for so long that they genuinely believe they can do anything if they are willing to put in enough effort. It's the growth mindset, and usually, that's a good thing.

In case you aren't familiar with the fixed versus growth mindset, I should probably explain. Dr. Carol Dweck, a researcher at Stanford University, introduced the concept of fixed versus growth mindsets.

People with a fixed mindset believe that they were born with a fixed level of intelligence that cannot be modified. In a growth mindset, however, people think they can develop their abilities and intelligence with effort, learning, and persistence. Their current skills are simply a starting point for their potential.

The reality is that both camps are partially correct. You can develop many things, but not everything. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that some people have natural gifts that others do not.

Focus on Your Strengths

It's best to stop pursuing things that are never going to happen and instead, focus on your strengths.

For example, I will never be the world's best salesman. I'm pretty sure I'd have a hard time selling a bottle of water to a man stranded in the middle of the desert dying of thirst who has a wad of cash in his pocket.

Well, maybe I'm not quite that bad, but you get my drift. It's not an area of strength for me. My biggest strengths lie in strategy, seeing patterns, and solving problems. If I had focused on trying to sell things, I'd be starving. Instead, I focused on my strengths and have done pretty well.

There's a quote out there often attributed to Einstein, which goes, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Stop trying to climb the tree if you're not getting very far. Figure out what you are good at and do that. You may find out that you have wings, and flying to the top of that tree is much easier than climbing it.

Stop clawing your way up the tree. Find your wings and soar.

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  1. Couldn’t agree more. I’ve held the same line of thinking all my life. Unfortunately, more times than not, I assume, money goes to those who persue careers that require a college education. Short of that you will most likely be in for a greater financial struggle in life then your educated counter parts. So not being able to do anything you put your mind to in terms of education and life career means you’ll be poorer. So we latch on to the lie and hold it as a fact. Until we’ve wasted time and money we could have saved had we been more honest with ourselves from the start. Of course we should try to better ourselves but we also need to be brutally honest for our own good.

    1. On average, college grads make more than their peers, so there is some validity to your assumption that money flows to those who invest in their earning ability. But I know several millionaires who didn't graduate college, so college is not necessarily required to be financially successful. The most successful people I know focus on what they enjoy doing. Guys like Elon Musk aren't in their jobs because they need the money; they are there because they want to be there.

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About the Author 

Don Smith

The Personal Growth Channel founder, Don Smith also runs a technology company, has served on the board of directors for multiple companies, and enjoys seeing people achieve their goals. Happily married with five children, he lives in Springfield, Illinois.

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