Today’s post is the featured article from the January 2009 issue of  The Front Porch Newsletter.  If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.

blumbergface1There is an old saying credited to Henry Ford. It basically proclaims, “If you think you can or think you can’t … you’re right.” In what may very well prove to be the most challenging economy of our lifetime, it might be easy for many to focus on what they can’t do. And it would be easy to build a list of those can’t do’s. In fact, despite Henry Ford’s optimistic outlook, the list might very well be accurate. The problem isn’t the list. The problem is we are focused on the wrong thing! Don’t focus on what you can’t do … focus on what you can do.

In other words, we need to be doing the can-can.

It is very easy to let a bad economy paralyze everything … brought to a grinding halt by the can’t do’s. It zaps creativity as everyone falls into a focus of what can’t be done. Those who have been reading The Front Porch, for some time, know I firmly believe life is full of paradox. And one of those paradoxes is an economy such as this. Yes, bad economies create their own can’t do’s … but they also open the door to a fresh new beginning. They force us into a new situation which creates a new set of can do’s.

The question becomes … where is your focus?

Every second of every minute of every hour of every day is a valuable resource … and once it is used it is never recovered. Whether that second, minute, hour or day is in a good economy or a bad one … it is no less valuable. The value rests on the creativity of how we use it. It doesn’t matter the situation you are in. Every situation has its own set of can’t do’s and can do’s … whether it is being overwhelmed at work or unemployed. It might be a balancing act between your professional and personal life. It could be a situation of a lost relationship or an overwhelming sense of trying to keep-up with many wonderful relationships.

It is easy for me to fall into the trap of what I can’t do. I could easily spend a lot of time and energy processing and worrying about what I can’t do. And it is wasted time and energy that could easily be invested in focusing on what I can do.

My long-time business coach, Mark LeBlanc, has always preached to me the power of the HVA … High Value Activities. HVA’s are a can-can. They are about establishing, everyday, three important things you can do to move you towards what you are trying to accomplish. It might be your sales goal, your job search, your strategic plan, or investing in a relationship. They are simple, but not easy. Yet they are always measurable. And they are a good example of can vs. can’t. I can’t rewrite my website today, but I can write new web content for one hour. I can’t make ten follow-up calls today, but I can make three. Regardless of the economy, the math still works. When you focus each day on three things you can do, you can do 1,095 things a year … and a 1,098 if it’s a leap year!

I remember, back in the mid 90’s, considering leaving the firm and position I loved to follow my dream into the professional speaking industry. My very first mentor, Kevin Freiberg, gave me a set of cassette tapes on the profession. At the time, I couldn’t just walk away from my job but I could listen to those tapes everyday on my train ride to and from Chicago. And so I did. Everyday, I did what I could do. It was a simple step, but it was a step in the right direction. That direction eventually turned my can’t into a can!

Can’t never could. Everyone of us have things we can’t do … and everyone of us have things we CAN DO. The question is where is your focus? Can’t do’s will drain you … but even the most simple can do’s will get you moving in the right direction.

It was a little before my time … but I can remember, as a child, seeing the long line of dancers locked arm-in-arm doing the can-can. I can still hear the song. It had a lot of energy and momentum. But you might be thinking, I don’t have much energy or momentum right now. That’s ok too. Just one “can” at a time can get you moving again. I know … you see it coming! Thinking back, I can also remember the story of The Little Engine That Could. It all started one can at a time. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. Now, before you blow off such a simple story as kid’s play … think about it. In this economy, it might be the best business book on the market!

But don’t just THINK about what you CAN. DO what you CAN. That’s right …get your CAN off the front porch and do something!