You Can Do Anything

The adage "You can do anything you put your mind to^1^^" is a constant refrain. Out of 40 characters, Google needs only 12 before it fills in the rest. (If the first three words weren't so generic, it would be less.) The idea is wonderful. True enough, but awfully misleading. It puts the emphasis entirely on the wrong thing. Just sitting around "putting your mind to" something doesn't *do* anything. It takes elbow grease to push what's in your head out into the world. Usually, it takes a lot.

One of Edison's more famous quotes points to this^1^^

Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.

That ratio is pretty close for every type of work. Not just works of genius.

Take my old friend ^2^^

applies not just to genius, but across the board.

Some things (like "Knowledge Work ^2^^") much more than others, but without elbow grease, nothing would get done.

to accomplish anything is close across the board.

Living in the "Information Age" in the U.S., the emphasis on thinking is pervasive. We've even defined the category of Knowledge Workers whose primary responsibility is "thinking for a living". That sounds like the entire job is just "putting your mind to it".

The raw material of the Internet is thought. No physical ingredients are required to add something to the web. Only thought and time ^1^^. The thought is the easy part. Putting in the time is hard.

Without taking action and putting in the elbow grease, nothing gets done. Regardless of how much you "put your mind to" it. So, I'm reframing this old saw my head and whenever I say it, instead of "You can do anything you put your mind to", it's more like "You can do anything you're willing sacrafice other persutes and then bust your ass for".

That's the more helpful/informative version.

where the net and

the wrong thing.

has been bubbling up in my brain recently. It's true at the core, but misleading.

In this, the age of The Internet and Knowledge Workers, the emphasis thinking is dramatic.

thing physical is required to add something

but thought alone won't

we've placed a huge emphasis on our ability to think.

Certainly, thinking is a necessary ingredient for getting something you want, but that's the easy part. The hard part is doing the work to reach your goal.

This is a constant struggle for me. My brain constantly bubbling up ideas for things to make or things to do. I'm not satisfied with how many of them I've accomplished. In order to help me up the success ratio of things that I check off the list, I'm reframig the old adage to:

You can do anything you're willing to work you ass off and sacrafice for.

I'm trying not to think of inspiration as getting an idea but the realization that I've got the ability to do something and then making the decision to do it.

inspiration should not be getting an idea, but realizing that you have the ability to do something and then deciding to do it.

That's a necessary ingredeiant for


1. I'm not even touching on the trend to shorten the cliche. Deterious social trends to remove all effort. See, for example, the Saturday Night Live skit, "You can do anything". You don't even have to set your mind to it.

2. After reading this comic on the Oatmeal I wish it was Tesla's quote.

2. Old as in, we've known each other a long time. Neither one of us is ever going to *get* old.

1. Sure, sure. You need a computer and a connection, but those are tools and not raw materials. Don't take things too literally.

2. -


Get a screen grab from google showing auto complete of "You can do" up until it shows you the auto result. You've got one that was shot at 3am on July 14, 2012. But it was with a google doodle. You should get one with the plain old google logo.

Add this video

Put in an example from the clay pots study.