A few years back, I was on the leadership team of a small community organisation. We had decided to have a leadership retreat one weekend. The weekend came and we were ride sharing to get to the venue. The person who I was sharing with was a senior executive at the time with a major Australian car company and we were taking his latest model top of the line car.

As we set off my colleague remarked “This should be a nice drive. It’s got the new Nissan engine in it. It’s a beautiful engine.”

Being a fan of our ability to make best in the world products locally, I remarked “We should be able to make engines as good as that in Australia.”

“Unfortunately, we can’t.’ he replied with just the slightest twinge of sadness.

Looking back now I’m sorry I didn’t follow up with him at the time and ask why he though we couldn’t make great engines here. But I didn’t.

The story has remained with me ever since though. And it fires me up every time I think of it.

Of course we could make the best engines in the world here. We have engineers and designers as good as any in the world and our best technicians are capable of matching any competition. Finally, if we need better machines, we can buy them.

So it’s not that we can’t make the best engines in the world.

It’s that we choose not to.

Saying “we can’t” is just an excuse for mediocrity. And I have absolutely had it with mediocrity and I’ve had it with the excuses I hear every day.

Getting back to engines, it is perfectly fine to decide not to make great engines in Australia. To decide we are going to focus our attention on something else. As long, however, as we don’t mask that choice by saying we can’t.

There may be many obstacles to overcome. We might have to change the relationship between management and staff. We might have to get government policy changes. We might have to learn new skills. Most of all though, we will have to overcome our fear that we’re not good enough. Our fear that we really can’t do it.

I could go on about how much different the world would be if countries and corporations removed themselves from this terrible pall of mediocrity. But that’s not what this blog is about.

The point of this story is not about “them out there” rather its about “us in here.” Or, more directly, you.

What is it that you could do but don’t because you are afraid you can’t? What gift or talent do you have that you are withholding from the world for fear of being wrong or because there are too many obstacles in the way?

Or perhaps you are afraid you will succeed beyond your wildest dreams.

We often hear the first two sentences of the following quote from Marianne Williamson. I think its worth taking a moment to read this longer version:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

What is it you dream of doing but tell yourself you can’t? What is it you want to do but you are afraid you can’t? Perhaps you are afraid instead that you can and you will have to do it.

If you would like to explore how you can turn “can’t” into “will”, book a Time with Chris.