What You Can Learn About the Word “Can’t”

Silhouette of hiking man jumping over the mountains at sunset

 

For all the leaders out there, here is something we need to defend our hearts and minds from. It’s that simple word, “can’t.”
Edgar Guest’s poem “Can’t” is quite vigorous, but I think it is good to remind us how diligent we must be in defending our thought against any such suggestion. Please put up a strong defense; our  minds and hearts are so precious… you are precious.
When you feel approached by any sense of unaccomplishment, the “I-am-not-doing-enoughs,” feelings of inadequacy, remember that “Whatever the goal you are seeking, keep trying, and answer this demon by saying: “I can.”
 
Remember, dear reader, any suggestion of lack “bows to courage and patience and skill.”
Pursue on. You can do whatever you need to do today, step by step.
***
“Can’t” – a poem by Edgar Guest

Can’t is the worst word that’s written or spoken;
Doing more harm here than slander and lies;
On it is many a strong spirit broken,
And with it many a good purpose dies.
It springs from the lips of the thoughtless each morning
And robs us of courage we need through the day:
It rings in our ears like a timely-sent warning
And laughs when we falter and fall by the way.

Can’t is the father of feeble endeavor,
The parent of terror and half-hearted work;
It weakens the efforts of artisans clever,
And makes of the toiler an indolent shirk.
It poisons the soul of the man with a vision,
It stifles in infancy many a plan;
It greets honest toiling with open derision
And mocks at the hopes and the dreams of a man.

Can’t is a word none should speak without blushing;
To utter it should be a symbol of shame;
Ambition and courage it daily is crushing;
It blights a man’s purpose and shortens his aim.
Despise it with all of your hatred of error;
Refuse it the lodgment it seeks in your brain;
Arm against it as a creature of terror,
And all that you dream of you some day shall gain.

Can’t is the word that is foe to ambition,
An enemy ambushed to shatter your will;
Its prey is forever the man with a mission
And bows but to courage and patience and skill.
Hate it, with hatred that’s deep and undying,
For once it is welcomed ’twill break any man;
Whatever the goal you are seeking, keep trying
And answer this demon by saying: “I can.”

***

Edgar “Eddie” Guest, also known as “People’s Poet”, was an England-born American poet whose career began in 1989. He came to the United States with his family when he was ten, and was naturalized shortly thereafter. Since his first published work in the Detroit Free Press, his over 11,000 poems were published in 300 or so newspapers as well as more than 20 books. From 1931 to 1942, he also served as a broadcaster for a weekly program on NBC radio, which in 1951 became a television series on NBC TV called “A Guest In Your Home”.

Because of his popularity in first half of 20th century, Guest was rewarded Poet Laureate of Michigan, the only poet in the history with this title in Michigan. This award, originally appointed by government or conferring institution, rewards poets who are often expected to write poems for special events and occasions. As a famed poet, he is constantly referenced to in popular culture, including being depicted in a badge worn by characters in the book “The Grim Grotto,” part of Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” and being mentioned in the novel “I am Legend.”

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