03/25/2014 11:24 am ET Updated May 24, 2014

Lights Go On Part XIV: It's Not That You Can't, You Just Haven't Done It Yet

Yes, it is true. Deep down, I do believe that anything is possible.

From where and when did this belief appear to me?

I witnessed it, both from my grandmother on my father's side and from my dad himself. And through time, I have learned that this belief wears many hats.

One of my first realizations of this concept rode in on the back of the fact that my brother John and I were not allowed to utter the words, "I can't." From the time, even when I was just a little guy, if Dad heard those words leaving my lips, he would interrupt me and say, "We don't use that word, Son. It's not that you can't, you just haven't done it yet."

For me, this statement has made a world of difference in my life.

I like the way Henry Ford said it.

"If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right."

And this belief also took the form of a question that I learned to ask from early in my childhood that has served me in too many ways to count.

The question I learned to ask myself is: "What do you want?"

I heard it first from my dad. 

When Dad asked, "What do you want?" I thought I was irritating him. It took me a while to understand why he was asking this question. Once I understood the code, it became a quick route to recovery that I have used countless times in my life. 

Case in point:

When I was about four, my bike got a flat tire and I went straight to Dad for help. His immediate response was, "What do you want?" When I reacted as though I feared that I was annoying him, he said, "Son, look at me and listen to the words I'm using." I could see by the kindness in his eyes that he was prodding me, not scolding me. 

I thought for a moment and responded, "Well, I want my tire not to be flat."

"Good. What are you going to do about it?"

"Um... I don't know."

"But if you did know?"

I realized that I couldn't just stand there and ask questions. I had to find some sort of solution.

"I guess I want to take the tire off the wheel."

"Good start. And how are you going to do that?"

I looked at the tire, then at the wheel, and could see that the wheel was anchored to the frame of the bike by two nuts, that were attached to the axle of the wheel.

"I guess I could start with these," I pointed to the nuts on the axle.

"Good, I'll bring you a wrench."

Now, at 4-years-old, Dad had to loosen those nuts so I could continue my job of getting to this wheel and tire.

As I began taking the wheel off, (with dad's help:) I exclaimed, "Woah, there are lots of parts here. I wonder how I'm going to do this."

Dad to the rescue. "You might try this, Son. As you take off each part, one by one, place the first part closest to the wall. Then the next part, place it next to that, next part next to that, and so on. All these pieces will get closer to your bike, so when you put it back together, start with what's closest to you and work your way back to the wall. The parts will go back onto the bike in order, and with ease!" 

That just made so much sense to me. And, I think one of the things I loved most about my dad was that he never said, "Oh, this is going to be hard." Instead, he was consistently there to help, and by asking "I wonder how I'm going to do this," I had opened the gate to his suggestion.

Soon the bike was fixed and I rode off a happy boy that I had accomplished something that I hadn't done before.

So if you are feeling stuck, lost, confused, or overwhelmed, it might serve you to ask the question that has worked so well for me...

"What do I want?"

And a side benefit I have found to asking "What do I want" is that it takes me out of fear mode and sets me in the direction of a solution.

As soon as I answer that question, another immediately appears, sounding something like, "What are you going to do about it?"

Then, "How are you going to do it?" 

And, then perhaps,"How do I keep from getting lost in this?" 

Put things in order. And start. One piece at a time, brick by brick.

Maybe sometime when you find yourself doubting and saying, "I can't," perhaps you'll remember this story and it will occur to you.

As a member of our extended family, "We don't use that word. It's not that you can't, you just haven't done it yet."