I only speak English. I do it quite well and have a larger than normal vocabulary, according to my sister the Kindergarten Teacher who might not be the best judge of normal adult vocabulary. Regardless, I speak English. I speak only English. I would like to learn a second language just for the sake of it, but I have no one to practice with, meaning it would just be an exercise in futility.

I was watching – really I was just listening – to a TEDx Talk and the speaker was doing a very good job in delivering his speech even though it was obvious that English was not his Mother Tongue. What he was talking about was authenticity of self and how to interact with others in a more authentic manner.

It was his opinion ego gets in the way of our connectability and we remain separate and often at a distance due to our own egos getting in the way. He was listing steps to connect with others in a better fashion.

The first rule was to know your own self better. He had a five-point list for learning more about yourself and I don’t remember the first three because I was so struck by the last two. Not that they were anything actually unique to the world of self-knowledge, but because he was a non-native English speaker.

Here are his two final points in knowing more about yourself.

4. What do you can?

5. What do you can’t?

This is not the way a native English speaker would say this. We often hear about what can you do and what can’t you do. But it sounds so much better to me this way. What do I “can” and what do I “can’t” because often these are just messages I give myself without benefit of trial and error.

Most of us know what it is we can do. Except for the people who believe they can do something that in actuality mostly sucks. I belong to a writing forum and people come and believe they can write because they are putting words down on the screen. This isn’t really what “writing” as a profession is about. There are many rules and regulations to writing and although they can be broken, one must know about them before they can be flaunted correctly. So these people come in and tell us they can write, post something awful, get a critique which they argue with, and often take their crayons and move on to a different place. The select few will listen, often with hurt feelings, and then work toward making their writing a more professional product.

Many of us believe we know what we can’t do. But the thing is, many of the things we can’t do are simply things we can’t do yet. We aren’t genetically unable to do them, we just haven’t yet mastered the task at hand. Many preschoolers can’t read. This doesn’t mean they will never read, but only that they can’t read – yet.

Many of us set out to try something new and quit before we have given ourselves a chance to see if we might turn the can’t into a can. I could delineate my time with CrossFit as a case in point. I couldn’t right up until I could. It took work and practice, but many of our can’t do that items are really part of this list.

“I can’t touch type.” “I can’t work a computer.” “I can’t …” fill in the blank. Some of our can’ts are simply due to lack of practice, some due to lack of motivation, some are due to that genetic limitation. I can’t fly. I might be able to learn to fly a plane, but I will never simply fly because humans aren’t built for that.

Many of the things on my “What do you can’t?” list are simply things I can’t do yet. Many are things I have no intention of ever doing because they don’t interest me. Learning to differentiate between the nuances of your list seems to be a lifelong issue with the list changing with time. Sometimes it changes because what was once on “can’t” has moved to your “can” list. That’s kind of cool.

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