Yes. You. Can.


Language is so powerful. It builds and reinforces beliefs in ourselves and others.

Whether leading yourself or others, as a friend, parent, employer, business owner, politician, writer, leader of a movement, there is incredible and simple power in offering another person your belief, to tell them “Yes, you can.”

Let me build on this with a few examples towards a pinnacle of inspiration I witnessed first-hand last weekend. Please follow me with this, the example at the end moved me greatly and I believe it will for you.

First, in 2008, Barack Obama said “Yes We Can”. His #goosebumps-inducing election night speech was driven by that phrase. I vividly remember the joy of watching this speech that night.

Next, showing with humour the power of language, a few years ago an inspiring friend, Frank Bastow, released a book called “Don’t be a Can’t“, reflecting his positive spirit, encouraging us all, “don’t be a “can’t”, be a “can”.

Now, Samsung is currently running an ad called “We are born to do what can’t be done”. I just saw it.

As the music begins to build slowly, scenes play out then an amputee is struggling to learn to walk with her prosthetic leg and says “I can’t do it”.

The music then comes in, one of my favourite rock anthems of all time “All these things that I have done” by The Killers (my favourite performance of the song here, live at the Royal Albert Hall), and the ad moves to a resonant and triumphant crescendo, then the words on the screen :

“We’re born to do what can’t be done”


“Do what you can’t”

In the ad, the young woman amputee learning to walk with her prosthetic leg shifts to a “Yes, I can” mindset. Powerful, and now read on to my last example of positive belief and one that I witnessed at a time when it could have a particularly powerful impact on me.

So, Finally, in recent days I have written twice about the suicide of Anthony Bourdain. I heard this on Friday, June 8th and it floored me for several hours. I then realised that I’d volunteered to be a referee at a Paralympics Swimming gala the next day. I’d committed to this months before and the timing became perfect, as I knew I’d be inspired and uplifted by the athletes.

I truly was. There is no “can’t” in these athletes, only “can”.

They are athletes, pure and simple. Everybody is there, like any swim meet, to support the athletes in swimming their very best. They are empowered, independent, and strong beyond measure in many ways.

They absolutely rock!

Though I could name a long list of competitors I watched and interacted with who were truly inspirational beyond words, none touched me more than two good friends who had such a great time together hanging out and cheering each other on.

Fern Sneddon is 12 and Ellie-May Challis is 14. They swim at different clubs in different parts of the country, so I guess they only see each other at Para meets. They sure made the most of it, laughing, joking, cheering each other on, helping each other get ready for races.

These two amazing young women also reminded me of a friend with MS who told me “I have MS, it doesn’t have me”, as these two young women are full of the word “CAN” and probably would be unable to so much as spell the word “can’t”.

Oh, and Fern is a Dwarf and Ellie-May a quadruple amputee and yes, those are physical elements of who they are, they do not define them in any way.

Let me give them other labels though. How about fun, energetic, energising, inspirational.. oh, and swimmers, athletes.

Ladies, thank you for such a wondrous reminder of the true meanings of the words.

Yes. You. Can.

Watch out for them at the Paralympics in 2020!

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