The reasons we tell ourselves we can’t do something we perceive as difficult are really just excuses for not trying. When we describe them, they usually follow the phrase I can’t because…
There are so many inspiring stories about athletes that overcame long odds by not saying I can’t. They overcome those odds and lead teams to championships and ultimately find themselves in the hall of fame. I love those stories, but they never really seemed applicable to me. They were elite athletes, after all. I am just an average Joe. They get paid to exercise and play with a ball. I’m a CPA (certified public accountant) that gets paid to sit in a chair and work on spreadsheets and tax returns.
With that I can’t attitude I steadily gained weight. By my 48th birthday, I was almost 200 pounds overweight — and that created a whole new set of I can’ts. It was almost as if they fed off each other.
Deciding You Can Is the Hardest Part: How I Lost 150 Pounds
The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.
– Amelia Earhart (more quotes)
I can’t because
By 2012 my I can’t because list was a mile long, and they were as good as any I had ever seen: I can’t because I use a cane due to extreme lower back pain… because my knees and joints ache from carrying this weight… because I’m almost 50, and that’s too old… because I have low metabolism, so I can’t lose weight… because I have prescriptions for blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar that my old doctor compared to that of a 90 year-old patient of his, and said I would have to take for the rest of my life, no matter what I did… I can’t because I’m no athlete, never started, never made a cut, and came in last in every race… I can’t because I’m a CPA, and my clients have the same deadlines, every year.
I’m just scratching the surface of my I can’t because excuse list — but none of them actually prevented me from losing weight. They just made it look difficult, so I didn’t try.
The truth is I couldn’t because I decided I couldn’t. Then, in 2012, I had a lightbulb moment after a 21-day cleanse. For the first time I understood that I can made a difference. The “what the heck, I will do a cleanse” wasn’t an inspiring YES SIR type response, but it was a decision that made an impact. I decided to try I can a little more.
So I started walking the dog every day, just for 15 minutes at first, but each day I went a little further or a little longer. I decided that I could change how I look at food, and that I didn’t need a diet, but just to eat right, starting today. Those decisions weren’t incredible touchdowns or home runs, but they gave me the energy and confidence to ride a bicycle. I began with only 10 miles that first time, but eventually I rode much further than that.
Start with today
It was actually pretty easy: wake up each day and ask God to help me make good decisions about what I eat and drink; to give me the strength to exercise, keep me safe, and if that works out, try it again tomorrow.
It’s not forever. It’s just today.
And I can do today.
Using a today approach, decisions got easier, rides got longer, and eating got better. Before I knew it, I rode 44 miles in my first bike rally at Autumn in Bonham 2012. By the following summer I had lost over 100 pounds and was off those prescription drugs. Contrary to my doctor’s “for the rest of my life” prognosis, I didn’t have an incurable disease. I wasn’t even sick. I simply had very serious side-effects caused by my eating and exercise habits. High blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and morbid obesity were all side-effects of my I can’t because mentality. I started making I can decisions and the side-effects went away.
High blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and morbid obesity were all side-effects of my I can’t because mentality. I started making I can decisions and the side-effects went away.
Riding the momentum of “I can”
The side-effects to I can decisions accumulated: I rode in the Hotter than Hell Hundred, the world’s largest bike race covering 100 miles in the Texas heat. I traded in my car for a commuter bike, circled islands, rode up volcanoes, crossed deserts, explored canyons, and pulled a world champion on a bike ride literally by just trying to make daily decisions. I rode 1,800 miles from Canada to Mexico down the Pacific Coast Highway in a month and 230 miles from Manhattan to Boston over a weekend. Then, 18 miles into the 2016 version of that first rally, almost exactly 44 miles from the finish of the Autumn in Bonham, I hit 24,874 total miles on my bike — the circumference of the Earth. In less than five years, I went from using a cane to circling the planet on a bicycle.
18 miles into the 2016 version of that first rally, almost exactly 44 miles from the finish of the Autumn in Bonham, I hit 24,874 total miles on my bike — the circumference of the Earth. In less than five years, I went from using a cane to circling the planet on a bicycle.
In 2012, I didn’t decide to circle the planet on my first walk, just like those underdog pro athletes didn’t make the hall of fame or win a world series during their first couple of practices. But they never would have made the hall of fame if they hadn’t shown up for practice. I decided to try, and that was the hard part. Eating right and exercising seemed practically impossible to me then, but once I had decided to do it, they became easy. Yes, getting my weight down under 220 pounds while circling the planet on a bike was easy. And it was fun. Most importantly, it didn’t take hall of fame-like athletic prowess — it took a 48 year-old CPA to do it.
I’m still on the journey today. I still have weight to lose, tax returns to file, and a planet to circle again. Encouraging others by sharing my experience has become my passion. I tell my story to encourage the next person — and maybe it’s you — to decide to change your answer from I can’t because to today I can. Because you are worth it, you are special, and you are the only one for the job.