Don't Tell Me You Can't! - Common Sense Living Newsletter
Common Sense Living India

Don't Tell Me You Can't!

Oct 01, 2014


'You are not going to make it.'

I ran down the unending corridors of the Paris airport, dodging people from around the world, lugging a suitcase with one loose wheel, tripping over my own shoelaces... one sentence kept running through my head on a loop, 'I'm going to make it. I'm going to make it.'

The gates were minutes from closing... I still had to go through immigration, take the inter-terminal train, go through security check, and find my gates before the plane doors closed.

Everyone, from the guy sitting next to me on the delayed airport bus, to the airline check-in staff, had said with pitying eyes, 'doesn't look like you will make it.'

But I was determined. So I jogged through the confused corridors of the surly airport... wishing I was in better shape and not running out of precious breath.

And as I ran I began to ponder.

Why am I running? Success sounds impossible. Everyone thinks so. So why don't I just give up, stop panting and tripping, and just sit tight and read my book until the next flight ten hours later?

One school of thought believes that whatever you ask the universe for, it will give you. It's called the law of attraction. I'm sure you are all familiar with 'the secret' by now, since it's no longer a secret thanks to the wildly successful book.

If you ask for success you will get it. If you think you will fail, you will, it says.

My friend/philosopher/guide at university used to say something similar, 'Your thoughts are a self-fulfilling prophecy, Anisa... so think positive'. And I know he didn't believe in god, or in the power of the universe to bestow gifts (like the secret).

I wasn't so sure I did either. So why was it that both these schools of thought, and probably others, were convinced about the power of thinking?

I decided I needed my own philosophy, so here's what I chose to believe: If you want something so badly that you refuse to accept an alternative, you will do everything in your power to make it come true. We are more powerful than we know.

Because I so badly wanted to get home I decided to follow a three-step plan for getting what I want: think positive, take positive action, and hope for good luck, and keep doing this till you have what you want.

That, I believed, would make what seemed impossible, possible. And so I kept running.

Step 1: Think Positive...Your Thoughts are Self-Fulfilling

This is important because it sets you up for success. It compels you to plan and prepare and strategise for it. So you simply have no choice but to put all your effort into making sure you can get what you want.

I had planned ahead because I was determined to make it... I wore comfortable running shoes, kept all my documents handy, and mapped out and studied the possible routes through the airport even before I got there.

And I believed, 'I'm going to make it.'

If you think you can't, then you simply can't. But why are you even thinking that? If you think you can't, you won't even give it an honest shot. So don't tell me that you can't. Believe that you can.

Don't tell me you can't

Step 2: Take Action... To Move Towards Your Destination

This is the crux of the strategy. Positive thinking drives you towards action. But actually taking action is everything. Without action all the good thoughts in the world, all the dreams and goals and aspirations come to naught... If I just jog half-heartedly toward the gate thinking 'please god let me make it, please god I hope I make it' I'm quite sure I will not.

If I had wavered in my determination I probably would have walked just a little bit slower, pushed myself just a little bit less, maybe stopped to catch my breath. And that little bit could have been the difference between success and failure.

I know that once the gates shut, they simply won't open again, because it's against security protocol. If I run up even as the gates were shutting I would likely be left behind. If I let myself slack off just that little bit I will not make it.

A scene from the movie, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, flashed through my mind where the hero Aamir Khan's brother finished the bicycle race just a few seconds late, losing to the boy from the rival school. His dad said:

'Aakhri chand second hi toh haar aur jeet ka faisla karte hai'
'The last few seconds determine who wins and who loses'

So I don't even let failure be an option... And just keep running till the end.

Step 3: Luck Has to Be a Lady, Too

I will do everything in my power to get where I want. But everything else...? That is a matter for my fickle friend, luck.

I can run as fast as I want but if I drop my boarding pass on the way and only realize it as I reach the gates where a mean-looking French lady shouts, 'You are the last person on this flight we cannot wait any longer Mademoiselle we must leave now!', then that's out of my hands, isn't it?

There's a verse in the King James version of the Bible that says:

The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding... but time and chance happeneth to them all.

The key is to not let luck or chance get you down. Don't believe in bad luck, believe in delayed luck.

Repeat the 3 Steps Until Success Is Yours

As I scrambled around my papers I had a terrible sinking feeling in my stomach... my boarding pass was no longer with me... I must have dropped it somewhere between the last security checkpoint and the gates.

I looked in distress at the lady who had one hand about to pull the doors shut, another on her hip, tapping one foot while repeating the words 'Alors Mademoiselle... Come on!'

This was it. It was over. I could barely catch my breath anymore. I should throw my hands up in the air and say, 'oh well, it happens', right? Then go find a place to rest my head for the night and make my way to a morning flight.

This is what life is like ... sometimes there are setbacks, even significant ones, long delays and relentless hurdles. You feel like you put in a hundred percent, and just when you see your destination, it's pulled out of reach again.

But then I remembered that 'think positive, take action, and wish for luck' wasn't the end of my plan. I was supposed to do one more thing... repeat until success.

A surge of adrenalin pumped through my body and I yelled 'No!" I wasn't giving up, I would run again.

"Please wait! Attendez sil-vous-plait" I yelled in uncertain French, "I am getting on that plane and don't you DARE shut that door".

Then I turned around and ran for my life to look for my boarding pass. Until halfway to security I saw someone running towards me waving a pass. I couldn't believe my eyes! Lady Luck herself was coming to me. I had thought my luck was bad, but it was merely delayed.

I grabbed the card, shouted thanks, ran back to the gates, and this time the French lady didn't look so mean. She looked exasperated, yes, but I had shocked her into waiting for me by my frantic yelling and mad running, and she seemed almost amused at my persistence.

So I made it home - by following the magic formula:

This may seem like a trivial incident, after all I was just going home. But whatever your journey, and wherever your destination, this approach holds true. Whether it takes you a day, a week, or a year, remember this magic to get to your goal. When your plans get messed up, stick to your guns and try again. If it happens again, then try again, even harder than before. If a one-armed, one-legged man can ride a bicycle, then 'don't tell me that you can't'.


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27 Responses to "Don't Tell Me You Can't!"

Harjeet Singh

27 Nov, 2015

It bring tears in my eyes.... Anisa.... Success do demand all that you have narrated... When I look at all my successes achieved...... Truly...! These were the ingredients......... Thanks for sharing!

Anil Kumar

13 Jul, 2015

what we want and believe we can have or are allowed to have you will find that ypu will be taking positive steps towards that end

anil kumar

13 Jul, 2015

yaa....I do agree you can create self confidence to any degree you wantit is inner firmness,determination and the power of pushing towards any goal........

Sarva Sukh Acharya

02 Jan, 2015

Think Positive, Be Positive and Take action will always lead to success. We may see the journey of Mr. Narendra Modi, present PM of India. Before he was given charge to lead the campaign before Lok Sabha Election, he was very confident and did total spade work with open mind, He was a positive thinker and he is a positive action oriented person. He has shown to World What a determined person can do.

Like (1)


07 Dec, 2014

The vast vibraration in our body will lead our mind to go for your think positive, take action lead to luck. Yours is very positive approach in any field.

K S Rao

07 Dec, 2014

Yes! It's possible, always.. It's a matter of developing that positive attitude and persistance! Thank you Anisa, for making me to think and sort it out!

R V Iyer

07 Dec, 2014

Thanks. Highly Inspiring.

ajay agarwalla

05 Dec, 2014

Very educative and wort sharing with all loved ones


09 Oct, 2014


Raziuddin Shaikh

05 Oct, 2014

This article is so motivating, encouraging & awesome, I can't thank you enough,


04 Oct, 2014

Such words are required to kindle the desire to go forward for the hearts which are suffering from sagging spirits.Age and positions are no bar. pl continue your GOOD SERVICE to the society

Gopal Kandoi

04 Oct, 2014

a very encouraging story. i have forwarded the same to my two grand children who are excellent in their studies & other activities, how ever i felt this will encourage & guide them further. i have also sent copy to their parents

Mother India

04 Oct, 2014

highly motivated .


04 Oct, 2014

@ Montu: Yes I did struggle with that one, but then I realized my point was not that you succumb to luck but that you accept that things will sometimes not go according to plan, but that's okay it doesn't mean you should stop running. Maybe I should have said belief like @Mr. Ramachandran said. @Lakshminarayan: I did think about that, whether I would have written if I'd missed the flight... I'm not sure. But truth is I believe that the fact that I got on the plane was trivial to this whole experience...that's why I did not put it till the end. I learned that until the time you reach your destination you gotta just keep running...would have done whatever to get where I wanted.

Anil Kapadia

04 Oct, 2014

Dear Anisa, All your articles about experiences in life are inspiring. make for a gr8 reading and recalling the same when faced with such trying times helps one to gather wits and make way out of what seems to be a gone case at first thought. Keep it up and best wishes, Anil

S k rastogi

04 Oct, 2014


Gurdeep Singh Bariana

03 Oct, 2014

Just believe in yourself. Nothing more, nothing less.

Montu Sarmah

03 Oct, 2014

Encouraging piece...but luck? I think luck is inversely proportional to self confidence. If luck is there nobody will take action.


03 Oct, 2014

When I was 21, developed tingling pain in my right arm; could not type, write or do much work with my right hand fingers. I had the good fortune to read Dale Carnegie's " How to stop worrying and start living " . Started acting on his advice, practiced writing with left hand. Ahoy, I was able to get to work within a few days. Positive thinking, action & belief made me more a southpaw now. At my present 72, I read your articles & am trying to improve and improve. Keep up the good work. God bless you.

K N Nair

03 Oct, 2014

The article is well worth reading and wish it reaches out to everyone to read.


03 Oct, 2014

An excellant piece.Absolutely true. Congrts for catching that flight.You did it. So will everyone who thinks positive

Jaishankar Jayaraman

03 Oct, 2014

Inspiring article which teaches a simple 3 point formula for attaining success. This success formula is applicable to one and all in whatever they try to achieve in life. Thanks again for this masterpiece.

Javed K

03 Oct, 2014

a very inspiring article , motivated me to get back into the ring - we all have our moments of low , happened to read this article in one such moment of low , reading it made me resolve to live to fight another day, my "luck" that I read it.


03 Oct, 2014

after reading this article, i would just like to say many thanks for inspiring and giving a spring to all dormant success awaiting right out there.. God bless you ..

amar nath jha

03 Oct, 2014

do your best and let the life do the rest--Robin Sarma


03 Oct, 2014

Excuses are the nails used to build the house of failure


03 Oct, 2014

I also believe this and practice it too especially the part of not accepting the alternative. I have a story to tell about this but only after the story is complete. It is still in the last chapter. It is also what Bhagawad Gita says: Do your best and leave the rest to me. In other words you have to do your best to achieve your goals. You may fail but that is okay. The sad part is only success is written about. Would you have taken this example if you had tried and the door closed?


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