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The Day Job – Success comes in cans

can as a concept message


I remember a poster on my boss’s door when I first arrived in San Diego to teach. Anyone who has ever been to his office will remember it.
The first line of it said: Success comes in cans.

The second line: Failure comes in can’ts.

I always thought that poster was corny, but it stuck with me. First off, corny works. Second, the sign on the door summed up just about everything that was going to be my future success.

Just like the front of the building that had the word “opportunity” on the front in huge letters so every class picture would have it in the background, the sign on his door made a statement about attitude.

One day, he came to me and said, “Jamie. I need someone to take on a new job, and I think you’re the best person for it. Can you do it?”

Maybe that guy was a criminal mastermind who somehow hypnotized me with that gaudy orange and green poster, or perhaps I was just eager to please at a new place in a new position. Either way, I said yes, I can do that.

For some odd reason, he saw some potential in me and offered an opportunity, which I did very well with. That one chance to say yes, I can, broadened my visibility at the organization, put me in front of three times as many people, and started the momentum that has resulted in me being where I am today, which is pretty awesome. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn’t said yes that day.

Thinking back, this success over the second half of my career has come in half a dozen cans:

– Can I go to sea for the first time, far too late in my career?
– Can I take on a new position and make things better for my community?

– Can I go to someplace new and create some change?
– Can I leave my community to try something new and a bit intimidating?

– Can I focus on the job in front of me right now and do it to the best of my ability?
– Can I pursue my dreams, even when it brings the constant risk of public criticism?

Those are my half-dozen cans.

A single “can’t,” and there’s no telling where I’d be today. I guarantee I wouldn’t be sharing this article with you.

So, who was I saying yes to?

Was it my Master Chiefs, my school director, my mentors?

Yes, and no.

First, I said yes to them because that was how I got the opportunities.
Sooner or later, though, the question came back again once I saw what was in front of me clearly, and I had to ask myself. Can I do this, and can I do it well?

And I said yes again to the same questions. I can do this.
No matter who else I said yes to, I had to say yes to myself to really succeed.

I wasn’t and still am not alone. There is support. People want the chance to help, to participate and add value, just like I did. I am successful because of the support I’ve had along the years.

Now, a decade after that first yes, that first can, I come knocking, and others do the same. They realize that they can, and that they aren’t alone.

First they tell me, because, well, people generally say yes to me.
Later, they say yes to themselves, they can do this, and give themselves permission to try, even if there’s some risk.

Guess who else can…

You’re not alone. People want to participate, they want to help, but you need to say yes. First, to someone like me who is offering opportunity.
Then, when you see it all clearly, say yes to yourself.
You can do this.

So, what was the first can, the first time you said yes and got a bit of momentum?

I’d love to hear about it.


More importantly, what opportunity is staring you in the face right now that you’re hesitant about?


Have a great week out there.

– JT


My good thing: My first week underway with the new crew was great, and I know I can add value.

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