“Dear David, I want to play centre forward for Chelsea…”

Time to Make Excuse –  30 seconds

Time to Remove Excuse – 10 seconds

“Dear David, I want to play centre forward for Chelsea, but that is never going to happen, is it? That proves people can’t achieve anything they want. You say people can, but they can’t. Still, your books are ok.” Mike (name changed by request)

I get a lot of emails like that one, and even more questions of the same kind, at events.

As I read the email I thought up a brilliant (forgive the humility) riposte. Prior to this I would argue with someone that they could indeed achieve anything they wanted, and it didn’t work – you would be amazed at the lengths people will go to, to convince themselves of the opposite.

It’s a built in self-preservation response – after all, the idea that you could achieve anything you want in your life is one of the most frightening thoughts you can ever have, so your ego has to prove it wrong, to keep you familiar, and safe…

Anyway, back to my reply:

“Dear Mike, thank you for your email, please do tell me, how many trials did you have with Chelsea before you chose to give up?” Best Wishes, David

No reply, yet.

Please, don’t go around making up things that you know you can’t achieve, because if you really did want to, then you would have done something about it. And, double please, don’t go around making up impossible challenges (“I want to fly without the aid of wings”) as you will conclude that because you can’t achieve anything, then you can’t achieve anything. And, treble please, DO follow Daniel Burnham’s advice – Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.”

With my love and best wishes


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  • Elaine Neale3

    Absolutely agree. I often get this response and use flight as an example. No we can’t fly but someone wanted to soooo badly that they went and invented a way to do so. If you want it, find a way to get it.

  • It is an interesting subject – I have recently more belief than ever that any opportunity may be taken by anyone.

    However I had a couple of things thrown at me by friends recently that challenges this logic:
    1) It’s not possible for me to be the King
    2) I’m too tall to be an F1 driver
    3) My eyesight is not at the correct standard to be a pilot

    Tough one. Again you could argue that each of these is still possible with the right resources.

    I would like to smash through this one and give it as a golden rule that anything is possible-

  • Graham

    Steve Claridge, the former footballer, and now radio 5 Live pundit had a brilliant rant on this subject about two years ago. He complained about how fed up he was with people saying to him “I could have definitely been a professional footballer but …”. He detailed all of the sacrifices and compromises that he had made in order to achieve a succesful career with, let’s be honest, fairly modest natural skills. It was his single minded determination that really shone through.

  • Diana Calligaro

    I totally agree.

    I also agree with Elaine above. When everyone said people couldn’t fly, Romanian engineer Aurel Vlaicu proved the opposite on 17 June 1910.

    I agree with Graham and the best illustration of extremes people have taken following a dream is British Paralympic Swimming Champion Marc Woods – at 17 he developed bone cancer and had a leg amputated. Despite all obstacles, and those of you who have ever listened to his talks will know what i am talking about, Marc became a Paralympic champion winning lots of gold, silver and bronze for Britain! What is that, I hear? “I can never be a professional athlete because I am 17 and have cancer and just had my leg amputated”?? Ha! Try me, said Mark!

    Sir Steve Redgrave has always been an inspiration to me – like him, I am diabetic on insulin and grew up from age 11 being told there will always be limitations to what I could achieve. Not so far and I am now 38 and in the career I always wanted, I am a former journalist and the ilness never stopped me doing anything!!

  • Chris Everton

    Exactly David. Great answer to a statement that must have rankled. People can be so negative for being negativity’s sake.
    if you listen to the sports people that made it happen out of sheer determination you can turn your mind to anything.
    Saying that something isn’t going to happen is the easy way out. as you say, you have to aim high and you will achieve…something at least.

  • Neil C

    i believe it was Didier Drogba who once said to his mum. “I want to play centre forward for Chelsea but that’s never going to happen is it?”
    Okay, that probably didn’t happen. it could have though. The point is, was it a question or a statement? If he asked the question his mum probably told him anything was possible.

  • Mark Hammer

    Some people really do believe they can’t do something. That is their prerogative.
    Wish they would keep it to themselves though!

  • Cynthia James

    You have to make the best of what you’ve got and sometimes that means settling for second. Unless you try, how do you know whether you can’t do something? Great answer David.

  • Maureen

    Agreed. we can do anything if we put our mind, heart and soul to it.

  • Michael Sumner

    Can’t see how any one who wanted to play for Chelsea couldn’t if they didn’t want to. Aim high, achieve at least something.

  • Maurice

    You have to aim high but there are limits!

  • davidtaylor

    We have had so many replies, emails and comment on this one – thank you all. Yes Maurice, “there are limits” and (as others say) it is up to each one of us to find them – through experience and going for it, not through imagination and doing nothing. For those “limits” are far far higher than you might presently believe, of that I promise you. David

  • Maurice

    I know my limits. They are been reached. I am too long in the tooth to believe I can achieve much more. It’s fine having aspirations. Sometimes it’s best to think about calling it a day when you’ve tried and tried on something and it just hasn’t worked for you. Knowing the limits of your capabilities comes with experience.

  • Marcus Adams

    That is rather defeatist to be honest.
    You never know when your limits have been reached
    F1 drivers go faster and faster and get the most out their cars and eke out fractions of a second.
    We can all eke out a fraction more in everything we do.
    Why not continue to try and attain more? You never can tell if you can beat your personal best an you’re never too old.

  • Maurice

    No, I am just being practical. And knowing what I am capable of and what I am not is part of who i am. It’s that simple.

  • Harry Peake

    Being capable of something is one thing. Aspiring to be better is another thing altogether.
    If you don’t try and exceed expectations then that’s your lookout.

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