Don’t Tell Me What I Can’t Do!

Screen Shot 2012-06-04 at 4.14.26 PM

I’ve been labeled “Bullshit Slayer” today*. Yes. [Apologies for the number of times the word Bullshit appears in this post.]

When a single mom tells me she can’t find a job because, “After all there’s a crisis out there and let’s face it, who’s waiting for a single mom who hasn’t worked in a year?” I call bullshit!!

When a team leader tells me, “I’m just not management material. There’s nothing I can do to make my team happy and more productive!” I call bullshit!

When a small business owner tells me, “I don’t make money in the summer, because all my customers are on holiday.” I say, “Really? ALL of them at the same time? Bullshit! And what about new ones?”

[I don’t actually say that word out loud. Most of the times, anyway.] My point is:

There are always two sides to a story.

I have always questioned the stories people told me. It started when I was 9 years old and was in 4th grade in East Germany. Our teacher told us, “The Russians are good. The Americans are bad.” I wish I had known the word bullshit then. All I could think was, “And in America the teachers say the exact opposite to 4th graders, right?”

There are always two sides to a story. We usually pick the one we believe at first sight. However we don’t always check if the story we believe serves us. We often just take it at face value and don’t question it. Especially when WE are the story tellers.

If you wanna make stuff up, make good stuff up!

Oh, there are times when I make up stories, too. But luckily I start to question those, too, sooner or later.

Like the one I tried to tell myself when I was 16: “You will NEVER EVER be allowed to go to Spain!” A year later the wall came down and I laughed and cried as I stood in front of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

“You need certificates for EVERYTHING!” ‘Says, who?’, I thought, when I was coaching managers in people skills and successfully published and sold management-coaching tools. I had never been on a management training course in my life. What I did have was almost two decades of practical management experience from the point of view of the manager as well as the employee.

“You need to go to university in order to make a career!” Bullshit! (Sorry, well-meaning parents!) I’ve had a great career in the corporate world and I learned what a university looks like from the inside, when I was lecturing at one!

Bullshit stories can be very motivating, too.

When people told me, “I want to meet new friends. I want to find new business partners and clients, but networking events are horrible!” – I went ahead and created a network that people loved: At the “Open Hand Cafe” we don’t sell to each other; we don’t pretend to be someone else – we listen, support and help each other and truly connect! New clients, new friends and business partners are an inevitable side effect of those genuine, authentic connections.

When people say, “You can’t start a business in a financial crisis!” I smile. Four years and counting!!! Has it been easy? Of course not. But it CAN be done. And hey, if I can make it work during a crisis, it can only get better from here, right?

When people say, “Half the people in the world are coaches! And they all want to coach the other half!” It will not stop me from being “yet another coach”. Instead I’ll be grateful that we live in a world where so many people are interested in helping others. I have no ambitions to coach the whole world. All I want is to help the one person sitting in front of me to cut through their limiting stories and make up new ones that truly serve them. (And sometimes that person then decides to become a coach! Isn’t that great?)

So if you ever find yourself believing stories that say, “You can’t,” – whether they are your own stories or other people’s – go and consult your nearest bullshit slayer. Quickly, before those thoughts become a habit!!

And if you can’t find one, just check with Mr. John “Don’t tell me what I can’t do” Locke for a little reminder and then run your thoughts through the bullshit filter:

If the answer is something like, “I’m not sure. NO. NO.” Change your story! Live life on YOUR terms!

PS: *And yes, I totally gave that label to myself! Because I make up my own stories!

What’s YOUR new story, as of today?

DecorRewrite your careerdifferent career approach

17 Kommentare, sei der nächste!

  1. Anja, I love your fiery spirit! I have the same impulse whether someone is telling me what to do or not to do – You can’t tell me what to/not to do! It only fuels the fire within to prove them wrong. And from one life coach to another, I am glad I changed my story on there being too many life coaches outthere to make a go of it, as it is some of the most rewarding work I have ever done. Yeaaaa for the bullshit slayers!

  2. Anja,

    I love seeing this fiery side of you! I was thinking about this today, just how powerful the stories that we tell ourselves really are. And I can TOTALLY relate to your elementary school story about questioning the teacher. Change the setting to Sunday School, and that was me!

    Thank you for challenging me to live my best today!


  3. What an inspiring post, Anja! It reminds of the conversations and questions my acting coach would ask us in scene study class. He reminds us that as artists, we always have to be questioning what society gives us – what is the story that we’re being told? We were also taught that things aren’t as black & white, there is no right or wrong – it depends on what each person chooses to believe.

    Once I started asking myself more questions, the more I learned about myself (what did/do I believe in?) and the more I questioned what “society” has been telling my entire life. And you know what I’ve noticed? Society does a great job putting fear in our minds so that we maintain a status quo – you’re crazy to start a business, you’re crazy to try to make a living with your passions, you’re crazy for thinking you’ll achieve that goal, etc. Having people live “by the rules” is much easier to control than those who rebel or defy the rules, right? ;)

  4. Anja, This is my first visit to your site and I’m glad I stopped by! I agree fully that we’re not going to get anywhere with an “I can’t” attitude. I often have to catch myself when I go to that place. Once I’m there, there really aren’t any choices!!

    Thanks for the reminder to call B.S. on myself! Love your inspiring words and a peek into your life.

  5. This was exactly what I needed this morning!! As I am about to embark on a new path, I find myself telling many stories of why my ideas are silly or already-been-done. Which is funny, because I am always everyone else’s biggest cheerleader of new ideas, especially when they are a bit risky. You have given me permission to be my own cheerleader on my own journey! Thanks for allowing me to call BS on myself!! Off to put it on a post-it note

  6. I love the number of times you say bullshit :). And, you’re right. Many people accept the bullshit at face value and don’t question it, or it’s just an outright excuse that they choose to hang on to. Thanks for being a slayer of that and showing people that they can question things, that they can filter their stories, and that they can use the stories as motivation to kick some butt!

  7. I love your energy! And your message is actually a very fitting one for me right now. I’ve been having some self-limiting thoughts which almost exactly replicate the ones described in your post… “Does the world REALLY need another life coach?” Thank you so much for reminding me that yes, there will always be someone looking for help. And I can be the person to help them.

    I’m going to bookmark this page and come back to it any time I need my bullshit slaying :)

  8. I need to hire you as my bullshit slayer! :) “Change your Story!” is a mantra to stick everywhere to support us in living our fullest and greatest expression!

    Fatma XO

  9. Anja!

    Love your writing. I totally dig that you called yourself the “Bullshit Slayer” haha so right on.

    We always tend to be our biggest doubters and our own worst critics – the key is to stop buying into those bullshit things that are constantly floating in our own heads and start telling ourselves a “new story” so THANK YOU for an inspirational and moving reminder for all of us.

    x’s and o’s

  10. Anja,

    you totally had me laughing out loud, and answered a question I was just pondering the other day… do they use the phrase “bull shit” in Europe.
    I was trying to think back to elementary school about what the teachers say about the Russians. I truly enjoyed reading this post, one of my favorites in a very long time.

    I shut down a brick and mortar business last year that wasn’t doing very well. Everyone likes to soften the blow and say it was because of the economy. I always would tell them most likely not… many reasons why, but the economy wasn’t why my business was doing poorly. I used to make tons of excuses, there is nothing more freeing than getting rid of them.


  11. YEAH!!!! HELLZ YEAH! Awesome post Anja and I love the way you call bullshit to sob stories which will really take someone nowhere fast. You are doing them a favor even if you don’t actually say bullshit you are a fantastic communicator and I’m sure they thank you for it and realize that coping out is not an option…unless they wish to stay still and not grow.

    Awesome bullshit filter too! Words of wisdom.


  12. The three questions of truth, kindness and helpful are great speed bumps to any conversation, including the ones with ourselves. Something only becomes bullshit when we realize we can live without it. Until then, it’s sacred truth. Thank you!

  13. Anja – I love seeing you curse. I already know this fiery side of you and I adore it. You are so right, too – I can’t means I won’t. Right?

  14. Love this post Anja! I’ve been learning a lot lately about all the bullshit stories I feed myself and this post really hit it home. I heard recently that your outer world is a reflection of your inner world – and that is where you should be looking to fix the sources of your problems, instead of blaming outside circumstances for everything. It’s so important that we all call bullshit on the stories we tell ourselves!! Thanks for this!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *