Are you a “can do” person or a “can’t do” person? I’m sure that virtually all of you readers of The Zweig Letter – 95 percent of which work in privately-held A/E or environmental consulting firms – have had exposure to both types of people. And I can say that in my experience in this industry accumulated over the last 37 years, most of us need more “can do” folks than we currently have in our organizations!
Some people think it makes them smart to tell you all of the reasons something won’t work. Maybe that particular orientation is necessary for those who are teamed up with individuals who never seem to be able to get their feet on the ground and complete something. But for the rest of us, I find hearing all the reasons something won’t work akin to sucking all of the oxygen out of the room I am sitting in. It makes it hard to breathe. And I don’t like it.
Most clients – be they public or private – hire design professionals for only one purpose. That is to figure out how something CAN be done. Remember that!
So why do so many folks – engineers in particular, but other design and environmental professionals as well – people who should be “can-do” people – turn into “can’t do” people? Here are my thoughts:
- We train them to be “can’t do” people. I think many firm work environments discourage experimentation by having too many rules, too much structure, and management that is generally too risk averse. This makes the people who work there the same way. They are afraid to take a chance on doing something differently. That’s too risky.
- They are scared to be “can do” people. It seems risky. They could get fired if they are wrong. Or they could just look bad. Or they could be ridiculed and made fun of. Fear of failure makes people into “can’t do” people. If you never try, you never fail. So don’t try in the first place!
- Their minds are so full of negative thoughts about what is going on in their own lives, or the world as a whole, and it colors all of their thinking. They think, “What’s the point? Everything is bad. Life sucks.” So they will then make your life suck by telling you why you can’t do what you want to do.
- They think it makes them look smart to be a “can’t do” person. “If I can think of all the reasons something won’t work, you’ll see how smart I am.” “If I don’t do that I don’t look smart.” No one wants to be thought of as being anything other than smart.
- That’s just the way they are. Genetics? Who knows, but some people come out that way. They are negative, and when presented with a problem to solve or opportunity to cash in on, they immediately think of why they can’t do something. You probably can’t fix this.
A good place to start learning how to be a “can do” person is learning all you can from those who are doers. Pick your mentors wisely. Hang out with the right “other people” in your life as well. Look for inspiration. Dump the negative and pick up the positive. There’s more within your control than you realize and it starts with what’s in your own head. Clear out the junk inside your mind so you have room for the good stuff.
Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s founder and CEO. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.