Do What You Think You Cannot Do

Do What You Think You Cannot Do

There is this quote by Confucius; a Chinese philosopher and a teacher. It says: “The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both right”

Confucius’ thoughts instigated the pushing of boundaries of the “self.” People think that if they are not inherently athletic enough, physical labour or sports are not their “thing”, or if they have always been into books and research, finding a career in academia seems like the only logical step. Confucius wouldn’t agree to this thought. His ideologies dealt with transcending the image of the self and doing things that you wouldn’t think you could do.

The reason behind this philosophy is that Confucius did not believe in an eternal self. He had the belief that as human beings we are subject to change at all times. It is not the inherent internal characteristics that determine what our innate “self” is rather it is the external conditions and simulations that form our psyche, personality, and behaviour.

TRY SOMETHING YOU FEAR OR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

So, let’s say you are a book nerd and spend most of your time at the university’s library. In that case, if you go out of your comfort zone to join a football team at your district and work at it with all your heart and passion, there is a possibility that you would discover a footballer in you. The image you had about yourself as a book nerd may change in a matter of few months.

This is the ideal way of living, according to Confucius. He doesn’t believe that a person has a single ultimate goal. Since human beings are subject to change according to their external realities, there can never be an ultimate goal. It will keep changing according to the time zones, places you visit, people you meet, conversations you engage in, and the work you do. In other words, it is your work that dictates who you are, not the other way around.

To better understand this concept, we can take the example of who was, perhaps, the most well known and well-established entrepreneur of our generation — Steve Jobs. While studying Physics, Literature and Poetry at the Reed University, he took a calligraphy class that later inspired him to include a wide range of fonts on the first Macs (which was seen as one of its Unique Selling Proposition).

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Conventionally speaking, studying calligraphy while also studying physics makes no sense. The two aren’t obviously inter-related, but taking that course sure worked for Steve Jobs. He incorporated the learning from calligraphy classes and introduced new features in his tech products that significantly improved beauty, aesthetic, and the look and feel of Apple products. In fact, these differentiators proved to be the key competitive advantage for Apple products. Most students of his time would think that Jobs was a “lost soul” — but he wasn’t lost. He was living his life (knowingly or unknowingly) by the teachings of Confucius.

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