He Said, “Yes you can!”
I remember my father using those three words over and over when I was young. As a youngster I was what folks called a runt. I was always small. I was small in height and weight. And my size was always a challenge.
Because of my size there would be many things I thought I couldn’t do.
But no matter what it was my father would say, “Yes you can!”
I thought I was too small to ride a bicycle. But I can still vividly remember my dad holding the back of the bicycle seat and running alongside with me on the bike. Of course, at some point he let go and as I wobbled along he said, “Yes you can.”
My dad taught me to box at a very young age. He would say put up your dukes. Jab, punch, duck, throw that hook. He was quite the coach. He would watch tv and drink beer with his friends who would bring their sons with them. They would have us box each other, unbeknown to our mothers.
Boxing is a tough sport for a toddler. Getting punched in the face and in the stomach was a painful and frightening thing. I can remember wanting to step back and avoid the fight. But my dad would always be there saying, “Yes you can.”
In those early days Dad was preparing me for my future. He knew that being a “runt” was going to mean I would have to fight hard, hustle, be tough and have a lot of self-confidence. He knew all of that started with me understanding that I could do those things that at first seem so daunting.
Anything that I ever turned out to be good at, began with me being a failure. That happened to me so much that I begin to look at the failures as just a steppingstone to my success.
When I started wrestling, I was a big failure. I lost every match my first year and cried like a baby. I joke that I was so bad that my family quit coming to watch me. But the truth is my old man, my dad, stayed on me and would never let me quit. He just kept saying “Yes you can.” Eventually, I went to the state tournament and received a wrestling scholarship for college.
When I left home, failure followed me but thank goodness so did the words of my dad. I was bad with girls; I was bad with guys. I had to learn how to make friends. But dad’s words always echoed in my head saying, “Yes you can.”
When I started speaking I was dreadful. Fortunately, several people saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself. They encouraged me to join Toastmasters. I learned how to speak. But it was mainly because I kept hearing those words. “Yes you can.”
My dad has been gone for a long time. But I still hear his words. Whenever I am fearful or hesitant, when I doubt myself and my abilities, I hear him say, “Yes you can.”
When I’m out running and dead tired, not knowing if I can go on, my dad and I have a heavy conversation and I hear him say, “Yes you can.”
Those three words have meant the world to me for six decades. When I motivate others, I use them. I say, “Yes you can.” When I’ve been the leader of organizations, a manager at work, or just out front of folks, I always rely on those words, “Yes you can.”
I know that others use those words and that I and my dad don’t have a monopoly on their use. I’ve heard preachers and politicians, coaches and teachers, and many more say them too.
But there something special the way my dad would say it. The love and hope he had for me were all in those words. Encouragement that I would need for a lifetime were in those words.
My dad was a smart man. He left me with a great gift. He taught me to believe in myself with just three words. YES YOU CAN!