4 letter word picture



What do Marilyn Monroe, Thomas Edison, JK Rowling, Walt Disney, Jennifer Brickner and Steven King have in common?

They didn’t use the word ‘can’t’ – possibly the most dangerous word in the English language.

How can a little four letter word be so dangerous, you might ask.




Because it’s a lie and the thief of confidence.

The moment we start using that four letter word we are producing limiting thoughts. And our thoughts determine our responses to everything that goes on around us.

When we have a positive attitude, rather than one of failure, we see the opportunities that come our way and grab them.

When our eyes are veiled by the cloud of ‘can’t’, we miss the options and doom ourselves to a self-professing prophecy.




four letter word picture


When we refuse to allow that nasty four-letter word into our vocabulary, amazing results unfold.

Marilyn Monroe was told she was a failure for most of her life. Her modelling agents suggested she should become a secretary as she would never make it as a model.

Her answer to that?

Someone said to me, ‘If fifty percent of the experts in Hollywood said you had no talent and should give up, what would you do’?

My answer was then and still is, ‘If a hundred percent told me that, all one hundred percent would be wrong’.

 Marilyn Monroe


Thomas Edison had more than 1000 unsuccessful attempts before he created the lightbulb.

His can-do attitude resulted in him (and us) finally being able to see the light.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Thomas Edison





Author JK Rowling had her first Harry Potter manuscript rejected by 12 different publishers before one editor finally took the time to read it and see the magic in it. Rowling was told to get a day job as she wouldn’t make money from writing children’s books.

She became the first female billionaire author.

You sort of start thinking anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.

J. K. Rowling

It’s a common story for writers.

Rudyard Kipling, who gave us The Jungle Book was told; “…you just don’t know how to use the English language.”

Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women, was told to “stick to teaching”. 150 years after first being published, the book remains a classic.

Horror, thriller and sci-fi author Stephen King was told; “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”

His books have sold more than 350 million copies, many of which have been adapted into feature films, television series, and comic books.


“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.” 
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft


David Baldacci had 15 years of rejections before he made his first book sale. A rejection letter when he was 18 said; “We only publish talent”.

More than 110 million copies of his books have been sold in more than 80 countries.




four letter word picture


It’s hard to believe, but Walt Disney was accused of lack of creativity at the start of his career.

Despite this, his can-do attitude spurred him on to ignite his imagination and delight us with creations such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy.

Harrison Ford, who was one of Hollywood’s top paid actors, was told by movie executives that he didn’t have what it takes to become a movie star.



four letter word picture


Classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven didn’t let deafness stop him from continuing to create some of the world’s most beautiful compositions, including The Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125. This was composed between 1822 and 1824 – at least six years after Beethoven became completely deaf. The symphony is one of the best-known works in common practice music.

In a letter to a friend, dated 1801, Beethoven wrote; “Of course, I am resolved to rise above every obstacle, but how will it be possible?…”.

This is the question we need to ask ourselves when doubt knocks at our door, bringing with it that four-letter word. Instead of “I can’t” we should be asking “how can I do this?

Jennifer Brickner’s parents had only one rule when they were raising her and their sons – never say the word ‘can’t’.

And she didn’t. Regardless of the fact she was born with no legs, Jennifer pursued her dream to become a gymnast and was a tumbling champion by age 11.

She went on to win state titles and competed in the Junior Olympics. Now, she is a professional acrobat.

If you are never given limits then you think you can do anything.

Jennifer Brickner


That was her parents’ greatest gift to her – no limits.

You can watch an amazing interview with her here.




four letter word picture


It takes a strong person with a lot of nerve and passion to ignore the limitations others place on them.

A long time ago a friend told me her son, aged around nine at the time, said he wanted to be a surgeon. My friend admitted to actively discouraging this dream. She said he didn’t have the brains required and she didn’t want to give him false hope.

It made me a little sad. After all, one of the world’s greatest minds, Albert Einstein, didn’t speak for the first three years of his life and was considered by some of his teachers to be intellectually disabled.

It’s bad enough when we put limitations on ourselves, but passing them on to our children can result in loss of ambition, confidence and hope.

We can help keep their feet planted on the ground by explaining to them they will need to work hard and with great determination. But they can achieve their dreams.

When they watch the example of adults around them with can-do attitudes, it becomes even easier.




We can empower our children and teach them early on to eliminate the word ‘can’t’ from their vocabulary.

One of the Goddesses used the word when she had an issue using scissors.

A leftie, like I am, she was dealing with the scissors (designed for right-handed people) favoured by organisations such as day care and schools. I explained this to her, gave her some left-handed scissors to use and showed her how she CAN cut properly. Now she is mastering the art of using right-handed scissors. A superpower for us lefties.

When my Wacky Workshops students claim they can’t draw, or paint, or whatever, I show them some little ‘cheats’ I’ve picked up along the way. Once they use these to gain their confidence, there is no stopping them.



four letter word picture


The word ‘can’t’ is about the ability to do something. It is often confused with the word ‘won’t’, which is a choice.

One word takes away our power – “I can’t say no”, “I can’t break this habit”, “I can’t believe in that”.

The other word gives us power – “I won’t accept that, “I won’t go there”, “I won’t think like that”. In this case, we get to make the decision.

The fact is we CAN say no. With enough dedication and commitment, we CAN break that habit. And we CAN believe in whatever it is we choose to.

So why do we say we can’t? I think it’s a way to try and avoid being accountable, especially if we fear failure. If we ‘can’t’ do it, no one can blame us. If we refuse or ‘won’t’ do something, there is room for argument.

‘Can’t’ is often used by us as a convenience when dealing with others. But at what cost to us?

Each time we use that four-letter word we make smaller our space with the walls we build from our own perceived limitations. Making it one of the most dangerous words in the English language.

Next time you hear yourself saying you can’t do something, try swapping it with ’won’t’ or ‘shan’t’ and see if you feel more confident and in charge of yourself.

It works for me and if it doesn’t for you then it can’t hurt. 🙂

Have a gleeful week, Tamuria.





  • Love your post Tami. Replacing “can’t” with “won’t” is very powerful. I remember using this explanation with my husband. At first, he wasn’t impressed with me (I tend to push buttons you see) and after a while, started to take into account that maybe, just maybe I might be right. 😉

    It takes self awareness and courage to be able to go from “can’t” to “won’t.”
    Great post.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Claudette. Yes, it takes self-awareness and especially courage to go from ‘can’t’ to ‘won’t’. It’s a wonderful way to reclaim your power though.

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