I Think I Can

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”  – Henry Ford

Do you ever find that either believing you can – or you cannot – do something becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy?  We for me, that was high school calculus; it did me in.  May he rest in peace, the teacher was horrible.  Though I went to a phenomenal school in a terrific district with wonderful instructors, he was the exception.  I wasn’t alone in my experience.  Pretty much, everyone in the class was stupefied.  As a result, upon graduation, I proudly exclaimed I’d never take math again.

Sure, it was easy enough to blame my lack of understanding on poor quality teaching, but it also made me feel like I was just bad at math and that I really couldn’t do it.

Then, low and behold, second semester sophomore year in college, just a few months from having to select a major, for some reason, I decided to give math another try.  I did and was hooked.  It’s a longer story for another post, perhaps, but at the end of the semester, I declared as a math major.  That decision has shaped multiple other decisions over the past two-and-a-half decades.  Plus, it’s bolstered my confidence in a number of areas and I am so proud to have studied math which serves me well every day.

I was reminded of that experience when I read a recent Wall Street Journal article, “How a Polymath Mastered Math – and So Can You,” by James Taranto about the highly successful engineer and Mindshift:  Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential author, Barbara Oakley, who said, “I flunked my way through elementary, middle and high school math and science,” and so, “I just came to the conclusion at that time that I really couldn’t do math.”

Of course, despite my adoration for mathematics, analytics and the order they bring to chaos, the point of sharing all of this has nothing to do with numbers or quantification or the Quadratic Equation.  Nope.  Instead, it has to do with determination and motivation and deciding you’re going to do something even when you fear that you do not possess the skills to do so.

Anyone who attends my Networking Workshops knows that I bestow on them the special title, “Master Networker.”  I freely dole out this auspicious designation to anyone – and I mean anyone – who, despite their concerns and fears and loathsome feelings about networking, decides they are a great networker!  That’s right, simply decide that you are a master of relationship building and you suddenly are.  Simply decide to connect with others, and you will.  If you have the will, the Coffee Lunch Coffee approach – or one like it – can show you the way!

Now, no doubt, the decision alone is not really all that is required for success… one must also be willing to put in the effort.  They don’t call it net-WORK-ing for nothing… it requires some muscle and a little elbow grease.  But, overcoming the stereotypical hindrances holding you back from establishing and nurturing a robust, productive and meaningful relationship base is entirely possible for anyone willing to engage in the process.


  1. Decide you are a great networker, and you are.
  2. Make two lists: First, a list of people you already know who you’d like to reconnect with in the next couple of months (start with five to ten names… it doesn’t have to be daunting!).  Second, a list of people you don’t know, but would like to.  Often, the people on list #1 can help you get to the people on list #2.  Start reaching out with the suggestion of getting together – be sure to recommend a date, time and location.
  3. Follow up with anything you promised to do or send (e.g. referrals/introductions, articles, information, etc.) and a thank you note (handwritten is best).
  4. Repeat!
  5. Don your Master Networker badge with pride. You earned it because, as they say, whether you thought you could or you couldn’t, you were right.

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