13 – Can’t Is a 4 Letter Word

CAN’T is a bad word at my house.

At least when coupled with the lack of desire to dedicate time and energy to acquiring a new skill. If you want to learn something new, the only thing that is stopping you is you.

Ok, maybe there are a few exceptions to this rule. I can’t instantly become invisible on demand, but, then again, I haven’t hired an invisibility coach and dedicated 10,000 hours to becoming proficient at becoming invisible on demand.

All joking aside, many of us put unnecessary limitations on our own abilities to succeed.

We’ve all heard family, friends and acquaintances utter the following phrases:

– I don’t have a musical bone in my body.
– I’m not good at math.
– I’ll never be a good public speaker.
– I’m a terrible cook.
– I’ll never be a good salesperson.
– I couldn’t ever do what he/she does.

Here are the same phrases after the proper filtering techniques are applied:

– I’ve chosen not to dedicate time to being musical.
– I’ve never dug in and studied math.
– I always avoid public speaking opportunities.
– I hate cooking.
– I haven’t dedicated myself to the art of communication and persuasion.
– I’m comfortable and a little scared of change.

There are no limitations other than the ones you put on yourself.

Let’s not get stuck in the EXCUSES OF CAN’T.

I’d rather spend the next few minutes talking about the SCIENCE OF CAN.

REASON #1 – Evolution is Revolution.

According to many scientists, humans have been evolving and continue to do so.

Our innate ability to adapt is real.

First, some quick background …

(P.S. I am not a doctor or a scientist.)

What the hell is a genome?

A genome is the complete DNA set for an organism.

Think of a large book with 23 sections.

Each section contains billions of letters.


(Wait … the basis of humanity is this four letter alphabet?)

Each of these letters make sentences called genes.

These sentences describe proteins, which are the building blocks of humans.

Why is this important?

Genomics can be the key to proactively treating life-threatening illnesses.

It can also help us understand where we came from.

Here are some “recent” examples of human evolution:

The Super Athlete Gene
University of California at Berkley conducted a study comparing the genomes from a group of Tibetans and a group of Han Chinese. According to the study, these groups split about 3,000 years ago. The Han Chinese continued to live at sea level, and the Tibetans moved to the Himalayas at extremely high altitudes. The study uncovered a genetic mutation supporting the idea that humans continue to evolve. The mutation was found in 90% of the Tibetan group and only in 10% of the Han Chinese group. The mutation led to a biological change in the Tibetan group that allows them to thrive at higher altitudes and lower oxygen levels. Evolution is revolution.


Got Milk?
Initially, humans didn’t have the ability to digest lactose beyond childhood. Humans began domesticating animals around 9,000 years ago. By smashing old pottery and collecting trace dairy samples, Professor Richard Evershed (University of Bristol) was able to determine that we also began collecting and storing milk around the same time. If we were collecting and storing it, I would assume it was highly likely that we drank it. From there over time, humans evolved to be able to digest lactose.

So, who can I blame for my insane cereal and milk habit?


Wisdom Teeth
Our ancestors needed them for chewing roots, nuts and uncooked meat. Thanks to forks, grills and protein shakes, they are being engineered out of existence. “Wisdom teeth are probably on their way out, but it will take a long time” (Stephen Stearns, an evolutionary-biology professor at Yale University).


REASON #2 – Plastic Brains?


Neuroplasticity is the amazing ability of the brain to change and adapt over a lifetime.

Neuroscientist, Norman Doidge was one of the first to popularize the idea of neuroplasticity. According to Doidge, “the brain can change its own structure and function through thought and activity.”

Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone on neuroplasticity

“… an intrinsic property of the human brain and represents evolution’s invention to enable the nervous system to escape the restrictions of its own genome and thus adapt to environmental pressures, physiological changes, and experiences.”

So, what’s holding you back?

You can change.

You can adapt.

You can learn something new.

You can grow.


Jeremy (& Science)

Notes and Links:

Tibetans and Han Chinese

Evershued’s Study on Milk

Norman Doidge and Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity – Stanford

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