Do What You Can’t Do

Write songs you can’t sing.
Choreograph dances you can’t dance.
Celebrate both your limits and what you have to offer.

So often, people treat their limits like the end of the road.

“I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. People don’t like me.” Thank you, Stuart Smalley.

So often, people use their limits as an excuse not to start on the road at all!

“I can’t take this dance class because I can’t dance.”

Holy CRAP — that’s the whole reason to take the bloody class!

But this sense of limitation extends well beyond the end or the beginning.

“That’s not logical, Ryan…”

OK, fine. Just stretch with me for a minute here…

I was writing a song with my good friend, and in one of the verses, I suggested some crazy note that I thought really complimented the feeling in the lyrics (“prosody,” for the uber-nerds in the audience). He looked at me confused and said, “But I can’t hit that note.”
… I had no clue how to respond.

Fast forward to two minutes before sitting down to write this piece, I’m choreographing a dance for my middle school students (we have a dance elective). Now, I’m nowhere near my fighting weight, I hadn’t danced full-out in years before offering this elective at the end of last year, and I hadn’t danced again in-between last year’s class and this one. In fact, I hardly danced full-out at all last year… So, there’s that.

Anyways, I’m dancing around the living room in our apartment, trying to piece together movement and sound, and I get inspired to do some turn I can hardly describe. Sufficed to say, it would be a challenge for the uninitiated. I thought, “How am I going to demonstrate this turn to my students? I can’t even do it myself!” My next thought?

Fuck it. I’ll figure it out.

Then I thought, “If I can’t do it, I can hardly expect my kids to do it. 80% of them haven’t even taken a dance class.” My next thought?

Fuck it. They’ll figure it out.

Because, seriously, what’s the point of throwing your body around if it’s not challenging? The whole purpose of learning is to stretch beyond our current limits. Time and time again, my students surprise themselves with what they can do. Time and time again, when I set forth to do something I can’t do —


This isn’t the beginning or the end; this is an ongoing effort — sustained or faltering, steady or sporadic, smooth or ridiculously rough — but an ongoing effort all the same.

What’s more, consider what we are robbing others of — of our knowledge, of our experience, of our very being — by sticking to our limits. It goes back to what I said in my first post, “We’re all freaks. We’re all perfectly weird. And that’s beautiful.” This is no different: I have something to offer, and my limits do not detract from it. In fact, owning my limits and working with them is one of the most amazing benefits I can offer my students.

“Guys, you can DO this.”

I engage in push-up “battles” with a student of mine who can THRASH ME. Why? Why would I put myself in this position? Aren’t I supposed to be the ultimate authority in the room? Aren’t I supposed to be unassailable?

What the hell is the use in that?! Make it easier to run the classroom? Teach them that I have no growing to do? What. the. Hell. is. the. Use. in. That?

I would much rather teach them to accept and confront their limits, that they will always have limits, and that those limits SHOULD NOT KEEP THEM LIMITED.

Do what you can’t do. Seriously. Do it.

I’d triple dog dare you, but I’m pretty sure I already dared you in a recent post. Don’t want to be redundant. Ha!

Keep being awesome,

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