Do You Have a Can-Do or a Can’t-Do Attitude?

I had a teacher back in Middle School who would write the names of famous people on the chalkboard every single day. They were famous for very different reasons, but it didn’t take much to notice that they all had one thing in common: they had all faced tremendous failure before managing to succeed.

I can barely remember that teacher’s name, and I don’t even remember the subject that he taught, but I do remember that list and a few of the people on it.

The list included Abraham Lincoln, who lost many elections for various public positions before he was elected President of the United States. The list also included Thomas Edison, who created thousands of prototypes that didn’t work before he invented the light bulb. There were many others who went on to become a success after failing.

Despite this story being about something entirely unrelated to freelancing, my teacher had a very good point: You often have to fail at something before you can succeed. That truth is just as true today as it was when I attended Middle School.

This message is especially true for freelancers. Your business can’t succeed if you don’t stick with it. It’s up to each of us to decide that we can succeed.

An Illustration of the Can’t-do Attitude

In contrast to the lesson my teacher was trying to get across is the can’t-do attitude expressed by a few freelancers that I have met over the years.

Here’s a typical (fictional) experience of meeting someone with a can’t-do attitude:

As soon as I walked in the room, Jane Doe was quick to let me know how badly things were going for her. At first I felt really sad for Jane, but as I listened to her problems I realized that I knew how a few of them could be overcome (having faced something similar myself).
When the time seemed right, I shared my experience with Jane and explained how I had tackled a similar problem. To my surprise, Jane didn’t seem the least bit interested in solving her problem. That’s when I realized that Jane was the victim of her own can’t-do attitude.

Would my solutions have worked for Jane? Maybe not, but she wasn’t even willing to try them.

A can’t-do attitude can be devastating to a freelancing business, and sometimes we don’t even realize how negative our own attitude has become.

A Can-Do Checklist

Here is a checklist to see if you are a can-do freelancer:

  1. Workarounds. When confronted with a problem a can-do freelancer looks for a work-around. A can’t-do freelancer quits.
  2. Learning. A can-do freelancer is always learning and looking for new ideas. A can’t-do freelancer sticks with what he or she already knows.
  3. Excuses. A can-do freelancer owns his or her mistakes and does better next time. A can’t-do freelancer is full of excuses.
  4. Planning. A can-do freelancer has a Plan A and a Plan B. A can’t-do freelancer doesn’t plan anything.

Of course, this post isn’t meant to point a finger at anyone in particular. It’s likely that all of us have been a can-do freelancer at some points of our freelancing career AND a can’t-do freelancer at other points in that same career.

Rather, I really want this post to be a reminder to everyone of what we can accomplish as freelancers when we have a positive attitude. All of us have incredible potential if we’re willing to work hard and overcome our (inevitable) problems.

What Characteristics Would You Add to the Checklist?

Do you think attitude contributes to freelancing success? Why, or why not?

What characteristics would you add to those of the can-do (or can’t-do) freelancer?

Have you met someone like Jane Doe? What you say to him (or her)?