Never Let What You Cannot Do Interfere With What You Can Do

John Wood here with day four of my tribute to sports champions and the lessons we, as writers, can learn from them.

Today I want to talk about a man who began wrestling in the eighth grade.

As a freshman in high school, his wrestling record was five wins and eight losses.

He was ranked last in the city of Mesa, Arizona. So he trained some more. A lot more.

In his junior and senior years at Mesa High School, his record was 96-0.

He became a two-time Arizona State Champion and a high school National Champion.

During his senior year at Arizona State University, his wrestling record was 36-0. He won the 2011 NCAA National Title for wrestling in the 125-pound weight class.

Remarkable accomplishments … and even more so, when you consider Anthony Robles was born with only one leg.

Judy, his mother, says that when Anthony first started wrestling, people would say things like, “poor thing” … “he’s trying” … “he’s at a disadvantage; he’s only got one leg.”

After he started winning, their tune changed.

People said he was winning because having only one leg was now suddenly an advantage. He had all this upper body strength, and people simply couldn’t get low enough.

But Judy says that’s not the case at all …

“He just figured out how to beat them,” she says.

Anthony doesn’t consider himself as having a disability.

“There’s no such thing as a disability,” he says. “We all have different barriers, different obstacles we have to go through. But, really, I don’t see any disabilities.”

Here are four ways to overcome any obstacles that might be keeping you from achieving your goals:

  1. Focus on what serves you best. In his ESPY Award acceptance speech, Anthony said his mother taught him “to never let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” A powerful phrase borrowed from NCAA basketball coach John Wooden.

    How does it apply to the writer’s life? Never get bogged down by things that are beyond your control. You can’t control the economy, the competition, the marketplace, etc. — but you can control how you let things like that affect you.

  2. Put a plan together. Don’t just let an obstacle loom all around you and slow down your progress. Put a plan together to defeat it. For example, if the bullets you’re writing are lackluster and ordinary, study information on how to turn your bullets into dazzling selling machines. (You can find many free articles on the AWAI website.)
  3. Take one step at a time. Sometimes “everything you have to do” can seem so overwhelming. So be sure to break up what you need to do into workable chunks and then focus on one chunk at a time.
  4. Always look on the bright side of life. The day he was born, when Anthony’s grandparents saw his missing limb, they started to cry. That was not the reaction of his 16-year-old mother Judy. “To me, he was perfect,” she says.

    Focus on what lifts you up. Not what brings you down.

What are some of the barriers that stood in the way of your writing success? And how have you overcome them? Share your comments here.

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Published: November 21, 2013

7 Responses to “Never Let What You Cannot Do Interfere With What You Can Do”

  1. Your final sentence regarding the mother's quote about her newborn is definitely where Anthony inherited his will and his great attitude.

    Thanks for sharing another moving story.

    Guest (Tim)November 21, 2013 at 1:23 pm

  2. The biggest challenge for me has been getting started! Going through the programs and knowing that I want the Writer's Life was easy, but now that I'm staring down the big, scary prospect of actually starting my freelance business, there've been days when I've just been overwhelmed by everything I have to do. Fortunately, I've weathered that storm, and I've found that by focusing on one thing at a time (such as a website, which I'm working on now), getting started doesn't seem as scary.

    Kyle FNovember 21, 2013 at 4:07 pm

  3. John, This was a timely article. I am 75 and have gone back to college to learn web design coding. Find it extremely difficult, and frankly somewhat embarrassing to be the slowest kids in the class. And, the little negative voices tell me every day I am too old. I fight back and say those 7+ decades are a plus. Those years have given me rich experiences that younger can only wait for. And age is no more than a number--unless I want to believe the little voices, which I don't.

    Guest (Allan)November 22, 2013 at 6:26 pm

  4. Thanks John! Great advice. And Kyle thanks for the comment. I too have been overwhelmed by all I have to do and haven't done much since Boot Camp. Time to get one thing at a time done!

    Guest (Dan Fahlgren)November 23, 2013 at 2:46 pm

  5. A fitting title for this emotionally charged article, uplifting, focus and determination lesson to achieve your goals despite any circumstance in life.

    Graystone WriterNovember 24, 2013 at 4:07 pm

  6. Great story, John, very inspirational! Happy holidays and wishing you the best 2014 has to offerl

    2 B richDecember 29, 2013 at 4:02 pm


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