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That Old “Can’t Do” Spirit Part 2

That Old “Can’t Do” Spirit Part 2

I don’t take out the garbage. I just don’t.

Could I? Physically, yes. While you might not be able to see my biceps from afar (or, sadly, even from a-near), I am capable of lifting the bag from the can, walking it down the hall, and taking it outside to our garbage bins.

Would I? I would, if the circumstances required it. And in fact, I have. One morning several years ago, there was perfect storm involving a leaky bag and a rancid smell and two young kids kvetching about the aforementioned smell and a husband who had already left for work. So, I grabbed the garbage bag, tied it up, headed to the garbage cans, and fell down a flight of stairs. "Bring me something frozen!" I called to my then-five-year old twins from my prostrate position on the ground. As a packed my swelling ankle with the box of falafel that Sophie offered, and sent Jacob back up the stairs to fetch a spoon for the pint of Chunky Monkey that he had brought, I decided right then and there, once and for all, that I don’t do garbage.

Truth be told, I have done this "don’t do" a few times over the years, and I haven’t been re-injured in the line of duty. But now that I have two nine-year old kids who enjoy having an allowance and a fresh-smelling home, this job is on their to-do list. And now everyone’s happy. Or I am. Either way works for me.

In my last article, "That Old "Can’t Do" Spirit Part 1," I highlighted the difference between "can’t do" (lack of skill, ability, resources, etc.) and "won’t do" (lack of motivation or confidence). "Don’t do" is more complicated. Why don’t we do stuff? It could be that the opportunity for doing it – whatever "it" is – hasn’t presented itself. For example, when I train volunteers and professionals to solicit for philanthropic gifts, I remind them that people who "don’t" give money may not have been asked to give yet. By asking them to make a meaningful contribution to a charitable cause, we give them the chance to do a mitzvah that they may not have done on their own.

"Don’t do" could be something you simply haven’t considered doing, haven’t made a priority, or realized needed some attention. One coaching client of mine brought this particular challenge to the table. As the National Co-Chair of the Young Leadership Cabinet for the Jewish Federations of North America, Steven Scheck has more on his "do" list than most people. In his volunteer role, Steven is responsible for helping to create the vision for how the Jewish Federation system reaches out to young leadership through conferences, missions and other programs. He also helps the Young Leadership Departments in all 157 Jewish Federations and 400 network communities around North America in their efforts to reach out to their young leaders, and works to create educational programs that highlight the amazing work that the Federation System does for Jews locally, in Israel and around the world. Yes, that’s all in his volunteer time. In his spare time, he runs a business, learns Torah, is a committed husband, and is a father of four young children.

So what does Steven do? Heck, what doesn’t Steven do?

When Steven came to me for coaching, he was getting most things done, but he wasn’t sure how to make time for other activities that he knew could make a meaningful impact. These activities are what Steven Covey, author of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", calls "important" rather than "urgent" – actions that may not feel immediate, but are critical to our long-term goals.

When I asked Steven to choose an activity that he wasn’t doing but that he wanted to do and that would feel meaningful, he decided to dedicate one hour per week to one-on-one time with each of his four children. Why hadn’t he done that before? It wasn’t that he couldn’t or wouldn’t – he just hadn’t thought of it. And now, he was choosing to make it a priority. Within a day of our call, Steven emailed me a beautiful photo of himself and his son, enjoying ice cream, dripping smiles.

Why did Steven give me permission to mention him by name, forgoing our confidentiality contract? For two reasons: 1) because Steven is deservedly proud of his new "do" and the lifelong impact he is making on his family and 2) because he wants to inspire other people who are similarly stretched thin between work, family, and community obligations to think about what new "do’s" are worth making the time for.

In the words of the Talmud, "One person’s candle is a light for many." Steven’s candle burns at both ends – and is also a light for so many, including me. Within a few days of getting Steven’s picture, I emailed him back a photo of my one-on-one date with my son Jacob. Steven’s new "do" motivated mine, and I am lucky to have a client who also knows how to coach.

Now I wonder if Steven also takes out the garbage….

What do you do? What will you do?

Ask yourself, your team, your family or your organization:

1. What could you start to do to help you meet a short-term goal?

2. What could you start to do to help you meet a long-term goal?

3. What do you do that gets in your own way? How can you stop doing that?

4. What do you do that gives you the most pleasure? How can you do more of that?

5. What’s the most powerful thing you’ve ever done? What conditions supported you doing it?

6. What might you do differently that you haven’t tried before?

7. What do you stand for? What do you do to demonstrate that?

8. What would you do if you knew you would not fail?

9. What will you do today to make someone’s day?

10. What will you do today to make your own day?

Deborah Grayson Riegel is a certified coach, speaker and trainer who helps individuals, teams and organizations achieve personal and professional success through her high-energy workshops, presentations and one-on-one coaching. Visit her online at or

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