Jill Levenhagen

…faith, creativity, humor and real life

Don’t ever say can’t

“I told the coach that I just can’t run fast today because of the humidity.” he said, after the soccer game.


“Oh my goodness Nathan!  Never, ever tell a coach CAN’T!  Tell them you are doing your best, tell them you are out of breath and you need a break, tell them you will go out and do better, but DON’T EVER SAY CAN’T!”

This is my parenting season right now.  I am teaching my 12-year-old how to “adult”.  He badly wants to be all grown up and out from under my parental control.  I am having to release control slowly, while at the same time have lots of talks about how the world works.

And it makes all the difference how you say things.  I’m not teaching my kid to lie here.  If anything, we are talking about attitude, and giving your team or coach your all, even when you don’t feel it.  Giving something more. 

Not making excuses.

This is such a very important part of adulting.  Do you know what I mean?

Let’s take me…as a young adult.  I had such a hard time waking up.  Truly.  It was a weakness, and one that is not acceptable in the “adulting” world if I want to be employed.  So I did all the things to avoid accidentally oversleeping.  It may have happened 4 or 5 times in all of my 20s, and when it did, I was horrified and apologetic and…it was awful.  People seriously don’t understand that it is a real problem.  But it is MY problem.

But here is what I didn’t do:  I did not look at my boss and say, “That is just the way I am.”  Or, how about, in a job interview, saying, “Just so you know, I have a hard time waking up so I may end up being late sometimes.” 

How ridiculous is that?

It is MY PROBLEM.  If I take a job that requires me to be there at a certain time, I have agreed to that by taking the job.  I need to work out any problems myself, and not give excuses to my boss.

People, this has to be the FIRST RULE OF ADULTING! 

In fact, the true key to adulting is self-awareness.  If you can know your strengths AND your weaknesses, you have power. 

Are excuses bad always?  No!  Some things happen that are out of our control.  And sometimes it helps to mention those things.

Like my waitress last night.  She took forever to get our drinks.  When she came out, she first said “Sorry.”  Awesome.  Then she told us something that happened in the kitchen that caused the delay.

This is fine!  Tell us what happened.  If it is out of your control, tell us.

But what if she came to the table and didn’t apologize, and said that she was slow because she likes to have some sips of ice tea on the job?

Um.  No.  That would not be cool.

And now we are coming into the ranty part.

I’m still shaking my head days after our meeting with this guy.  #epicadultingfail

My husband and I have an organization that we are supporters of, a part of, that recently did an up-end in leadership and hired a consulting company.  It’s like everything hit the fan and no information was being forthright.

Concerned people were told to direct all questions to the consulting group, and so my husband reached out via email to the President of the company with the questions we had.

He responded within a day saying that he was currently out of town, but prefers face-to-face meetings.  Now, first, I “get” people like that.  But, he didn’t really ask if that was fine with us.  We would have preferred to get our questions answered via email and not take time away from our jobs or families to meet with him.  It seems like if there are clear answers to the questions, that an email should suffice.  It made us feel like the answers were going to be a bit spongy, and he needed his personality to win us over. 


So we give him times we can meet.

Two weeks pass.

We follow up.  A few days later he sends a litany of how busy he has been, and that “let’s meet after such and such (important week of busyness for him) passes.”  Okay, we’ll wait to hear from him.

And that doesn’t happen.

Another week and a half passes and we send another FIRM email, outlining our basic concerns and that it does not require a meeting to get answers.  And that we are fine with him passing us on to another member of his team.  We are concerned and need our questions addressed.

He replies that he would like to meet in person the following week.  We send him times starting Wednesday of the next week.  And so we hear nothing until TUESDAY saying he wants to meet the next day.


We finally meet for lunch.  He comes in, acting a little frazzled. Small talk.

We talk about our original questions, but he knows that the communication between us has been lacking, on his part.  It is the elephant in the room.  It was unprofessional in my opinion.  He is the PRESIDENT of a consulting company.

So it comes up, no apology by the way…this is getting awkward.  So he says he prefers face to face meetings, and he couldn’t possibly read or respond to the 300 emails he gets every day, after he has been working for 12 hours.

He basically made no apologies, but outlined why he should never be expected to communicate well.  Except if we see him in person. 

And the kicker in the end…when we were wrapping up and he wanted to make sure he was available if we have any other questions or concerns, he says, almost under his breath like he was trying to be funny but dead serious, “But just don’t ever email me.”

What I needed from this meeting is confidence in him.  I needed my questions answered, but in order to believe him or feel I could trust him and his answers, I needed to believe in his leadership.  And he proceeded to give me excuses.  I can’t respond to email because, because, because…reasons.

Here is what would have been acceptable adulting:
Tell me that I will get a quicker response if I call or text (and please provide your number).

Ask me for my number so you can call me back if you want to stop the emails.

Make a small effort to work within the constraints of what other people think is normal (email) instead of forcing them to your way.

But never say CAN’T. 

I wish I could have been his 80-year-old mother at that moment.  He needed a self-awareness lecture.

My son is at a tricky place in growing up.  He is old enough now that we are helping him discover his strengths and weaknesses.  We are telling him when we see one of our own traits in him.  We are helping him know who he is.

My husband can’t understand “procrastination”.  In fact he works completely the opposite, getting things done in advance so that they are not on his mind.  But me, and my son, tend toward procrastination.  And so, my husband has chosen to give my son a little more grace in figuring out how he is going to get things done. 

A few weeks ago, my son is getting comfortable in the grace he is being extended in this procrastinator bent. He is hearing that we are being understanding when he is like that, and so he whips it out as an excuse one day:  “That’s just how I am.”

Oh no you don’t.  No no and no.

People you love can choose to give you grace for things that are a weakness naturally, but we never use our weaknesses as an excuse.  We always try and improve, and we are thankful for grace when it is extended.

Adulting means we never accept our weaknesses as our final truth, as “just who we are”.  They do not define us.  These are the things in life that we strive to overcome.  And in fact, the very act of trying to overcome and work around them make us better.  They make us stronger.  They give us integrity.  They make us leaders. 

It is our power.

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