Sure, I'm guilty of using it, and probably use it more than I'd like to acknowledge. But it's a weak, get-out-of-jail-free term that should be banned. It's a two-word trap, a two-syllable trip to the land of giving up.
Never have I thought so strongly about this than after hearing Dick Hoyt speak at this year's NAILBA conference in Dallas. Maybe you've heard of Dick and his son Rick, who suffers (and I use that term lightly) from a disability. They're the people who removed the word "can't" from their family's vocabulary long ago.
Because of difficulties during his birth in 1962, Rick was born as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy and a nonspeaking person (though he would later receive technology that allowed him to communicate). Even with what seems like a mountain of a challenge, Rick has never used the word "can't." That goes for his dad, Dick, too.
When doctors told Rick's parents to put their baby in an institution when he was just eight months old, the Hoyts refused and instead agreed to raise him like any other child. Well, maybe a little differently.
Rick, with the help of his teammate dad, has completed more than 1,100 athletic events, including marathons and triathlons.
That's not all.
In 1992 they ran/biked (Dick ran while pushing Rick's special wheelchair some days and biked with Rick's seat attached to the front other days) across the U.S. Over 45 straight days, they covered 3,770 miles from California to Massachusetts. Why? Because they can, and because it's what Rick loves.
"After one of our first races, Rick looked at me and said, 'Dad, when I'm running, it feels like my disability disappears.'" From that moment on, Team Hoyt, as they are known, has competed in 70 marathons and 252 triathlons, with six of them being Ironman distance events.
Even more amazing, Dick didn't know how to swim when he committed to his first triathlon.
"We were in the middle of searching for a new house, so I decided to buy a house on the water," he said. "The first time I jumped in I nearly drowned. Three months later Rick and I competed in our first triathlon."
Yes, there's more jaw-dropping information about this family.
Dick and Rick finished their first marathon in 3 hours and 18 minutes, beating 85 percent of all other, non-disabled, runners. In fact, the duo has never finished last in any event. Though Dick is quick to point out that they've come in second-to-last their fair share of times.
Here's a video that shows you the will of this father and son team:
Rick is not only a veteran athlete, his has a high school diploma, a degree in special education from Boston University and lives on his own.
"Nobody wanted Rick around before and now everyone wants us around," Dick said. "Nobody wanted to sit at a table near him when we went out to eat, public schools didn’t want him, races didn’t want us."
That has indeed changed.
In 1994, Japanese officials invited the team to compete in the Japan Half Ironman and in 2000, Germany officials invited them to take part in the country's Ironman Triathlon. They have both been inducted into the Hawaiin Ironman Hall of Fame and there is a bronze statue commemorating Dick and Rick's Boston Marathon efforts in Boston.
Funny what you can do when you remove a silly little word from your vocabulary.
Emily Holbrook is the Executive Managing Editor for National Underwriter Life & Health. Emily has covered the financial, risk management and insurance industries for more than a decade, with her work appearing in Risk Management and the National Law Review. She graduated with dual degrees in Fina... More