What If You Kill Your 'Yeah Buts'

You are in a war. 'What if' want's to win. 'Yeah but' keeps knocking it down. 

‘Yeah but’ keeps claiming casualties. Dead dreams. Lost hopes. 

When ‘yeah but’ wins, cynicism holds the trophy. We stop believing change is possible. We stop believing we have the power to choose. This is dangerous. 

'What if' is a powerful question. 'Yeah but' is a deadly weapon.

'What if' opens doors. 'Yeah but' slams them shut. 

We are born with a billion 'what ifs'. We watch them die one by one until one final day, they take us with them.

'Yeah but that would never work.' 

'Yeah but you don't have the money.' 

'Yeah but how will you live?' 

'Yeah but people will think you are weird.' 

'Yeah but you're only 5 feet tall.' 

'Yeah but you're 53.'

'Yeah but you're only 19.'

‘Yeah but we don’t do it that way.' 

Here's how this plays out.

'What if we designed our cities for people, instead of cars?'

This is the question posed by a documentary I watched last night called 'The Human Scale'. It may be one of the more important questions to help us survive the next 100 years of global population growth.

Let me get a little 'hippie' on you for a moment here.

Cars are rough on the environment. Cars make our cities less walkable. We live further apart and become isolated. We don’t know our neighbours. We fill our spare time with commutes. We pack more into the day. We tear up green space and public space for roadways. We force restricitive parking requirements onto new developments in highly packed old neighbourhoods. We put cars first and there are consequences. This choice shapes our lives. Our quality of life is changed. I don’t think for the better.

What if there is another way? 

'Yeah but' we live in a climate where it is winter 5 months of the year.

'Yeah but' everything is so spread out here, there's no way I could walk to work.

'Yeah but’ we both work and have two kids and need two cars to get through the week.

‘Yeah but’ is holding ‘what if’ under the water. ‘What if’ is choking and gasping for air. 

I feel this acutely this morning.

One car has a flat tire. I have to drive it to the mechanic. My wife will take the other to work for a long shift. The kids will have to walk home from school. But it’s cold. And who knows how cold with the windchill? 

Can our feet really get us where we need to go today?

In the summer I can ride my bike. But I’m not the kind of guy to invest in tire chains, so February biking is out for me. Or is that just another yeah but?

There are so many yeah buts. 

What if we start from a place where we HAVE TO find another way? 

It’s amazing how much invention necessity can buy.

I’ve been to Venice – a city with no cars at all – and heard the beautiful silence. I’ve walked blocks of pedestrian passageways in Munich. I’ve strolled along the reclaimed Sienne in Paris, recently given back to foot traffic by city planners. These spaces were spaces were full of community and life. 

I’ve walked Steven Avenue in Calgary and wondered why we cannot close off the 104th street promenade here, on days other than Saturday. 

I’ve tasted the fruit of this 'what if'. I’m hungry for more.

This goes beyond cars and feet. This gets to the heart of why we fail to change and create. 

When we face creative problems we always hit a wall. If there weren’t walls we wouldn’t need creative solutions. But too often, that wall ends us. ‘Yeah but’ wins. 

The first step of creative problem solving is owning the problem.

Not running from it. Not deeming it insurmountable. Getting it out there and naming it and owning it.

The problem is not the end, but the beginning.

What if I wrote a blog post every morning?

Yeah but that would take a lot of time.

What if I kept it short?  

Yeah but good things take time.

What if I decided that quantity was more important than quality for now, and just got myself going?

Yeah but I don’t have much 'alone time' to write.

What if I woke up a bit earlier to make that time?

Yeah but I could only make about 15 minutes more each morning. I already work out, read and pray – all before the kids wake up.

What if I kept it to 15 minutes max then? 15 mintues then I hit ‘publish'. What if I did that and things got easier? Things got better? What if residual benefits from the discipline spilled over into my life and actually saved me time in other places?

There is so much on the other side of that ‘yeah but’ wall, so just tear it down.

'Yeah buts' can shape the problem – limits can help lead us to a solution – but do not let them stop you.

If your 'what if' is worth chasing, chase it. Right through the wall. 

Kill your yeah buts.

What if 'What if’ wins?

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