Who Says You Can’t? How To Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway

Ambitious Resilience, Change & Reinvention, FEATURED, Human First Leadership

Growing up, I lived on and off with my nan. She was the one consistent adult in my life as various ‘dads’ came and went, more often than not adding a new sibling into the mix.

My nan was there to pick up the pieces with her unique style of post-war parenting that focused on the provision of a roof, bed and food. Having lacked any of them from my biological mum, I was grateful for all three. 

My nan was tall and strong with Dame Edna Everage glasses on a chain that dangled around her neck and over her ample chest. She carried a black and white outlook on life and prided herself on being one who ‘speaks as they find.’ One of her favourite phrases was ‘I’d soon give him what for!’ which generally had three uses: 

  • For declaring whilst reading the paper.
  • For shouting at the TV when the news was on.
  • For responding to some tale of treachery told by one of the many women with rollers peeking out from under their headscarves who popped into our backyard for a chat. 

When my nan hit 60 she decided to learn to drive. Having a car was a luxury on our estate (especially one that hadn’t been stolen) so we suddenly became the talk of the street. Trips saw my brothers and I piled into the back of her old Dolomite Triumph with bags of apples I’d ‘scrumped’, various Tupperware and the dog off to visit an ‘aunty’ that we weren’t actually related to in any way. 

I’m not sure how many women in their 60s were driving around in the late 70s and early 80s but I remember my nan getting a load of gyp for it. When questioned about being a female drive (mainly by various ‘uncles’ none of which possessed the slightest whiff of a family resemblance), she explained “I do as I please thank you very much!” My nan owned the independent woman narrative way before Destiny’s Child got dressed up as Wilma from The Flintstones and found themselves stranded on a desert island.

Nan took me everywhere with her in her ‘Freedom Machine’ as she called it. In the queue for the scales at her slimming club, one of her fellow ‘Fat Fighters’ (actual name of the club!) commented that she was too afraid to learn to drive herself. My nan leaned over and delivered some advice with such certainty it’s stayed with me ever since.

“There are three steps to sorting yourself out Brenda.

One, laugh in the face of fear.

Two, decide to do it anyway.

And three – just bloody do it!”


My nan embodied her own catchphrase of “Who says you can’t?” The same phrase that annoyed me as a teenager went on to influence my entire way of being and literally transform my life as an adult.

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Thanks to @Bronac McNeill for this photo of me in action!

I delivered a keynote on the power of the story you tell yourself at the fantastic #RISE2022 conference hosted by Creative Equals last week.

When asked to share stories on feedback they had received, members of the audience recounted how they have been told they were ‘too much ‘ or ‘not enough’ and how that had impacted them.

Feedback is great but it needs fact-checking against the truth about you!

It’s not THEIRstory.

It’s not even HIStory.


What’s impossible for you today?

What can’t you do?

And what would it look like if you could?


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