Do What You Can… (The Evolution of Ideas.)

There is an idea, embodied in a quote that I recently read, which to my mind, is one of the most important and vital master keys to: living a life of joyeous productivity and achievement unhindered by unnecessary bullshit or false constraint.

It is an idea which has been battle tested by every single person throughout the whole of history, who has ever accomplished anything of significance.

It is fully timeless.  It is the internal foundation and impetus for all action.  It has been, and continues to be, of the greatest value in my own life.

Would you like to know what it is?…

“Do what you can, with what you have, from where you are.”

           – Theodore Roosevelt

At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking that this may seem entirely underwhelming.  I mean, how basic and common sensical can you get, right?  But if you: stop and read it just a few more times.  If you consider it, just a little bit.  If you can begin to get to grips with the concepts that underlie these twelve short words; then you may realise that this is a potentially paradigm-shifting idea of awesome power, and epic magnitude.

Consider this question: If you want to do something, yet are not doing it, then what is the reason behind your inaction?

Maybe you’re really tired.  Maybe you don’t have the time.  Maybe you think you need more of something: (intelligence, talent, or resources).  Maybe you think you need less of something: (responsibilities, pressures, or constraints).  Whatever the given reason, when you cut to the heart of it, these are all ways of saying: you do not believe that present conditions are good enough for you to begin.  They are all ways of saying:

Not. Ready. Yet.

These three words, combined, form the mental equivalent of a deadly poison.  A highly contagious toxic meme.  An idea which, if left unchecked, will burrow, like a parasite, deep into your frontal lobe.  Over time, as inexorably and as surely as leprosy, these three little words will begin to deaden the very nerves within you until, finally, you are rendered mercifully numb to the fact that important and vital parts of you are being sloughed away and becoming lost to the void.

We all know that, on some level, there exists an endless array of ever-available reasons to: delay beginning, or stop doing anything.  Look hard enough, turn over enough moldy, slime encrusted rocks, and you can always find a good excuse.  Reality is such that, conditions are rarely, if ever, perfect or optimal.  Which is why this is not a quote that speaks about a ‘perfect’ idea.

This quote is not shiny.  It teeth are not laser-whitened.  It’s skin is not fake-tanned.  These are practical wordsReal words.  They come to you bloody, scuffed up, well used, and toughened by relentless testing and exposure in the murky trenches of life.  They tell us: we achieve things in spite of conditions, not because of them.  They tell us that: with a conscious shift of perspective, you can reframe your reality from something that impedes you, to something that empowers you.  They tell us we can.  And they tell us that it doesn’t matter that this isn’t a shiny idea, because: the truth will beat seven fucks out of shiny on any given day of the week and twice on Tuesdays.

Do not let yourself be fooled by it’s brevity.  The idea contained within this quote is as sophisticated and powerful a piece of technology as you are ever likely to find anywhere on this planet.  Forty two, innocuously innocent little letters, arranged into a pattern of twelve tiny words which, if embodied and acted upon, can literally change the experience and course of your entire life.  It is the simple and elegant antidote to everything that holds us back as human beings.  Not: ‘not ready’, but: ‘I have everything I need‘.  Not: ‘conditions aren’t perfect’, but: ‘I can use this‘.

Not: ‘Wait’, but…


Did you like this?

If you enjoyed this you may also like: my love letter to the mountains of Scotland, my essay about how things can be more beautiful for having been broken, or my recent post on how to find beauty, even in the darkest of places.

I’m Working on some Cool New Stuff.

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226 Replies to “Do What You Can… (The Evolution of Ideas.)”

  1. Well written, James. Last week, I was teaching my students about descriptive writing, so I took special notice of the “shiny quote” paragraph. Stunning imagery. I also like the way you are able to utilize “taboo” language as natural vocabulary and not for it’s shock value. Thank you for sharing your talent.


    1. Thank you very much, Tricia M Foster, ;-)
      I actually found this to be a very cool compliment. For some reason I enjoy the fact that, of the entire post, you selected the ‘taboo’ language for your students. Makes me happy. Don’t know why.
      Hope you’re having a great day,
      – J


  2. Wow. As simple as that :) I heard a message sometime last week similar to this post. Amazing how truth is repeated every day through different avenues.


  3. indeed, my version of this mantra is to “do what you can, not what you can’t”. After years of athletic training that seemed to always encourage 110% effort, I finally discovered I work ever so much better when I do what I can do, and then do it again, rather than always fretting about all the things I can’t do. Good words.


    1. Thanks a lot. I fully agree with you.
      It’s always the starting, and the repetition that are the hardest things. To keep coming back and doing your best, day in day out – that’s the work. ;-)
      Thanks for stopping by,
      – J


  4. Such a motivating blog! I need to stop by it more often. I really needed to read it this morning. Btw, I just checked out your music and I love it. However, I suppose you mail to the United States.


    1. Hey there,
      Thanks so much for that. Glad to be of service. ;-)
      Just so you know, the digital album will be online forever, but if you specifically want one of the Physical albums then numbers are limited and they are almost sold out, so get it sooner rather than later. Oh, and I do indeed mail out to the U.S. ;-)
      Hope that helps, thanks for stopping by,
      hope you’re having a great day,
      – J


        1. Totally correct I’m afraid.
          I’ve kept the shipping costs as low as possible – I actually make a bit of a loss on them because, in my opinion they are really high. You DO get a free download of the album if you buy the CD tho, and there is always the digital copy if you don’t want to pay postage. ;-)
          Hope that helps, and have a great day,
          – J


  5. Beautiful article. I wrote a book manuscript called “Envision.: Then build with what you have at hand” and you can still see it listed online although it is not on sale anymore. I iterate over it and make it available again in not long under my new name. I’m amazed by what you do, James, I recognize we seem to follow a similar path with the exception that my hesitance in releasing work has been greater. Keep in touch and all the best, Mona


    1. Hey there Mona,
      I’m really glad you liked it. Thanks.
      It’s not necessarily a bad thing to work on your stuff and make it the best it can be before you put it out. Just keep moving forward and everything will come from that.
      Thanks for stopping by, anytime you want to talk you know where to find me. ;-)
      – J


  6. I LOVED this post. It sums up my life pre-2011 perfectly! I was always not ready, and then I damn near died, got my head screwed on right after that. My cousin had died 6 weeks before my big event and one of the things he always said to me before he died was, “where do they bury the survivors?” It confused me until the day I woke up from my coma in the hospital. He was saying damn it girl go live your life on your terms don’t bury yourself alive.


    1. Wow.
      That sounds like a very intense time. I am glad you made it thru.
      I agree – life should be lived on your own terms, well done for actually doing it. ;-)
      Best wishes to you, and thanks a lot for your honesty and kind words.
      – J


  7. Good advice. Too often people, myself included, put things off. It can be fear of failure, of course, that scourge that affects us all. Thanks for sharing. And many thanks for stopping by my blog. I appreciate it.


  8. thank you for inspiring me! I have just started a blog a few months ago detailing my life with my Mom who suffered from early on-set Alzheimer’s. I’ve never been the type of ‘woe is me’ person but have difficulty following things (like writing) through… so Thank you! I will continue my journey!


    1. Thankyou in return, I am very glad it was of use to you.
      I am sorry to hear of your Mom’s illness, I do not have any personal experience with Alzheimer’s, but from what I know it must be a challenging time for you. My thoughts and best wishes are with you as you continue your journey.
      – J


          1. Here a few more, you can dissect them to create your own.

            *█▄OvE* *█▄OvE* *█▄OvE
            ^-☛♛ ♥`•.¸.☀ {{❤}} Ѧℳ☮ℝℰ..•*¨“♥*
            ✿ღ✿ღ.¸¸ღ♫*¨`*•..¸ƸӜƷ ✿ღ ✫❀
            *█▄OvE* *█▄OvE* *█▄OvE





            .      .   °  . ● .   ° ☾ °☆  ¸. ● .  ★  ★ ° ☾ ☆ ¸. ¸  ★  :.  . • ○ ° ★  .  * . .  ¸ .   °  ¸. * ● ¸ .    ° ☾ °  ¸. ● ¸ .  ★ ° :.  . • °   .  * :. . ¸ . ● ¸    ★  ★☾ °★ .     .  °☆  . ● ¸ .   ★ ° .  • ○ ° ★  .       * .  ☾ °  ¸. * ● ¸     ° ☾ °☆  . * ¸.   . ¸. * .¸. *
            ★ ° . . 

            工 レo√乇 ㄚ◯∪ ✿ 工 レo√乇 ㄚ◯∪ ✿ 工 レo√乇 ㄚ◯∪
            工 レo√乇 ㄚ◯∪ ✿ 工 レo√乇 ㄚ◯∪ ✿ 工 レo√乇 ㄚ◯∪
            工 レo√乇 ㄚ◯∪ ✿ 工 レo√乇 ㄚ◯∪ ✿ 工 レo√乇 ㄚ◯∪
            工 レo√乇 ㄚ◯∪ ✿ 工 レo√乇 ㄚ◯∪ ✿ 工 レo√乇 ㄚ◯∪
            工 レo√乇 ㄚ◯∪ ✿ 工 レo√乇 ㄚ◯∪ ✿ 工 レo√乇 ㄚ◯∪


            ☆•°*”˜˜”*°•☆ ★ ☆¸.•°*”˜˜”*°•☆
            …….☆☆☆҉L ҉ O ҉ V ҉ E ҉☆☆☆…….
            ☆•°*”˜˜”*°•☆ ★ ☆¸.•°*”˜˜”*°•☆

            There you go. Now you have all I have. :D


  9. Thanks for the reminder. Takes practise to live these truths.
    A similar quote from Thomas Carlyle: “Our grand business undoubtedly is, not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”
    And from Kipling: “The best thing, I suppose, that one can do for his land is a thing that lies under his nose with the tools that lie under his hand.”


    1. Both perfect quotes. ;-)
      Thanks for sending them and thanks for dropping by. It does indeed take practice to live out these truths. I’ve found that deep study of them can help, and contemplating quotes such as these certainly aids this.
      Be well,
      – J


  10. Wow, this was a great read!
    I came over here because I noticed that you liked one of my posts and I am SO glad that I did. You have earned a new follower for sure.
    Your writing is nothing short of inspiring. One day I hope I will motivated people the way you have motivated me.


  11. Love this. Out of all the schools of thought, this one makes the most sense and it the most fun. It’s why I started drawing. I gave up on delay. Look no further World, this is how you do it!


    1. Hey there Amanda,
      Thankyou so much. That is a really nice thing to say, and I am humbled by it.
      I am very glad that you get something from what I do, it makes me happy, plain and simple. ;-)
      Hope you’re having a great day, see you soon,
      – J


  12. Extremely insightful. I enjoy your diction and advocacy for adventuring beyond the words. I think I may hang this somewhere near my writing desk as a reminder.



  13. one thing i respect about you radcliffe is as that you are conciouse.I know you can percieve what i mean,not many explore or are even gifted in that area.You are favoured.:-)


  14. Yeah, I agree with the sentiments, I copied that into Latin to put on my door at the university (QUID HABES QUOD POSSIS FACERE UBI SITIS if you must know). It looks as though you did exactly that. Good on yer’ as they say here. Looking forward to receiving the CD. Cheers, Tony


  15. I have a supplemental quote to this lesson:

    “The universe puts us in places where we can learn. They’re never easy places, but they are right. Where ever we are is the right place and the right time. The Pain that sometimes comes, is part of the process of constantly being born.” – j michael straczynski – Babylon 5


  16. Why did this depress me so much? *sigh*
    It’s not you or what you say, you understand, but rather me.

    True words are the hardest to bear.

    Keep shining… x


  17. I would definitely agree with you. Battered and broken, I know how much I can achieve now, when in my healthy youth I always saved my potential for a great formless ‘something’ I was working toward. I was always awaiting that one more thing that I needed to get it all to work. Blinded by dreams of the future, I landed in the future wholly unprepared, and I’m having to make up lost ground quickly.

    Yet, _that’s_ what I have now, and I make the best of it.Wishing I had seen your blog 20 years ago won’t make today any better, unless embarrassment is a good motivator. You’re in the Now when you go from here.

    You said it more eloquently than I could, though. Definitely sharing. Thank you.


    1. Thanks a lot for this.
      I am glad that the post worked for you, and you are totally right – ‘You’re in the Now when you go from here’.
      Beautifully put.
      Thanks for reading and for the comment,
      hope you’re doing well,
      – J


  18. Not. Ready. Yet.‘

    These three little words, combined, form the mental equivalent of a deadly poison. A highly contagious toxic meme.

    The quote you posted was epic, but so was this statement.
    My mind was blown wide open. When I read this, I immediately had visions of things I want to begin, but frankly, have been to scared to try.
    This post was the kick in the ass I needed to face my fear and send my letters to publishers.
    Thank you for being my inspiration today.
    Your blog is a gift that I am always excited to open up.


  19. Good post James :-)
    You know that I bought your CD to my daughter, as you posted it to. She likes your music just as much as I do, so I’m happy that I gave her your great CD.
    Are you on the way with more new and exciting music?
    Remember to enjoy your life too :-D


    1. Thankyou very much Irene, I am glad you liked it.
      And I am so glad that your daughter likes the CD, I enclosed a note so she would know it was from you, hope that’s OK.
      I am indeed on my way with new and exciting music, and I am enjoying life very much.
      You are beautiful, thanks so much for dropping by,
      Hope you are well,
      – J


  20. James, you have a beautiful way of writing and your words SO resonate right now. Am listening to your soulful music! Thank you for sharing it. Glad you liked my article too :-) Aloha to you!


  21. Reblogged this and commented:
    I’m always heartened and inspired by other people who are striving to get their art out and who are motivated and present in that state. James is one of them.


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