3 Ways You Can

I’m Barry, and I am an artist, a student, a son, a friend, a neighbor, I also happen to be deaf and have four fingers on each hand. I was born with Nagers Syndrome, an extremely rare syndrome that affects me with various cranial facial issues. Due to the syndrome I have had over 23 surgeries in my 20 – year life thus far, and yet I’m still on this earth. I came from a small town in North Carolina where strangers would treat me as if I were “different” or “incapable,” and yet at home my parents didn’t cut me any slack of what I could or couldn’t do. Just because I had a “disability” didn’t mean I was “disable” to live a life full of enrichment and going after a dream.

Throughout my childhood I was teased for the way I looked, my only survival was my art, in which I fell in love with art at the age of three years old. It came to a point though where I eventually ignored the inconsiderate and out-right rudeness of people’s stares or giggles at my face. As soon as I chose not to focus on the negative, positive things have come my way.  Now I am a student living my dream of having art in my everyday life, and hopefully will end up becoming a successful illustrator/fine artist down the line.

I needed to give you a background of what I was about before I discuss what I am writing about, I am talking about the word “can’t.” That word is like all of Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can’t Say On Television” rolled up into one for me. Anytime anybody says that word, I just cringe inside.  Obstacles are a part of life, whether it’s through health, relationships or jobs. Saying that you “can’t” during an obstacle doesn’t challenge you or make you grow. The great thing about humanity is that we have the constant ability to grow and flourish as well as nurture ourselves through learning.

Here are three things to do when you want to say you “can’t” do something.

  1. Find an Alternative – My parents wouldn’t cut me slack to save a life when I was a kid. With that upbringing both my Mom and Dad strived to show me that there are options in this world to complete something. If you can’t complete a task, find a new way to complete it, whether it’s through attitude or just by asking others on what they do to complete the task. One of the most beautiful and awesome things about this world is to have options.
  2. Learn – This kind of ties in with “find an alternative,” instead of giving up on something, why don’t you learn to fulfill the task in hand? When learning you broaden your span of thinking and your ability to help others.
  3. Just Change The ‘Tude Dude – I think this is the most important rule out of the three, change your attitude if you keep making excuses. Ask yourself, “Why can’t you do this?” If the answer is just something as, “I don’t know” then re-evaluate the situation and use the empowerment of your mind to push forward. Attitude is everything, if you wake up with a sloppy groggy mind; I firmly believe you in return will be sloppy and groggy throughout the rest of that day. If the situation however is more complex, write about ways you can do whatever you want to do, talk about this with the people you love, or even go and make art about your fears of why you “can’t.”

I just feel we all have the power to do anything we want to do, if we ignore our faults and learn to just push through we can achieve so much. Whether you are deaf, blind, have no arms, or you have all your arms there are really no excuses to achieving anything we want to achieve. Also next time you see somebody who may be different from you, don’t assume they “can’t” and treat them as incapable,  as humans we are all capable no matter what the circumstance.

Barry Lee is currently an illustration student in the city of Atlanta, Georgia. You can check out his work at barrydraws.com

Image credit: ‘Self Portrait circa 2008‘ by Barry Lee


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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