I Don't Know If I Can, But I'm Gonna Try

I Don’t Know If I Can, But I’m Gonna Try

Let me start by acknowledging my dad’s 99th birthday today. Born on September 29, 1923, he’s seen quite a lot in his lifetime.

Happy 99th Birthday To Jeff Cantrell
Geoffrey “Jeff” Cantrell celebrates his 99th birthday today

I grew up hearing, “You never until you try.” I wish I could say that trying was always easy.

My biggest fears as a kid involved girls. Go figure.

Logically, I was bold. Practically, I was a coward.

My best friend had a girlfriend, but no car. I had a car, but no girlfriend. He wanted to go out on a double date so he began pressuring me to ask out somebody. Anybody.

I had a friend – she was in our social circle and we shared many classes – who I liked. She was attractive and popular. We were at his house mulling over a strategy and I mentioned I’d like to ask her out. He was less than encouraging telling me that she’d never go out with me. Stupid on his part since he had no car and was wanting me to ask out somebody. Oh well. We were 16 and not terribly savvy about such things.

I pushed back asking him, “What’s the worst thing that can happen? She rejects me.” His stupidity continued though, “And she tells everybody she knows, which is EVERYBODY.”

I’m in his room thinking that if she does that it’ll have a lifespan of less than a day. High school drama about something so small is sure to be bested by something larger within a 24-hour high school news cycle.

But I was scared. Scared to dial the number. Scared to talk to her.

Inexperience does that, which is why my favorite quote remains…

Everything is hard until it’s easy.

Nothing about this was easy. Dealing with my friend. Working up the courage to figure out what to do, and what to say. Controlling my heart rate. It was all hard.

Eventually, I dialed the number and asked her. She accepted and my buddy was completely blown away. The guy just didn’t know when to quit being stupid. It took a while before he celebrated the fact that we now had the double date booked – the double date he was desperate to make happen. No, at this moment after I hung up the successful phone call he was dog-piling the whole situation with disbelief that the endeavor had proven successful.

I didn’t know if I could, but I tried. Turns out I could get a date with a girl who my buddy thought was beyond the reach of a troglodyte like me.

I was younger than 16 when I first picked up a guitar. I wanted to learn. So I bought a book. I tried. Well, okay, maybe that’s too strong a term to describe my effort. And maybe I was less motivated for this endeavor than I was in asking a girl out for a date.

Weeks passed and it seemed to me that my mind just wasn’t going to cooperate with me learning the play the guitar. Even if my mind did kick in, I wasn’t sure my hands would comply. Besides, there sure seemed to be a lot of math-like skills required.

YouTube didn’t yet exist. Neither did the Internet. Cable TV either. We were still burying dinosaurs in those days so everything was harder!

I don’t think I lasted a month. I gave up. I tried and failed…destined to own guitars from then on, but never being able to play on.

Trying doesn’t insure success. Trying harder won’t either. Sometimes we fail no matter how hard or how long we work at it.

During a late-night headphone music session Gavin DeGraw’s song, “I’m Gonna Try” began to play. It’s an older 2013 song of his that I hadn’t listened to in a while. I’d already been thinking about a few things I wanted to try as we’re making some changes in our life. I wasn’t thinking too much about whether or not I could because most of the things I was pondering were things I was 100% confident I could do.

I had been thinking about time together with my wife. There’s lots of time wasted apart doing what has to be done to sustain life. Tons of things involved in just daily living. You know. We all know. Our to-do list never seems to get fully done. It’s less of a list and more like a never-ending cycle. A hamster wheel of daily activities that suck our time.

Well, I was thinking about how one big goal I have is to live a life with the shortest possible to-do list. The kind of to-do list required of all of us – think doing laundry, caring out the trash. But those aren’t weekly events that demand the same commitment as yard work and pool work.

For years, our typical late afternoons are consumed with getting things done. Necessary things. Drive up and down the street and it’s what we’re all doing. Those of us who aren’t doing it are paying somebody else to do it. Rhonda and I are too frugal and not lazy enough to go that route.

Imagine having 3-5 more hours every day. I had been doing that for weeks – thinking about how Rhonda and I could continue to deepen our connection. If you think after 44 years of marriage you can just ride it out, you’re nuts. Besides, I’m wired toward improvement and highly motivated to grow. I had been thinking of what we might do with that time that we hadn’t had since we were first married. But this is different.

We got married and moved into married housing at LSU. It was awesome. I loved it. Everything about it. I loved her, of course. But I loved our little apartment. I was a bike ride away from any and every class. We drove cars to work, but there’s something pretty special about a college campus. We spent a little bit of time – but not much ’cause the place was so small – making it our own. It was fun. Rewarding. But it wasn’t requiring hours every day. On Saturday mornings we’d clean the place and it didn’t take long, but it was a weekly ritual that I enjoyed. Mostly, I enjoyed us doing things together. Other than working, most everything we did, we did together.

Over time that changes. For every married couple, I suspect. It doesn’t mean you grow apart, although too many do. It just means she’s busy with something she enjoys and I’m busy with something I enjoy. I don’t enjoy sewing. She doesn’t enjoy podcasting. But when we were younger, time wise we were more into each other than we are now. It’s the practical reality of decades of marriage. At least for us. It’s not a barometer of our love for one another. It’s more a barometer of our mutual introversion and ability to be alone pursuing something we enjoy. No, it doesn’t mean we enjoy it more than we enjoy each other…but it means our lives are broader and we have independent things we want to pursue. We’ve never pursued things outside our home. Our pursuits happen in separate spaces under the same roof.

So I’m thinking of how to incorporate more things we can do together, but I’m focused on things she’d want to do together. I’m thinking of the local places we might investigate. The walks around places we’ve never walked before. The meals we could share, at home or elsewhere. By the time I’m hearing Gavin sing “I’m Gonna Try” I’ve been pondering for weeks the idea of having 20-25 hours a week together that we’ve not in over 40 years. My anticipating was (and is) extremely high.

But I began to wonder about the changes we’re making – and the ones we’ve got planned – and the first phrase emerged.

I Don’t Know If I Can…

Firstly, I thought, “Well, that’s never stopped me before.” It can slow me down for sure. Like asking the girl on a date. We were in my buddy’s bedroom with his phone right in front of me for who knows how long before I finally dialed. 😉

I’m 100% confident about this most important endeavor because it involved the person I love the most and I know my level of determination. But there are other things afoot in some longer-term plans about which I’m not nearly as sure.

It’s worth the risk.

Each of us has to decide if the thing we’re gonna try is worth the risk of finding out we can’t.

One way we’ve tackled this risk if by carefully thinking through one question.

What do we most want the next year or so to look like?

For Rhonda and me it’s about not getting too far ahead of ourselves in execution but getting far enough ahead with our strategy, or hopes. Both of us have personalities that want to know. Neither of us loves surprises. We both enjoy planning. Scheming is often the most fun of all. It’s less about fearing a loss of control and it’s more about robbing ourselves of the time spent planning and anticipating.

What’s next? That’s always a fitting question for us. And I mean what is the very next step?

We always begin with the end result – the ideal outcome. From there we work our way toward figuring out the very first step we need to take to go in that direction. Then we live with it for a bit. We normally don’t agree 100% of the time right out of the gate with an idea. That contributes to far better outcomes though as we debate, think through, and consider what each of us wants most.

Sometime in the next year or so, Lord willing, we’re going to look more seriously into creating the ideal outcome that will take us far beyond the next year or so. It’s our big goal and it involves something we’ve never done. Well, that’s not exactly accurate – the whole project involves at least a few things we’ve never done and a few things we’ve not done in a very long time.

So far we’ve mitigated risks because we’re not at a stage of life where risks are acceptable. We’re gonna try, but we don’t know if we can pull off our goal. For us, failure will happen on paper and in our minds. We’ll count the cost and figure out if we can succeed or not. So that’s our safety net, but you still have to try.

In a previous show, I talked about watching more parades, my metaphor for how to be more encouraging to people’s dreams. Too many people crush the dreams of others without giving them much thought. They just express disbelief or lack of confidence in the person’s ambitions. At best, many people just don’t know how to encourage people because they’re too busy judging how stupid or ridiculous the idea is. We think, “Man, I wouldn’t do that.” But we’re not them and it may be ideal for them.

We’ve got some friends who are much younger than us and they’ve had some big dreams for the past few years. When they first shared those dreams with us we were pretty thrilled for them. And told them so. It’s their dream. Not ours. Did it seem fantastical? Sure, but why dream small? As fantastical as it was they had a plan and a commitment. Like us, they strategized and figured out what it would take. Projecting into the future they felt confident they’d know whether or not they could succeed. The risk of failure we primarily in them not being able to pull the trigger – or having to lower their dream. Like us, they don’t see that as much of a risk at all. As I create this episode they’ve achieved their goal. I’ve been as excited for them because it fuels my own optimism for what I want to achieve.

I don’t know if I can, but I’m gonna try.

The temptation is to think we’ll either succeed or fail, but there are other outcomes. We will learn. We’ll adjust. Failure may only be our first attempt. After a handful of adjustments, we may find success. We may find out that our plans, which exist only on paper or in our head, aren’t practical or realistic. So again, we adjust if we can. Or we ditch that idea in favor of something more achievable. The options are almost limitless.

Can we achieve what we’re planning? We don’t know, but we’re gonna try.

We’re going to keep noodling the idea, which is now on iteration number 5 or so. And I have to tell you that I was getting super excited about iteration 4, but Rhonda finally blurted out a big objection she had to it – and it was a great and valid objection. One I didn’t know was as big for her as it is. So she offered an alternative, which – at least on paper – turns out to be extraordinarily better. I don’t mean a little bit better…I mean exponentially better. It’s the power of two people with a shared goal, willing to collaborate and approach the problem (or opportunity) from different perspectives! No, it’s not as one friend of mine joked, that our wives are smarter. Nor is it about husbands being smarter. Fact is, at least for us, we’re smarter together than we are alone!

That process is fun. Lots of fun.

Today, we’re mapping out on paper our plan. We don’t know if we can do it or not, but we’re gonna try. That means we’re going to figure out how much it’ll cost to achieve what we’ve planned. Could be that it’s cost prohibitive. Could be it’s not. We have to find out. When we find out we’ll know whether we can move forward or we’ll have to adjust. Either way, we win. We’re not going to fail completely.

In Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is the famous exchange:

Luke: Master, moving stones around is one thing. This is totally different.
Yoda: No. No different. Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.
Luke: All right, I’ll give it a try.
Yoda: No. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.

In one sense, that’s right. We have to take action. We can’t merely think about, dream about, or even strategize about doing something.

In another sense, it’s wrong. No success is achieved without trying. The danger of trying is failing. The danger of not trying is failing.

Had the girl I called turned me down I would have suffered defeat. Rejection. My buddy would have laughed maniacally. Perhaps she would have mockingly told the entire school that I had asked her out. “Can you believe HE asked me out?”

All of those were possible. Maybe probable.

So I could have sat in my buddy’s bedroom and refused to call her. Then I’m not defeated, or am I? Of course, I’m defeated because I didn’t even try. Then I’d have been left with all the thoughts of what might have happened if I had dialed.

So you gotta try.

The Yellow Studio began in my head. I thought about what I wanted to do. I thought about how I wanted to do it. I did my research talking with people who knew the broadcast workflow I most wanted to follow. Quickly I discovered in more detail what I already knew, “It’s gonna take hardware and hardware is more expensive than software.” At that point I could have adjusted and decided I’d alter the broadcast workflow in favor of the recording workflow. But I didn’t. Because I was able to calculate the cost of hardware. Armed with that number I could then decide what to do. No failure at that point. I could have made any decision I wanted including abandoning the entire idea or going in a different direction. Instead, I figured it was exactly what I wanted to do. I didn’t go into debt to do it because I planned for it. Saved for it. And it didn’t happen in one fell swoop. I assembled the gear over time as I scoured the Internet for deals. That’s how The Yellow Studio was born.

Part of the fun and fulfillment may be in not knowing if we can. The fact that it’s not a surefire thing may add to our excitement and the allure of chasing it.

Rhonda and I don’t know if the things we put down on paper are feasible or not. Are our ideas as great as we think they are? We don’t yet know. But we do know some semblance of them have validity. We’re 100% confident that with proper adjustments we’ll be able, Lord willing, to achieve our goals. Will they look exactly like our current plans? Maybe, maybe not.

We don’t know if we can, but we’re gonna try.

Randy Cantrell

P.S. The Yellow Studio v3.0 is being designed to be a 12-16 month version, but there are no guarantees the plan will take the shape I intend…or that it’ll be for as long as I’m planning. I can tell you I’m very excited about the prospect of it though. The simple, straightforward version thrills me. I’m pretty sure I can do it, but I won’t know until I try. Stay tuned.

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