Psychology, Something completely different

The magical power of “I can’t.”

Words can be very powerful – especially the words we tell ourselves.  I recently made a startling discovery about this.

One of the things I told myself through life was that I couldn’t draw. I can doodle – make geometric shapes on paper, circles, squares, etc… But I couldn’t draw – this I knew about myself.

One day however, I was unable to tell myself this.

That day my son asked me to draw him something. Hmm… I’m his dad. I can’t tell him that his dad can’t draw. I’m supposed to be the strongest, smartest, most capable man in the world. Tellinig him that I couldn’t draw was out of the question.

So… let’s get on with this – I thought – it can’t be rocket science… And I did. Lo and behold, I drew a hawk, as my boy requested:


Then my younger boy wanted me to draw a hawk for him as well. So I did. Then he wanted a whale. I drew a whale. Then my older boy wanted me to draw him some Pokemon figures. So I drew those too…


The remarkable thing about these drawings is that I had genuinely surprised myself with them. I do appreciate that they aren’t terribly good but I drew them with no practice and no instruction. And I didn’t cheat either. They’re a far cry from art, but they are also a quantum leap from what I thought I could do.

And why did I think that I couldn’t draw them? Because I told myself so. Now I wonder… how many times have I sabotaged myself in life by telling myself that I couldn’t do something? That I wouldn’t be any good at it? That I didn’t have the talent, that it would be difficult or unlikely or whatever other form of self-discouragement…

It is only thanks to my kids that I had this bit of personal revelation, but this is actually a well understood phenomenon known as the Pygmalion effect. Its implications are profound and it really should be better appreciated and kept in mind by everyone, especially by parents and teachers.

I’ll try to post another article on this soon, it is a thoroughly fascinating subject. Until then, then.


Alex Krainer is a hedge fund manager and author of one book on commodities trading and one book which was recently banned from publishing in the land of free speech. It is now available online in electronic format under the title “Grand Deception: The Browder Hoax.” Paperback version will soon be in distribution through traditional channels.



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