‘It Couldn’t Be Done’— Inspiration for the Millennial Generation

by Jobbatical January 15, 2015

Now, I like words. It’s not a massive admission from someone who spends quite so many waking hours writing as I do. I like words for inspiration, for comfort and ideas, to make me smile, to make me think. And there are times when someone else can simply say better than I can, exactly what I’m thinking.

Take for example my current word-crush — ‘It Couldn’t Be Done’ by Edgar Albert Guest, which chronicles the efforts of someone who ignores the nay-sayers, and sets about achieving his goal in the face of others’ opinion it is impossible. Despite being written somewhere in the region of ninety years ago (the original publication date is unclear, as Guest’s work was syndicated to various newspapers before being published in its own right) it seems to me to speak directly to a generation of millennials who have seen boom and bust, decided to find their own way, and are now cracking on with reshaping the world for us all.

‘Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it;
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.’

The millennial generation were brought up to see the opportunities within the crises. We watched as the biggest economic crisis in years took hold of the globe, and seemingly solid institutions crumbled. We learned that the old ways were not necessarily the best ways. We watched in awe as start-up success stories flourished, creating something from nothing and meeting a need people didn’t even know they had. We learned that for every success a person celebrated, they had mourned a hundred failures — and, importantly, that that’s OK. The exaggerated economic cycle we have seen in the last ten years has made us question and challenge the status quo. The world has changed at such a fast pace that we can see that the solution of yesterday might not necessarily work again today. As a result I don’t think we are very good at taking no for an answer.

The protagonist in Guest’s poem, with ‘a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin’, knuckling down to tackle the thing that couldn’t be done — singing all the time and scandalising onlookers, appeals to me. Although Guest, writing in small town America close to the turn of the last century was probably picturing some strapping young man setting about building a home of his own, or getting on the road to business success by selling fruit from a cart; to me the protagonist could just as well be a twenty-five year old today, tweaking his next start-up idea or throwing himself into building an income doing something he loves.

Perhaps it still works because the entrepreneurial spirit of our generation is not unique, only more visible because the world is so much more connected today. If you ever doubt your own ability or potential, read the whole poem, through the link below. But for now, I will leave you with some of Guest’s words, inspiration for the millennial generation. Because he says it better than I do.

‘There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle it in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That “couldn’t be done,” and you’ll do it.’



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