Just Kick the Can

Just. Kick. The. Can.

These simple, four words have become my mantra over my time at the sports commission, and even more so as of lately.

Coursework and comprehensive exams are now in my rear view mirror. This marks a time when many people stall out. One source says more than 56% of doctoral students do not complete their degree within 10 years. ABD (All but dissertation) stagnancy. Being so taxed after exams, I can understand how this happens.


My solution?

Just. Kick. The. Can.

I’m not referring to the silly game for little kids – though that is fun too.

Each day do something – ANYTHING – even the most minute step to move forward.

Does it work for life, goals, health, work, ____ (fill in the blank). I believe it does. Will it work for my dissertation? I hope so, but only time will tell.

Researcher, author and professor Angela Duckworth would call my “Just kick the can” philosophy “grit”. She defines grit as “passion and perseverance for long term goals”.  Chances are, you are familiar with her wildly popular TED talk on the same subject. Here is her Grit Scale test.

Fascinating. But my simple mind needs a more visual depiction. Enter “Just kick the can”.

Some days, try as we might, we kick the proverbial can and it barely rolls forward. Some days we wind up and kick like crazy, the can sails off our foot…catches a headwind…and comes right back at our face. Some days we whiff altogether (see Charlie Brown inset) – but that’s life, AKA Lucy.

BUT…Some days we muster all the energy we have, barely nudge the can, and it rolls down the hill, jumps a creek and hits the goal.

I know it’s odd, but I picture Cousin Eddy from Christmas Vacation here after Clark sets the saucer sled land-speed record – “Bingo!” Don’t judge.

The point is NOT the DISTANCE the can travels. The point is THAT WE KICK THE CAN. Again and again and again, and then again. Oh yeah, and again.

This daily grind yields long-term results. Case in point, starting the Greater Grand Junction Sports Commission. I make mistakes, I (try) to accept them, (try) to learn from them, and just kick the can. In fact, one such “learning opportunity” is happening as I type. My mind naturally wants to deploy defense mechanisms – avoidance, shame, profuse palm sweating, anxiety, failure….ugh.

This is when we need to “just kick the can”. Move the needle, whatever you want to call it.

I’ve mentioned the book Peak Performance before, and I’m in the process of reading The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal. These books have in common – as with Angela Duckworth’s work on grit – that stress is not only unavoidable, it is a powerful mechanism for success. It’s how we harness stress that determines our ultimate outcome.

So whether it’s a personal goal, a professional struggle, a project that’s been on the back burner, an innermost dream, or a big research paper (double ugh!), I encourage you to JUST. KICK. THE. CAN. There are lots of cans for the kickin’, plenty to go around, so have a whack!

I think you will be pleasantly surprised. And in no time you will look back and your starting point will be out of sight.

As Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s greatest failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” After all, the story goes that Edison himself put more than 10,000 attempts into perfecting the light bulb. Even if the number of attempts was really only half that, 5,000 kicks of the can isn’t too shabby! Now that’s kicking the can.
This is Stoll on Sports.


Recent Post