You Can’t Do it Wrong

Leslie Sansone is my favorite exercise guru. I love her Walk At Home dvd’s, and over the past couple of years I’ve built up a hefty collection.  The routines are all familiar by now, and so is Leslie’s patter.  She has a number of stock phrases she uses to get us through our powered up paces.  “This isn’t just a stroll around the block!”; “It doesn’t matter which leg you choose – any leg is the right one!” and “We’re cookin’! We’re cookin’ with gas!”

My favorite encouraging phrase shows up in every video – “You can’t do it wrong, people!”  Leslie’s workouts are perfect for the fitness-challenged folks who aren’t quite sure they have what it takes to be physically fit.  She’s designed the movements and the pep talks to make it easy to succeed. “As long as you keep moving at this pace and stay on the beat,” she assures us, “you don’t have to follow a bunch of fancy steps. You can’t do it wrong!”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more things in life were foolproof? If, at the end of the wedding ceremony, the minister pronounced that we were man and wife, and added, “Don’t worry, you can’t do it wrong.” If, when our kids were born, the doctor handed over this tiny bundle of fresh new life and said, “Don’t worry, mom and dad, you can’t do it wrong!”  If, in starting a new job, our boss patted us on the shoulder with a hearty, “Don’t worry! You can’t do it wrong!”

As someone particularly prone to being fearful, I’d love to have that kind of assurance before I embark on a new venture.  When Leslie shouts out those words during my morning power walk,  I’m miraculously invigorated, start lifting my feet higher, pumping my arms harder, tucking my tummy in tighter.  What the heck  – I might as well go for it, because I can’t do it wrong!

The fear of making mistakes, of doing it wrong, stops us all in our tracks. But some people seem immune to that fear and are willing to take those risks, large and small, believing that it’s far worse to remain sedentary in life than to move forward, even at the risk of putting a foot wrong and stumbling along the way.  As my morning workout progresses, I hear more of Leslie’s familiar motivational phrases.   “Get off the couch! Move the furniture! Make some noise!” Fear of failure can be paralyzing, and without movement we turn to stone, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I need to remember Leslie’s words after my power walk is over and take them into my daily walk through life.  Even though I know they aren’t entirely true, at least when applied to the complexities of life in general, there is more truth in them than I allow myself to believe.  When I sit down at the piano or the computer and suddenly feel paralyzed with ineptitude,  when I wonder whether I should look for another job, when I think about selling the houses and buying a new place, I need someone to whisper those words in my ear. I need the surge of positive energy that phrase can give me.

Don’t worry. You can’t do it wrong.

How about you? Does fear often stop you in your tracks? Or do you get off the couch, move the furniture, and make some noise?

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22 thoughts on “You Can’t Do it Wrong

  1. Well, I’ve often been reminded by the Lord, “Perfect love casts out fear.” I find myself rather adventuresome on the whole, but here and there are pockets of fear about …let’s see…finding a job again, or being old and decrepit…thanks for the reminder. This is a good word that I shall share.

    • We are only human after all, and it’s a fearful world sometimes. “Perfect love casts out fear”…another way of knowing “you can’t do it wrong.” Thanks for that reminder.

  2. What a great post! I’m a big fan of Leslie’s too, as I am too clumsy for most workout DVDs, and her walks are perfect for me. Thanks to her I’ve gotten in the best shape I’ve ever been in. I never thought about applying the “you can’t do it wrong” idea to other parts of life though. Fear has always held me back and I’m trying to change that, I think I will make an effort to remember this phrase when I feel fear sneaking up on me!

  3. “You can’t get it wrong” is actually a core tenet of improvisation, as well. Specifically, there are no “wrong” responses, but there are high percentage and low percentage choices.

    Of course, in improv we’re also taught that there are no mistakes, but “gifts of a new direction.”

  4. Hi Becca,

    I’ve got quite a few exercise DVDs. Physique 57 kicks my butt! It took me months just to be able to finish it.

    Fear is one of my favorite topics. I didn’t enter the world fearful, but somehow got that way by the time I got out of high school. I’m convinced its deliberate because fully alive folks cannot be managed. If you read Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto, you’ll get a good idea how that happens. We become trained to think there is only one right answer when there are infinite answers.

    Then I took my life back little by little until now I look for the adventure as much as I can.

    Warmly, G.

    • I like the idea of infinite answers. I do tend to think in terms of black and white, right and wrong, with nothing in between. As Melissa said in her comment, there are no mistakes, only gifts of a new direction.

  5. I’m not so fond of Ms. Sansone’s phrase – “you can’t do it wrong”. I can see its usefulness for a workout routine, where the emphasis is movement rather than the right steps, but for life? Maybe not so much.

    At this point in my life, I’m pretty clear that I’ll “do it wrong” over and over again – whether I’m judging myself subjectively or working against an objective standard.
    But that’s the way life is, shot through with failure, imperfection, poorly-met goals – and sometimes, surprising and unexpected successes.

    The good news is that if we “do it wrong” we always can do it again, do it differently or just go off and try something else. It’s not fear that’s stopping me these days, but that lack of focus you were talking about in your previous post!

  6. Certainly we can – and will – do it wrong at some point, but that phrase reminds me that doing it wrong doesn’t have to be the end of the world, that trying is sometimes its own reward, and that, as you say, we can always do it again or do it differently next time. Helps me stop focusing only on fear, which I seem to so often.

  7. Fear HAS stopped me in my tracks. There are things where I feel willing to fail and things where I don’t — this is a wonderful approach and one I’d do well to remember!

    • It’s interesting to look at the areas in life where you feel “safe” enough to fail. I have those too, and they’re worth examining more closely to see why I feel safer there than other places.

      Hmmm – now you’ve got the wheels turning…

  8. Already in Kindergarten, Dillon is learning to write. He has homework, and I can’t tell him how to spell anything. I encourage him to sound it out. The philosophy is that if kids are to focused on spelling it “right”, they won’t write. They are already teaching the valuable concept of the rough draft… the polishing comes later. I remind myself of this as I’m writing my book, or doing a million other things I’m afraid of doing “wrong.”

  9. There was something nagging at me last night after I read this that I just couldn’t quite find words for. This morning, I woke up thinking about your blog, and the question in my mind was, “Wouldn’t ‘foolproof’ be boring?” It’s great for boxed cake mixes, but I’m not so sure about other things!

    What a great post – kept my mind busy all night long, apparently!

  10. Ah! a wonderful entry and well-timed. I like the title, the idea, the statement, and the truth o fit. You are SO right – we should hear more of this phrase in all the walks of our lives, including to ourselves FROM ourselves…It makes a great mantra.

    Oh yes, I worry about messing up. Egads. And I can’t stand when I think I’m cowering rather than acting. But it’s always great to have someone standing there, cheering you on.
    I am intrigued by these workout videos – I don’t know/know of her but love the idea of walking (stomping!) around as a workout and literally getting somewhere!

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