Do What You Can, With What You Have, Where You Are

Mount Rushmore Teddy Roosevelt

A few days ago my left shift key broke.

I have about 15 years of typing on a keyboard under my belt and it wouldn’t seem like it, but it’s it’s hard as all get-out to keep typing at regular speed and actually stay as productive as I need to be without the left shift key (sorry, right shift key – you’re just not as effective).

It sounds like a small thing, but I spend at least 5-6 hours a day on a computer typing constantly. Whether it’s writing for the blog, talking with vendors or working with new clients or just responding to emails, I write a lot and all of my writing was all lower case without any punctuation – not the greatest first impression for new clients or for a writing audience (who knew the shift key could be so debilitating). Fortunately, I didn’t let that stop me.

It’s not always a shift key, but a lot of times, little obstacles come up that try to to stop you from what you need to be doing. They’re not insurmountable, but they’re annoying and difficult enough to maneuver that you’ll want to quit. Here’s how you can get past them:

Accept there are things you can’t control

Do What You Can, With What You Have, Where You Are – Teddy Roosevelt

This has become one of my favorite quotes because it literally strips away every excuse you have for not doing something.

You don’t have to do the craziest thing in the world. You don’t need to be the most spectacular. You don’t need to be the most famous. You just need to do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

I’d like to take this sidenote to mention how much of a badass Teddy Roosevelt was. A brief list of some of his accomplishments include:

  • 2x President of the United States
  • Was a Cowboy For The First Part of His Life
  • Lead the Rough Riders in a War in Cuba
  • Won a Noble Peace Prize
  • Went on African Safaris
  • Created the Panama Canal
  • Took an Expedition to South America for fun

Oh yea, one time, he was shot before he was to give a speech, diagnosed himself as “fine”, gave a 90 minute speech and only afterwards did he decide to go to the hospital.

It’s safe to say we could all stand to learn a few things from this guy – most importantly that there are some things in life you simply can not control including:

  • The stock market
  • Hurricanes,
  • Tsunamis
  • Getting shot in the middle of your speech
  • Your shift key breaking 300 miles and a international plane flight from the nearest apple store.

You can’t always control everything around you – but you can choose how you react to the things that happen.

You can cry and complain about how unfair things are and why other people have it easier, or you can pick yourself up, and get to work.

You can choose do what you can with what you have where you are.


You can complain about what you can’t do with all the things you don’t have while you’re in the wrong place.

You can choose to be a victim or you can be a conqueror. Whether or not you lean into your excuses is the difference.

Stop Letting Excuses Steal Your Life

Every time you tell yourself an excuse and believe it, you’re letting your life shrink. Instead of your definition of what’s really impossible growing – it shrinks. Instead of pushing your limits, you’re actively pulling them inward towards yourself.

You disqualify to more and more activities and start to tell yourself the limits of your reality, when it could be so much more. You end up with less adventure, less experiences, and a less-fulfilled life

A list of the basic excuses most people come up with:

I just can’t do it

False, you have no idea if you can until you try, you just need to start.

David Goggins wanted to run an Ultramarathon despite never running anything before. Now he’s one of the best in the world.

I don’t have enough to do everything perfectly

False, you don’t have to do everything perfectly, you just need to start. 

Facebook grew out of Mark Zuckerberg starting a hot or not site in his dorm room. They’re about to IPO for 100 billion dollars – billion with a b. That turned out pretty well.

I can’t do that yet, I need to be in New York, California, Thailand [insert location here] for it to work. 

False, no you don’t, wherever you are, you just need to start.

Dwolla is a payment processor upending the entire online payment industry from freaking Iowa. Who says you need to be in Silicon Valley/Boulder/New York to make stuff happen.

Do What You Can, With What You Have, Where You Are – Teddy Roosevelt

When you buy into your own excuses, you live a smaller life and shortchange yourself out a whole host of experiences you never let yourself have – your excuses literally end up stealing your life and you end up doing way less than you’re capable of.

Stop it! Why? Because you’ll die soon – seriously.

If you haven’t read the top 5 regrets of the dying – you should go read it now. Compiled by a hospice nurse, this goes over the top 5 things that her dying patients regretted from their lives.  

The #1 regret consistently was:

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself

Other people’s expectations can tempt you to do something you don’t really want to do – so much so that they sometimes become your own. You begin to own excuses which are nothing more than things people have told you you can’t do, when there’s no good reason why you can’t just go ahead and do it and live a life that’s true to yourself.

Don’t let excuses steal your life

Keep going and Don’t let anything stop you.

You can have excuses, but nobody wants to hear them (spoiler alert!). If your excuses make you feel better – that’s great, but nobody wants to hear you blabber on and on about why you can’t do something when you have the ability/skills/money/freedom/know-how to go do it.

Ever read a book about excuses? (okay, I’ve got one here) but that’s the only one with any good excuses in it.

Every other excuse you can come up with – no one cares about. You might think they do, but you’re the only one.

You’re not in 5th grade and your dog didn’t’ eat your homework. Stop it with the excuses

Make a decision. Do it. Own it.

And don’t give up.

Back To The Shift Key

So what happened with my stupid broken shift key. It could have derailed a few things, delayed some blog posts, lost me some clients and messed a lot o things up. Well, I kept working and it turned out to be just a blip on the radar.

  1. I sent an email out to subscribers in all lower-case without fancy punctuation like exclamation points. BOOM. If they can’t read one tongue-in-cheek email in all lowercase, we’re gonna have bigger problems.
  2. I held client communications for my agency mostly through the phone
  3. I imported this blog post in word – changed everything to sentence case, then brought it into wordpress and touched it up.


  1. I signed one client
  2. I sent out proposals to two more.
  3. Got impossible tanks finalized (shhh)
  4. Sent out 3 guest posts (including this beginners triathlon guide at expert enough)
  5. Signed a contract with a new partner in Bali.
  6. Beta-launched a very cool new aspect of things coming up soon (email subscribers find out bout this stuff via lowercase emails).

You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can choose to do something with what you’re given. Whether that’s a broken shift key or the next impossible thing you’re gong to do. It’s your choice. It’s always your choice.

TLDR (too long, didn’t read):

There’s always an excuse waiting for you…if you want it.

There’s always a way to suck it up and get things done…if you want it.

Which are you going to choose? 

Do What You Can, With What You Have, Where You Are – Teddy Roosevelt


We haven’t done of these in a while, but Jeff Sarris from Spyr Media is checking in with his Impossible shirt in front of the impossible store in Barcelona, Spain. Yup, that’s right we’re going international. Boom.

Jeff Impossible Barcelona

Got an impossible shirt? Get one and go do something (keyword: do something) impossible, snap a photo and send it in. We’ll feature you in the impossible gallery cause we love you like that. Boom boom.

p.s. Ladies, looking to rock some impossible tank tops? We’ve got something coming up for you in the next couple weeks – promise! Get excited!

photo credit: spyder239

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  1. says

    BOOM…just what I needed to have show up in my inbox this morning. I seriously think you are as cool as they come. Have a great day and may much love and happiness and success come your way.

  2. says

    “you don’t have to do everything perfectly, you just need to start. ”

    Amen to that, brother. That used to be my biggest excuse – not having the right resources to start. What a load of bullshit. The best moment is ALWAYS nowwwwwwwwww.

  3. William Dulitz says

    Awesome post!

    I’m currently playing soccer for the first time since 5th grade…I’m 29 now, so the high school graduating class this year was just being born the last time I played. When I last played, I couldn’t run across the field (short way) and it was a community program, without the FIFA rules. Now, I’m 18-19 years older, was up to 300+ pounds and now back to 200 pounds, playing with people who have been playing for much longer, and many are younger. I’m sore, always hungry, but I feel amazing!

    For years my mom told me that I couldn’t play because I might hurt my knees…even when soccer started again for an age group I was in. I accepted this and continued with life. Then a couple years ago, I hurt my knee doing something innocent…just walking to the grocery store. Mom told me I shouldn’t do that either because it is dangerous, that’s about the time I decided to stop listening to her on physical fitness and living life. I started listening to my Orthopaedic surgeon, started reading NerdFitness, and started on the Road to Sparta.

    The past few years, the employees of my favorite coffee shop in town (Coffea Roasterie and Espresso Bar in Sioux Falls, SD FTW!) were encouraging me to play soccer. I kept telling them what mom told me, this year though, I decided to ignore what I was telling myself and put down $150 to play 12 games. Two games in so far.

    Now, for your keyboard…Apples have USB ports, USB keyboards are pretty much available anywhere. If anything, you could pick up a USB keyboard for a song and plug it in and you’ll have a full-size keyboard and have your left shift back. Sometimes you gotta buy some of the tools to get things done RIGHT! 😉

    Again, thank you for the words of inspiration…it is really changing everything lately.

  4. says

    I freaking love Dwolla. I’ve met Ben Milne (the founder) and lots of other people who work there – awesome guys. I wish everyone had a Dwolla account – paying people back for pizza would be so much easier.

  5. says

    Nice, Joel. Thank you for all of the examples. I think our norm is extraordinary..we “expect” to move mountains.. so when a “shift key” momentarily derails us it is a sign to remember the passion and purpose behind that particular endeavor…as in do you *really* want this? You sum it up so well with this: “Make a decision. Do it. Own it.” Love it–thank you!

  6. Brett says

    I really needed to read this today!!! I just recently got an opportunity to start something that I have talked about for years. For some reason I am thinking of why I should not do it. IT IS TIME FOR BOLD STEPS!!!!!


  7. Rita says

    My favorite part:

    “Every time you tell yourself an excuse and believe it, you’re letting your life shrink” AMEN TO THAT!

  8. pari says

    I really needed to read these words. I’m a veteran postponer waiting for some kind of ideal, perfect, and brilliant opportunity.This have been disappointing me over and over. Now I can see the opportunity was in my ordinary life which I couldn’t see.
    thank you

  9. says

    Learning the “You can’t always control everything around you – but you can choose how you react to the things that happen” lesson took me a really long time. Embracing that idea really changed my entire outlook on life and I have been much happier since.

  10. says

    Enjoyed the post Joel and am totally with you on the Teddy Roosevelt props. Sounds like you may have read Theodore Rex, if not I would highly recommend. And while this is a bit off topic, same goes for The Path Between The Seas about the Panama Canal, good profile of TR’s contribution and leadership.

    I think you two would have got on quite well, great read. There always a “shift key” popping up that threatens to derail progress, I appreciate the encouragement to persevere.

  11. says

    Joel – your shift key resourcefulness astounds me. Really cool to see how you broke down being creative with all the solutions to overcome that problem!

    Thinking “how can I do this” over “I can’t do anything now”. It’s amazing how powerful the shift in our observer is really the foundation for being able to take action. The perspective that we hold. Truly amazing, such an inspiring breakdown you’ve written here. Muchas gracias!

  12. paballo says

    thanx .jus what i needed. I thought i was gonna go nuts with all these ideas i had for helping helped me realize i cant do all of it at once and cant be perfect i must just from south africa btw so thanks for not thinking i was too far away to be influenced


  1. […] Do What You Can, With What You Have, Where You Are Every time you tell yourself an excuse and believe it, you’re letting your life shrink. Instead of your definition of what’s really possible growing – it shrinks. Instead of pushing your limits, you’re actively pulling them inward towards yourself. […]

  2. […] Do the best you can, with what you have, wherever you are. I decided to do home workouts so I had no excuses. The only reason I could skip a workout was if my lazy butt decided it wasn’t worth it. You can get a six pack using nothing but bodyweight exercises and discipline. […]

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