The Blog.

It will never work (because it doesn’t sometimes)

1 Dec 2014 | Mind monkeys

Do you find yourself saying that? Or do you hear that around you? Are you shaped by this thinking?

I get this sometimes when I run workshops. Out of a discussion comes a great idea that gets everyone excited.

Maybe we can do something about this after all! Oh I like that idea! Yeah, I’m up for that! 

Then one person says: it will never work. We’ve done it before. So-and-so didn’t take notice. This-and-that happened anyway. 

It will never work.

Do you say that to yourself? Does someone else say it to you?

Sometimes knowing what doesn’t work feels safer than wondering what might. We can take comfort in that certainty, rather than pinning our hopes on something that may or may not work.

Hope can feel risky

We risk being disappointed. We risk being wrong. Sometimes it feels safer to speak the last word and control the outcome, instead of leaving it to hope:

Hope is not a confession that we are one step from failure but a confident expectation that the last work has not yet been spoken. @rockkiltlifter

When I was off on my travels a few weekends ago, my husband decided to take the kids to a pottery museum, which turned out to be closed. Somehow they ended up at Stafford’s historic windmill, which also looked closed.

“I don’t think we can go in” said my son. He’d read the signs – or lack of – and concluded that it wasn’t open to the public. “Let’s knock on the door” said my daughter.

So they knocked. The door opened. It turns out it wasn’t open to the public. My son was right. It was now the office and studio for Stafford Radio. But because they knocked, the person who opened the door gave them a little tour of the place anyway. They got to see inside the windmill and a radio show in action. They were both right.

Do you shut your ideas down before they’ve even begun?

Maybe it’s not worked once. Or maybe it started working then didn’t. So you stopped.

“It will never work” is another form of perfectionism. Perfect is the enemy of done. Something will go wrong, so best not to try at all.

The truth is, it doesn’t always work. But that’s not the point. It’s not a question of if it will work, but when.

Here’s a better question to ask:

When would it work?

The very skeptical might start with when hell freezes over.

So let’s play with that. When would that be?
When people actually give a damn!

When might people give a damn?
When they stop being arseholes… when they start caring 

When might they care?
Hmm… when it makes their lives easier?

How could this make their lives easier?

See where this could go?

“It doesn’t work” gives you nothing. It’s a statement to stop all discussion. Asking a question gets you thinking – of solutions, possibilities, work arounds and who knows, you might even surprise yourself.

And yes, it may never work perfectly, but asking “when would it work?” or even “when does it work?” means you can find what works and do more of that.

Give it a go. Next time you hear “it will never work” go ahead and ask:
When would it work?


  1. Michelle Riley

    I think I say this very thing every time I’m asked why I don’t expand my business. I really need to start seriously thinking about how I can *make* it work. This post really resonated with me, Grace. Thanks!

    • Grace Marshall

      Ooh! Glad it’s got you thinking Michelle – I’m excited to see what you come up with! Amazing how creative we can be when we’re pointing our imagination in the right direction 🙂

Image if author Grace Marshall

About Grace

I coach, train, write and speak on productivity. I help people adopt new ways of working and thinking about their work to replace stress, overwhelm and frustration with success, sanity and satisfaction.

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