How To Respond When You're Told "You Can't. You Won't."

I always say you can either let life happen, or you can make life happen. I think you can guess I prefer the latter. Recently I had an experience with making life happen, but before I get to that I want to tell you a story about this dude named Roman Reigns.

Roman Reigns is a WWE pro wrestler (yes, if you didn’t know I’m a hardcore WWE fan. You can refer to my recent article on The Daily Muse about The Rock and Hulk Hogan for even more. To answer your followup question, yes, I know it’s scripted. So are movies and everyone talks about those, so like get off my nuts already mmmkaay?).

Here’s Reigns’ deal: He’s this 6’3”, 265 lb Samoan badass who made his WWE debut a few years ago. He rose through the ranks as his popularity increased. He then won this big match in January which put him in position to face the champion at Wrestlemania (WWE’s version of the Super Bowl) last month. While he was undoubtedly one of the more popular superstars throughout 2013, when he won this big match in January, people started booing. 

Here’s the thing about most pro wrestling fans: We’re smart, and we know that we’re watching a live play unfold before our eyes. We also understand that because it’s a live event, our voices can have an impact on how the executives will write the script for future shows.

So here’s what the WWE fans collectively decide to do. They basically think that Roman Reigns isn’t “ready” for the main event, that it’s not “his turn” to be in the spotlight, and that there are others "more deserving". So they decide to boo the hell out of him for 2 months in hopes that the executives will change the script.

"You're not technical enough."

"You suck at talking on the microphone."

"You don't have the right skills."

They all said.

During this time, Reigns realizes he has a major chip on his shoulder, and he addresses these crowds of people who say he can’t and he won’t with a new motto:

I can. I will.

When all the naysayers told him he wasn’t good enough, he stuck with it anyway. When it came time for that championship match at Wrestlemania, he ultimately didn't win, BUT he earned every person’s respect by putting on an amazing performance with his opponent and showing the world that he could take a beating and in fact hang with the big boys (in wrestling it really is less about who wins and proving that you can put on a good show instead).

I LOVE Roman Reigns, because I relate to him. Let me tell you why.

For years I’ve been rapping as a hobby, a side project if you will, under the name Fenetik, but I struggled to gain acceptance or respect from the people around me.

“Who are you to think you can do that?”

“You’re not from the streets, what are you doing?

“How’s it going Fuhnetix?” (intentionally saying my stage name wrong to irritate me) 

or my favorite

“You know you’re not black, right?” <<As if that’s the qualifier.


The worst part was that I let that get to me so much that I would sort of hide the fact that I rapped. I put out two mixtapes in 2011, but that meant nothing more than emailing a handful of people and making a Facebook status about it.

You know why? Because I was so worried about what the haters would say.

I didn’t want to get laughed at.

Real talk, when I released my first mixtape I had a friend break the CD in half in front of my face and throw it in the garbage to show me what he thought of it (bear in mind he hadn’t actually listened to it). He tried to pass it off as a joke...but like, c’mon. Really? Imagine if you’re an artist and you just painted something you’re proud of, then someone punched a hole in the center of the canvas. Or maybe you finished an important presentation at work, and someone came and put it through a paper shredder. Or you just ran your first marathon, and someone kicked you in the groin when you crossed the finish line. Wouldn’t that fucking suck? Wouldn’t that make you feel like shit?


They basically told me, “You can’t. You won’t.”


Shit like this is what made me doubt my own ability.


But still, I kept at it, albeit under the radar. Over the last few years I slowly but surely fine-tuned my craft, and along the way brought the right people into my life. The one’s who pushed me to get better. The ones who challenged me to do my first open mic night, and take songs that were good and make them better. I went on a personal journey to redeem myself. 

When the haters said, “You can’t. You won’t.”

I said, “I can. I will.”


Recently, I released a project that was roughly 3 years in the making. My 3rd body of work, and first EP, entitled “Road To Redemption”.

In 2011, I released my projects with hesitation, worried about what the haters would have to say.

In 2014, I had surrounded myself with the right people and went HAM (Hard As a Motherfucker if you didn’t know), getting my own webpage up and promoting it everywhere I could. Rather than getting snickers and having my work thrown in the trash before my eyes, here’s what I got:

I never receive that insanely heart-warming compliment (and several others) if I hear “You cant. You won’t” and say, “yeah, you’re right, I’ll stop.”

The next night I threw a release party at my friend’s place and played a live show. My first ever full solo set (accompanied by my buddy Nivethan who DJ’d, and played keyboard, bass guitar, and electric guitar depending on the song, and my other buddy Tony, an Idea Lemon tribe member who played this awesome Spanish drum called the Cajon.)

And that created awesome moments like these:

This doesn't happen if I let the voices get to me and convince myself that I'm not ready, that it's not my turn, that there are others more deserving.

And you know what else? My EP is totally free, you can download it here, but if you feel like contributing any amount you are welcome to. 3 years ago, hell even 3 months ago, I never would have envisioned even thinking about making a single penny from my music.

Then last Friday I saw this in my inbox:

Someone actually paid me. And since then several more have as well. 

Amazing things like this are what happen when you say “I can. I will,” when others tell you, or even when that voice in your head tells you, “You can’t. You won’t.”

I tell you this story because I often write and talk a big game, but I don’t ever want you to think that means I haven’t struggled or don’t struggle. The people who you see out there and you think, "damn, they have it all," have endured many struggles to get there as well.

At the same time, I want to convey just how awesome life can be when you decide to make life happen, instead of just let life happen. When you don’t let the haters win.

When you say, “I can. I will.”


Take care and be awesome.

What up! My name is Rajiv Nathan and I'm the Cofounder of Idea Lemon. That banana peel you slipped on to land here came from me. That's because I fancy myself a human Curious George, and the yellow hat I chase is life's authentic moments. I share my chase one story at a time through this blog, our email newsletter, and as a rapper.

Oh and I'm a WWE fan 4 lyf!