Birth of the "YES I CAN" Project 

Sara Draznin's High School Math Class

The first "YES I CAN" Project
In August 2009, Sara Draznin, a teacher Tolleson Union High School, asked if she could have some "YES I CAN" buttons. She wanted to use them to help motivate her students do better in math.

While I was happy to provide them, I wasn't convinced that buttons would do much to motivate teenagers.

Boy, was I was mistaken!

What ened up happening in her classroom exceeded both of our expectations.

Several weeks later, Sara called again and this time she asked if she could have two thousand additional "YES I CAN" buttons. She told me she wanted to give one to every student at the school.

The arrangements were made and shortly there after, Tolleson Union High School received two thousand more
"YES I CAN" buttons.

Below are comments written by a few of Sara's students detailing what their "YES I CAN" button meant to them:

Summer Sims
Summer Sims:
"List of things I believe are possible after receiving the "YES I CAN" button:
Yes I people in need.
Yes I a positive influence.
Yes I Can...achieve all of my goals.
Yes I Can...make a difference in the world.
Yes I Can (and will)...go to heaven!
Yes I somebody someday.
Yes I an impact on somebodys life.
Yes I Can...make my mother proud of me.
Yes I Can...forgive those who hurt me.
Yes I a life.
Yes I Can...overcome all my fears.
I know people should start with little goals, but I have big plans for myself so I start with big goals."

Mikeia Green:
... every time I'm wearing my pin, I feel like I can really do anything I put my mind to. Sometimes when I'm taking a test in my AP class, I just look at my pin and I don't feel nervous anymore. It's almost like they have a power to them even though I know it's all about believing in myself and the pins are a great reminder to help me remember that.

Julio Lopez:
I would like to thank you for the pins! They really motivate me to do my work and make me want to learn more about math. Every time I look at the pin it puts a smile on my face and brightens up my day and motivates me to do my best...

Denise Erives:
I am a senior at Tolleson Union High School. TUHS has a rule that we cannot wear shirts with writing on them. Some times I wake up and feel like I want to wear a shirt that says "Yes I Can" or something else, but I can't so instead I wear a button. People seem to notice buttons more than anything written on things and then ask "you can do what?" and you answer feeling good about yourself "yes I can do anything!"

Humberto Quinonez:
... your pins really changed my life. When I feel I cannot move on, I just look at the "Yes I Can" and it motivates me to work harder.

Quentin Huntley Jr.
I really like the pins. I have like 15 all over my book bag. Everyone always asks me why I have them, and I tell them that I can achieve what I want. Yes I can do it. I can do what I want to do. I look at my book bag and tell myself I can.

Sara Draznin's High School Math Class
2nd period class

Sara Draznin's High School Math Class
3rd period class

Sara Draznin's High School Math Class
4th period class

March 1, 2010
Today was a breakthrough moment for me.

Sara Draznin invited me to come and speak to her students and of course I said "YES. I was excited to have the opportunity to meet her students and personally hear from her students how the "YES I CAN" buttons had made a difference in their lives.

But even though I said, YES, a part of me wanted to say NO.

You see, one of my limiting beliefs had always been that I wasn't a good speaker.

So on the morning I was to speak to her students, I was filled with fear and self doubt. The conversation inside my head went something like this:

"You know you're not a speaker. Those students aren't going to be interested in what you have to say. You know you're going to mess things up."

All my limiting beliefs came out in full force and did their best to derail what I had set out to do, which was to speak with and hopefully inspire those students.

After about 10 minutes of that racket, I finally recognized what was going on and I told my limiting beliefs to knock it off. I told them I had important work to do.

I know it might sound silly, but to interrupt the negative comments that were bouncing around inside my head, I started saying "YES I CAN".

I said it over, and over, and over again.

Before I got to the school, I said it out loud and with as much passion as I could muster. And when I got inside Sara's classroom, I said it to myself, quietly but with conviction.

And you know what?

It worked!

Instead of feeling defeated, I felt empowered!

I ended up speaking to three of Sara's classes and while there was certainly room for improvement, I do believe I was able to deliver an inspirational message to her students.

It was a very exciting day and I'm happy that I had a chance to meet them and spend some time with them.

So to all the staff and students at Tolleson Union High School, I say thank you!

~ Don Ratliff

My Story by Don Ratliff

I grew up with the deep seated belief that I was incapable.

And because that's what I believed, that's how I lived my life. There were so many things I never believed would be possible for me.

Then, in October 2005, at 52 years of age, I participated in the first of a series of personal growth classes and made a startling discovery. I wasn't incapable. I simply had a limiting belief that I was incapable.

And by changing that belief, I could change my life.

In doing those classes, I discovered I wasn't alone. Other people have limiting beliefs, as well.

And that's what led me to create the "YES I CAN" Project.

Sara Draznin's High School Math Class
Don with Mark Victor Hansen - Oct. 2006

One year later, in October 2006, I attended another class where Mark Victor Hansen, co-creator of "Chickensoup for the Soul", was the featured speaker. After the event, I had the opportunity to meet him and I shared my idea for the "YES I CAN" Project with him.

He seemed geniunely interested. He gave me his business card and asked me to call his secretary.

But I never made the call.

My limiting belief got in the way and kept me from ever making the call that might have allowed me to launch the "YES I CAN" Project with an incredibly powerful partner.

Even though I was now aware that I had limiting beliefs, simply knowing about them didn't make them go away.
Sara Draznin's High School Math Class
Don with Bob Proctor - Oct. 2009
Sara Draznin's High School Math Class
Don with Mark Victor Hansen - Oct. 2009

Fast forward three years
It's now
October 2009 and I was attending the same event I had been at three years earlier, where I had spoken with Mark Victor Hansen. Jack Canfield, Bob Proctor, and Mark Victor Hansen were all speaking at the event and what they said lit a fire within me.

Inpiration for the YES I CAN button

On April 26, 2010, I had a meeting with Dorothy Branum, one of the customer service representatives at my company, and her boyfriend, Don Owens.

At the meeting, Don was wearing a button that said "YES I CAN!" The text on the button was hand-written in red ink, and my first thought was that it was his way of showing support for the "YES I CAN" Project.

As the meeting progressed, Dorothy asked me if I remembered that button and I had to tell her I did not. She then told me about a day four years earlier.

Dorothy was having a rough day at work, as were several of the other employees. But rather than let their collective negativity get her down, she wrote "YES I CAN!" on a piece of paper and then made it into a button. And from that moment on whenever anyone said something negative to her, she simply tapped on her button and said, "YES I CAN!"

At the end of our meeting, Dorothy gave me the original "YES I CAN" button and I was touched by her gesture.

I'm going to have the original "YES I CAN" button framed and I plan to keep it in my office to serve as a reminder that we can all make a difference in other people's lives.

Thank you, Dorothy!