We all make excuses.
They dampen the sting of uncomfortable or embarrassing parts of our life. They give us a (seemingly) good reason why it’s ok for us to tolerate something that we should actually be dealing with.
And although the main time that we verbalize excuses is when we are talking to others, ironically, giving excuses hurts us more than anyone else.
The most important thing to take away from this article is that even a legitimate excuse is still an excuse.
And because excuses hide a bigger problem we’re avoiding, it’s important to get past what the excuse is and find out why we make excuses in the first place. Dig deep to find out what the real motivation behind the excuse is, because when you discover it, you will be able to dismantle a hidden obstacle in your life.
I feel that a disclaimer is important because we can take our excuses very personally when they're confronted. After all, these are THE reasons we’ve anchored our biggest limitations on. We like to OWN our excuses – we tend to make them part of us. Please read this understanding that I’m confronting excuses because they are toxic and sneaky and will sabotage your plans; this is definitely not a lecture, it’s a process that I’m also going through while writing this.
Giving excuses is a passive way of refusing to take responsibility for our lives.
You are the only person who can take responsibility for your dream. No one is going to hold your hand and walk you through life, give you all the opportunities you want, and tell you exactly how to walk out every step. You have to take ownership of your story. No one is going to force you to chase what you want.
So it accomplishes nothing when you give people excuses why you haven’t started yet, or why you’re too busy, or why it’s too hard to learn the skills you need to make it happen. - Let’s be real here:
We don’t give excuses to other people, we give them to ourselves.
They aren’t the ones who will miss out by us avoiding the process of growth, they aren’t the ones who would reap the benefits if we succeed. We are.
Sharing our best excuses with others is just something that we do to ease the guilt of not taking action. We share our excuses with others because we need our excuses validated. And if we can get someone else besides ourselves to validate our excuse, then we can accept it as fact and stay in the same place guilt-free, which is why it’s so important for us to have people in our lives who will challenge excuses.
When starting Frontrunners, I spent months talking about it and sharing it with others. I kept hearing what a great idea it was and that felt good, but I still hadn’t taken any steps to make it real yet because it seemed like too big of a thing. Some of my excuses were, “I’ll do it SOMEday, when the timing is better.” and “I just need ONE more person to tell me this is a good idea so I can be confident that it won’t fail."
Then one day, my wife Shannon said, “How many people do you need to tell you that this is a good idea before you DO it?” – My excuses shattered at the confrontation. Her question forced me to face the fact that I needed to take responsibility for my dream and that it wasn’t going to happen unless I took the leap and MADE it happen.
The best (& most dangerous) excuses are valid ones.
There are some pretty terrible excuses out there:
But here’s the tricky part: We are REALLY good at making up good excuses.
And most of our biggest and best excuses are totally legitimate. A lot of our excuses are based on realities:
- I can’t be fit because of a physical limitation or injury.
- I can’t communicate well because I’m not a good speaker.
- I’m not making any money doing what I love, so I have to stay at this job.
- I’m dyslexic, so I can’t learn what I need to be successful.
- I’ve been rejected over a dozen times. Maybe my idea isn’t good enough.
- They are only successful because they have (name skill/resource). I don’t have that.
- I never learned about money growing up, so I can’t learn investing.
- I’m not a creative person because I can’t draw.
- Other people are so much better than me at music, what’s the point of starting/trying?
- I don’t have any credentials or fancy accomplishments, why would people want to listen to me?
- I didn’t go to college, so I’m stuck where I’m at financially.
However, if you challenge any of the best excuses out there with enough resolve, they fall apart.
The proof are the people who have shattered excuses and refused to let those seemingly insurmountable excuses limit them.
Nick Vujicic was born without arms and legs.
Throughout his childhood, Nick not only dealt with the typical challenges of school and adolescence, but he also struggled with depression and loneliness. According to Nick, the victory over his struggles, as well as his strength and passion for life today, can be credited to his faith in God. Since his first speaking engagement at age 19, Nick has traveled around the world, sharing his story with millions, sometimes in stadiums filled to capacity. He has accomplished more than most people achieve in a lifetime. He’s an author, musician, actor, and his hobbies include fishing, painting and swimming. [link]
Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by terrorists.
A Pakistani schoolgirl who defied threats of the Taliban to campaign for the right to education. She survived being shot by the Taliban and has become a global advocate for human rights, women’s rights and the right to education. [link]
Walt Disney’s first animation studio went bankrupt.
He oversaw his very first business venture at twenty-two years old – the animation studio “Laugh-O-Grams” – but, due to low profits and worsening debt, it quickly went bankrupt. Even his first major success, “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit”, didn’t last long because of contractual issues. With this persistence and optimism, despite his previous failures, he would go on to create Mickey Mouse and even receive a special Academy Award for doing so in November 1932, not to mention create The Walt Disney company, which has a list of successes way too long for this post. [link]
J.K. Rowling lived on welfare.
Rowling had just gotten divorced and began living on her own and care for her baby by herself. She wrote the first Harry Potter books while being a single mother living on welfare. The first Harry Potter novel was rejected by 12 publishers and paid her just £1,500 as an advance when finally accepted. Now she has sold more than 450 million books, published in 73 languages, and is the first author ever to achieve a $1 billion net worth. [link]
The reality these people show us is that even the best excuses can be overcome. Excuses are only as big as we allow them to be.
Excuses are a form of self-sabotage.
The important thing to ask yourself isn’t “What’s my excuse?”, it’s “WHY am I giving an excuse?"
Why do we give excuses in the first place? Laziness? Fear? – At the heart of it, an excuse is a reason put forward to defend or justify why you can’t do something, a fault you have, or an offense you’ve committed.
We give excuses because the pain of discipline seems greater than the discomfort of staying put where we’re at. It seems too hard or uncomfortable to wake up early, to cut out extra time media-binging, to stop eating unhealthy foods, to sit down to write/draw, to go out and meet people, to plan an event… Whatever the thing is that you dream to do, there is always going to be a good excuse why you shouldn’t do it.
Excuses are little lies that we tell ourself to justify inaction or failure.
We resist change, we resist discomfort – to our own detriment. There’s some perceived pain that we imagine is greater than the reward of going for it. But if we could change our perspective so the reward was bigger in our eyes, then we would be able to overcome the fear/pain instead of tolerating it.
At the heart of our biggest excuses are our biggest weaknesses.
We create excuses to enable our weaknesses instead of challenging them. It’s important for us to become aware of our weaknesses so that we can embrace the truth and then dismantle them with practical solutions.
To provide a model to follow, here are 3 of my biggest weaknesses and some excuses I give myself:
I get excited about an idea and launch big, but then let it fizzle out over time after the initial passion wanes and discipline is required to keep going.
- If I can launch it, then it will take care of itself.
- If it doesn’t succeed, then it must not have been good enough.
- I’m afraid of being responsible if it fails.
- There’s less commitment to launch/start something than to have discipline and dedication.
- Sticking with an idea is hard, but it’s necessary for success. – You would never birth a baby and then expect it to walk and feed itself and grow on its own.
- Find out what the core insecurity is that is causing that fear. – If I looked back at past successes where I followed through from start to finish, I would have the confidence to overcome my fear of failure.
- Find out what the consequence and reward are for following through (or not) and anchor my action on those points.
When I do things, they normally look great. But I’m not consistent in carrying these things out over time. I will post a lot or create a lot in big sprints, but then I will drop off the face of the (digital) world for a few weeks to a month at a time.
- I’m too busy to be consistent with posting/writing/planning/communicating/etc.
- Consistency is inconvenient.
- High quality will compensate for my lack of consistency. – If I make it really good once, then people will keep coming back, will spread the word, and want to be a part.
- Quality over quantity is good, but consistency is more important than frequency (quote by Dale Partridge). If you’re not consistent, you will get drowned out by the noise.
- Plan it – The antidote to busyness is planning. It provides specific time inside my “busy” schedule for the things that I need/want to do.
- Batch it – Rather than squeezing in a bunch of tiny snippets throughout my schedule, capitalize on my creative momentum when I’m “in the zone” and make multiple posts/graphics/plans for the future at once.
I try to do too many things at once. I don’t dedicate enough focus to build momentum.
- There’s so much to learn! I have to take little bites out of each thing in order to make progress.
- If I focus on just one thing, then the other areas of my life will fall apart.
- Focusing on one thing is boring.
- Multi-tasking helps me get more done. (It doesn’t.)
- When I try to be a “Jack of all trades”, I end up being a “master of none”.
- I cannot create momentum without focus. Breaking my concentration repeatedly reduces my speed to 0MPH each time I restart.
- There is a finite amount of things I can juggle before they all crash down.
- “Multi-tasking” with people is inconsiderate – Ex: I’ve learned that I can’t read an article/scroll Instagram/look at my computer AND listen to my wife at the same time. I usually end up giving obviously vague responses like “Uh huh” or “Totally!” that prove I wasn’t listening. It becomes a noticeable bad habit.
- If I take one step in every direction, I haven’t moved forward, I'm in the same place I originally started.
- Start Small – If focusing on a big goal is too intimidating, I give myself a small goal to accomplish so I can prove to myself the value of focusing on just one thing.
- I care about quality, so I choose to DO LESS THINGS BETTER, rather than a lot of things OK.
- Remove the distractions – It’s easier to focus on what’s important when I get rid of all the stuff that doesn’t matter.
- Use momentum as fuel – Momentum builds on itself. If I build success in one area of life, I can channel that momentum toward success in other areas of my life.
I’ve learned a lot about myself by deconstructing my biggest weaknesses. You’ll find crazy helpful answers when you ask yourself, "Why DO I do that?”
The thing is,
we will never be without a surplus of legitimate and valid excuses why we can't do what we dream of doing or why we can't change our situation or mindset.
Hoping that our “CAN’Ts" will go away and that challenges will eventually just disappear isn't necessarily the best strategy. What we have to do is look for what we CAN do. Focus on what IS possible, no matter how small the steps.
If left unchecked, our excuses can become our identity. We identify them, but then we choose to own them and put them on a shelf and show them off to other people. We say with pride/defeat, “Look at all the legitimate reasons why I can't have my dream, aren't they super insurmountable!?”, hoping to have them validated by others because we have validated them to ourselves. – Don’t get stuck owning excuses.
Refuse to validate your own or anyone else's excuses.
Challenge your limits. Master them. Like this guy: Zach Anner
He has cerebral palsy, but instead of letting it be his identity, he’s totally kicked it’s butt and makes “workout” videos on Youtube. Not only that, but he is hilarious! Instead of being defeated by his obstacles, he makes fun of them and goes for it anyway. He knows it’s ironic for a guy with his condition to do what he’s doing, and he totally owns it.
Trash your best excuses.
Our situations are what we make them and excuses are only as big as we allow them to be.