Everyone uses excuses. Most people actually have favorites that they employ over and over. Rather than ignore them, let’s just go ahead and confront the little monsters so that they don’t distract you.
An “excuse” is a justification for doing -- or not doing -- something. I think the dictionary implies that it’s a “reason.” However, in reality, an excuse usually turns out to be something other than the real reason that motivates your actions (or lack thereof). For example, let’s say that your excuse for being late to work is due to traffic. Well, that’s not truly the reason you didn’t make it to work on time. The reason you were late is because you left your home without enough time to allow for traffic.
Excuses are never the reason for why you did or didn’t do something. They’re just a revision of the facts that you make up in order to help yourself feel better about what happened (or didn’t). Making excuses won’t change your situation; only getting to the real reason behind it can do this.
The first thing to know about excuses is that they never improve your situation. The second thing to know is which ones you use on a regular basis. Do any of the following sound familiar?
- I have to find balance in my life
- I am overworked
- I am underworked
- Too many people work here
- We don’t have enough people
- My manager sucks/doesn’t help me/won’t leave me alone
- I don’t have time to study
- I don’t have time for anything
- Our prices are too high
- Our prices are too low
- The customer won’t call me back
- The customer cancelled the appointment
- People don’t tell me the truth
- They don’t have the money
- The economy is bad
- We don’t have/can’t find the right people
- No one is motivated
- People have bad attitudes
- No one told me
- It was someone else’s fault
- They keep changing their minds
- I need a vacation
- The competition is giving its product away
- I have such bad luck
Bored yet? I know I am! How many of these have you used? Make a note of every statement you’ve ever heard come out of your mouth. Now ask yourself, will any of these excuses improve your condition? I doubt it.
So why, then, do so many people make them so often? Does it even matter? An excuse is just an alteration of reality; nothing about it will move you to a better situation. The fact that “the customer doesn’t have the money” will not help you close your deal. The fact that you “only have bad luck” is not going to change your luck. In fact, if you keep telling yourself that long enough, you’ll start to expect it -- thereby ensuring that things will continue to be bad.
You have to start understanding the differences between making excuses and providing actual, sound reasons for events. A massive difference between successful and unsuccessful people is that successful people simply don’t make excuses. They are actually quite unreasonable when it comes to providing reasons -- at least for failure -- as well.
I’ll never ask myself (or anyone else, for that matter) why I was unable to bring my product to market, raise enough money, or make enough sales because as far as I’m concerned, no answer will do. There are no justifications that will change these facts or situations -- and any reasons I might provide are only opportunities yet to be handled. Remember, nothing happens to you; it happens because of you.
If you make success an option, then it won’t be an option for you -- simple. No excuse exists that can or will make you successful. Engaging in self-pity and excuse making are signs that someone has an extremely minimal degree of responsibility.
Compare these two different ideas:
- “He didn’t buy from me because the bank wouldn’t make the loan.”
- “He didn’t buy from me because I was unable to secure proper financing for a potential customer.”
The first statement assumes no responsibility for the event, while the other does -- and identifies a solution. Once you adopt a more advanced sense of responsibility -- and refuse to make any more excuses -- then you can go out and search for a solution. And as an added bonus, you will avoid such situations in the future.
The quality of being rare is what makes something valuable. So anything that is plentiful has very little worth. Excuses are one item that people seem to have an almost endless supply of. Because they are so plentiful, they have no value. Because they do not forward your desire to create more success for yourself, they are worthless uses of your energy.
You cannot allow yourself, your team, your family, or anyone in your organization to use another excuse as a reason why something didn’t come to fruition. As the old saying goes, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”
Editor's note: This is an excerpt from the book The 10x Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure. It is published here with permission.