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When you’re past your prime and bouncing your granddaughter on your knee one day, what will be your excuse as to why you never achieved the life you wanted? Why you never won, or why you quit? Was it just too hard, not enough money, didn’t want people to think you’re weird, didn’t have time, not the right time? Which excuse are you going to pass down to her, like a family heirloom except dark and devastating, that may doom her to failure as well?
The Dirt: Well, here’s what happened / It’s not your fault
We’ve all heard it before. The traffic was crazy, I tried my best, it wasn’t meant to be, I have kids, etc. If we took all the excuses and lined them up and stacked them high, we can give the government their border wall in about 11 days. Most excuses seem quite innocent, but what if that were just a ruse to help us feel better about losing? What if that were the adversary speaking through us, sealing our fate?
You can have reasons or excuses, but not both. What’s the difference? Why can’t we have both and which one do we want? Let’s look at each. Excuses are simply a way to shift blame away from us and onto something or someone else. It’s that lie we tell ourselves as to why we didn’t, we can’t, and we won’t be able to make something happen. Excuses are convenient, make us feel good (temporarily), and are completely false. They create a mindset of failure are the trap of the average person.
“Just remember, most people get school degrees so they qualify to work for people without them.”
Reasons on the other hand describe things as they really are. They place the responsibility squarely with ourselves, regardless of who’s to blame. In fact, where blame is the best friend of an excuse, it is the mortal enemy to a reason. Reason stands tall on the root cause of any situation, throwing aside all diversions from the truth.
Issue: I’m late for work.
Excuses: It was the traffic. Hit all the stop lights. The weather slowed everyone down.
Reason: I didn’t leave early enough to allow enough time to get to work.
Issue: I’m broke and always struggle with money.
Excuses: My boss doesn’t pay me enough. I’m a minority. Money is the root of all evil/not important/can’t make you happy.
Reason: I was conditioned to be a victim and/or hate money, so why would I have any?
Why is it so important to use reasons instead of excuses? Quite simply put, one is in our control and the other isn’t. If you are willing to place your entire life into the hands of those things you cannot control, then it’s going to be a very bumpy ride. If you instead choose to put your life into that which we can indeed control, there’s at least a fighting chance that we change our stars.
With excuses, since the blame lies with everything but us, we must forfeit responsibility for what happens to us. When we forfeit responsibility, we are helpless to change it. After all, can you change the weather? Push traffic aside like a real-life Bruce Almighty? Of course not. So this leaves us completely helpless and hopeless. On the other hand, regardless of fault or circumstance, if we accept full responsibility for all that occurs in our lives, then we can go to work on improving it. We can leave a bit earlier for work just like we can change our view of money and treat it like the important asset it is.
You might be thinking this is a bunch of phoney baloney and that your excuses are valid. Fair enough. Let me give you the test. This test will help you determine if your excuse or reason is valid. Has anyone ever done it before? If the answer is yes, you have just invalidated your excuse. If you can find one person who makes it, it takes away all of our excuses.
One person who must drive through traffic yet still makes it work on time.
One person who is a minority who has had great success in life.
One person who is busy yet finds time to raise kids and build a business.
One person who didn’t know how, but still figure it out and accomplished it.
One person who has a lot of money, yet still is a good person doing good things for the community.
Let’s take a look at the most common excuses we make every day and explore how we may think differently about them. This is far from an exhaustive list, but you’ll get the idea.
I have no time. When will you time? How do others, with the same 24 hours, have time to win? Don’t we always have time for what’s important? If your daughter was in a room that was on fire, will you have time to save her, even if you’re late to work, have to pick up dry-cleaning, and have to get your son to soccer practice so that you can go home and make dinner? If you don’t make time, then you’ll never have any. Determine what you want and the important steps to get there, then make time to do it.
I’m afraid. Of course you are. We all are. What is fear though other than False Evidence Appearing Real? Doesn’t most of what we fear never actually happen? It’s not that successful people don’t feel fear, it’s that they act anyways, in spite of being afraid. What if you shift your fears and were more afraid of being broke, destitute, and unhappy than afraid of trying something new, taking advantage of opportunity, and giving yourself a shot at life?
It’s too hard. Who promised it would be easy? Let’s all agree that life is hard and not going to be a cakewalk. Given that, life can be hard now or hard later. Which would you prefer? Would you rather put the work in while you’re young and energetic or wait until it’s too late? It’s a good thing you didn’t have this excuse when you were a year old and learning to walk. You’d still be crawling everywhere! Never pray for an easy life, develop yourself and your skills to handle a tough one.
I can’t afford it / money. We’re not talking about buying a bunch of depreciating widgets here. But when it comes to saving money or protecting your family and assets, how can you afford not to? One of the biggest fallacies is that you can’t afford to save money. Yet if you don’t save money, how can you ever afford anything? At the end of the day, nobody has a money problem. Money is only the result of what we believe and do. Therefore money can only live in the land of excuses. Improve the mindset and take the right actions, money will follow.
I have kids. So do 86% of other adults. How is it that the single mom can find a way to work three jobs and still take care of her children? Like we’ve discussed, success is not going to be easy, it will just be worth it. Let’s flip the script. What if your kids were the reason you had to succeed in life, and not the excuse why you can’t?
What will people think. Great question but before you give too much credence to what they think, ask yourself two questions: (1) Are they paying my bills today and (2) will they take care of me and my family if they are wrong? There are a host of people who think your religion is wrong, but has that stopped you yet? All I’m suggesting is to be careful listening to broke people on how to get wealthy or unhappy people on how to be happy…ad infinitum. Will you seem weird? Maybe. But you can be weird and rich or broke can cool. Your choice.
I’m not cut out for it. When they made you in the Keebler bakery, did they stamp your profession on your butt? Was it predetermined you would be a doctor, lawyer, or school teacher? How about the stamp that determined you would be successful or a failure? Of course you’re not cut out for it, that’s why we’ve been blessed with the ability to learn. While some do have a natural talent, most of what we can do come from skills, and skills can be learned. If it can be done, why not you?
I don’t have a degree. Mark Twain famously said that never let schooling interfere with his education. While school can be a valuable tool in your education, it’s far from the answer to success in life. Weren’t people successful before formal education? The thought is that the degree gets you in the door, but not only is it no longer a differentiator, but it can’t even guarantee you’ll get to keep the job. Just remember, most people get school degrees so they can qualify to work for people without them. And the ones without them, the business owners, have the majority of the success (time and money).
I’m too tired. Short of a severe medical condition, it’s not that you’re too tired, it’s that your dispassionate. Have you ever decided what you truly want in life and why you want it? If you were given an all-expense paid vacation to any destination, would you be too tired to show up at the airport? Of course not. Lack of energy is only lack of passion about something worthwhile. Figure out what you want and the energy will come. What’s the alternative other than waiting to die?
I don’t know how. They say that if you want to be successful, find a successful person in that area, get them to mentor you, do exactly what they say, then you’ll be successful. Have you asked around? If you don’t have any good examples around you in the flesh, go to the library. Almost every successful person has taken the most important highlights of their life and condensed it into a 300 page book. It’s okay to be ignorant, it’s not okay to stay that way.
Back to my original question: Which one will you use to explain to your grandkids why you failed? Look, if you want to waste away your one shot at greatness, you unfortunately have that right. But remember that children’s ears are closed to what we say, but their eyes are wide open to what we do. No matter how much you try to convince your kids to accomplish more than you, you’re still the biggest role model, good or bad, in their life. We’ll touch on this one in another episode, but didn’t your parents once want you to do better than them too? When does the cycle of failure end?
Consider these small but powerful steps to destroying excuses one by one.
- Recognize the excuse versus reason. No longer allow yourself the delusion of believing it wasn’t your fault. Ask yourself what you could have done differently to prevent it.
- Apologize for the reason. Give credence and empower the reason and not the excuse. Let yourself and others know you responsible and will not let it happen again.
- Set a goal that improves the issue. Commit to it fully and let others know what you are committing to doing.
- Take action. Take immediate action towards achieving the goal. Continue this action repeatedly until it becomes a habit and a part of your life.
The good news is that your life has not yet been written and you do not yet have to answer to your granddaughter. But consider this a warning, take positive action, and you can change the narrative to one of accomplishment, joy, fulfillment, success, and happiness. Your kids are depending on you and you don’t have to let them down.
“Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” ―George Washington Carver
I challenge you to share this episode with the next 10 people who give you an obvious excuse about anything. Shouldn’t take you more than 15-20 minutes, but it will save years of fruitless living for them. I appreciate all of you. Meet you at the top because the bottom’s way too crowded.