Giving Up Excuses


This lesson can be challenging because it forces you to take a look at when you’re making excuses and to be honest with yourself about it.

Excuse-making, in reinvention, is seeking to defend, justify or rationalize why you’re not taking action. Like many drugs it can be habit-forming; excuse-making numbs you from the pain of accepting responsibility for the fact that your reinvention is not moving forward. As Reinvention Law #3 says: Progress begins when you stop making excuses.

Psychologist Barry Schlenker’s ‘triangle model’ boils excuses down to three types:

Excuse #1: It’s not my job.

This is where you deny your responsibility in the situation. An example of this would be: “I don’t know this software because my company doesn’t reimburse for training in this technology.” In this type of excuse-making, you put the responsibility for your reinvention onto someone else.

Excuse #2: It’s out of my hands.

This is where you lay the blame on circumstances. An example of this would be: “I don’t have enough money to sign up for that software training.” When you fall prey to this type of excuse-making, you don’t bother to look for ways to solve the issue.

Excuse #3: I don’t know enough.

This is where you blame your lack of action on not having sufficient knowledge. An example of this would be: “I don’t think I have the prerequisites to sign up for that software class.” This type of excuse-making blocks you from being proactive about finding out the information you need to move forward.

All three types of excuses imply that you’d be perfectly willing to take action if only these things weren’t stopping you. However, if you look closely, you’ll see that nothing is stopping you but your assumption you cannot proceed.

Complaining is excuse-making in angry mode. If you find yourself laying the blame on others (e.g. my boss… my spouse… my company…), ask yourself two questions:

  1. What am I really afraid of?
  2. What change do I need to make? 

To get past excuse-making, keep these three things in mind:

#1: Everyone has factors that are roadblocks.

Whatever you’re facing is not unique in the annals of humankind. Health challenges, lack of connections or education, not enough money or time—these are common problems to solve when pursuing our goals.

#2: Whatever challenge you face has been overcome by someone else.

Here it can be helpful to look at the problems others have faced that they refused to let stop them. Stephen Hawking had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) and still became a world-renowned physicist and best-selling author. Oprah Winfrey was poor, abused, pregnant at 14, and shuttled between family members while growing up, and still developed herself into a celebrated talk show host. David Neeleman grew up to start multiple airline companies, including Jet Blue Airways, despite a childhood spent struggling with dyslexia and ADHD.

#3: You have benefits others don’t have that can help you overcome your challenges.

This requires you to pay attention to what you DO have, instead of what you lack. David Neeleman says that he realized he would never do well on the standardized tests they gave in school, so he chose to focus on his creative mind. It was this out-of-the-box thinking that allowed him to shape Jet Blue’s core offerings to specifically solve the pain points travelers experienced on legacy airlines.

I encourage you to decide to give up excuse-making. When you do, you can apply your full energy to solving your particular challenges of reinvention.

Overcoming these problems will not be easy; it may take longer than you think and you might have to sacrifice for a while. But if you put your mind to it, you can find a way past any roadblock and experience the satisfaction of reaching your goal.