Stop Making Excuses and Just Go For It!

“I don’t feel like going running today…I’m too tired.”

“I can’t believe that Jessie made so much money on his last company. I am way smarter.”

“She’s so annoying…I can’t believe she said that to me. If I had my way, I’d give her a piece of my mind.”

We all make excuses. It’s a natural way to let out our frustration once in a while. The problem is when it becomes a habit.

Excuses are a high-effort, low-reward activity. Whining doesn’t actually solve anything; it just distracts up from the real issues. Instead of spending the time complaining about something, why not spend time fixing it? Great businesses weren’t built by pointing fingers and talking behind someone’s back has never improved a relationship.

Here’s a personal story: Several years ago I stumbled upon Quick Sprout, a blog by entrepreneur Neil Patel. When I first read Neil’s bio, I was very impressed. Here’s a guy who’s my age and he’s already accomplished so much; he’s a multimillionaire, an in-demand speaker, and consults for a number of high-profile clients. The first thing that I thought was, wow, this guy is really inspiring.

The next thought was not as pleasant. All of a sudden, my own accomplishments didn’t seem as meaningful. I’ve achieved nothing compared to Neil.

But wait. Neil’s situation was different. He got lucky, stumbling upon a great business model while he was still in college. If that had happened to me, I’d be rich too. But I can’t copy him now; the market’s changed and it’s too late. So it’s totally fine if I haven’t yet achieved the things I want to…

Suddenly I stopped myself. How could I be thinking like this?

This type of unproductive thinking is called the “Shrug Effect.”  Instead of figuring out how to incorporate success into our own lives, we waste time figuring out the “differences” that allow others to be successful instead of us. This allows us to “shrug” our concerns away.

We often look at successful people with a sense of awe. How did they get to where they are? It must be some innate quality that we just don’t have. Or maybe it’s that Harvard Business School diploma that got them the connections they need.

In reality, most successful people have failed more often than they’ve succeeded. But when we hear about them in the media, we usually only see the successes – the fancy degrees, millions of dollars, whatever it might be. That’s one of the things I love about Neil’s blog; he’s completely upfront about his failures and uses them as an opportunity to learn. To me, this is something we can all learn from to make us more successful.

As I thought about it more, I realized two things. First of all, Neil’s not that different from me. We both grew up in middle-class Indian families in California. We both have a college degree and an entrepreneurial background. I’ve had the exact same opportunities for success, and thinking otherwise isn’t going to move me in the right direction.

The second thing I realized is that it’s never too late. We always have a chance to accomplish things if we put in the time and effort. The last thing we want is to be saying that we should have tried to do something we really wanted to do. Excuses might make us feel better in the short run, but eventually we’ll end up regretting it.

With that in mind, here are four techniques (courtesy of Zen Habits) that can help transform your frustration into focus.

  1. Define Your Goals: Take a few minutes to understand what you want to accomplish. Make a list of important tasks that you can realistically get done in the short term. Once you’ve made your list, stick to it. If you find yourself getting distracted, refocus by taking a look at your list.
  2. Define Your Motivation: The best way to get motivated is to ask yourself a few questions. Why are you doing something? What is the end goal? Why is it important? Defining your motivation will help you understand why you are doing something, which is a major step in overcoming resistance.
  3. Get Started: I wrote a while ago that the hardest part of anything is getting started. Once you get moving, it’s a lot easier to keep going. If you don’t start, you’ll never be in a position to finish. So why are you still reading this? Go and get started! =). Cut down on the “If’s and buts” in your vocabulary. It’s easy to say I’d do it but…” or “I’d try it if…” but this thinking gets us nowhere. If you really want to accomplish something, the “ifs” and “buts” are just going to get in the way.
  4. Make a List: Identify specific things you can do to change the situation. Think about which of these ways makes the most sense and give it a try. If it’s working, keep it up. If not, don’t be afraid to try something else.

If you constantly approach your problems this way, you shouldn’t have any time left for whining, and you’ll be amazed at how much more you accomplish.

So what are you waiting for? Stop complaining and start doing!

One Response to “Stop Making Excuses and Just Go For It!”

  1. Great advice. I wish I had done this since I graduated. But like you say it is never too late and it has helped me in the last decade.

Leave a Response