A few years ago, a rather well known individual in the community confronted me publicly about a wrong that he thought I had done to him. He got in my face both figuratively and literally. I was taken aback at first, as I really was unaware of the situation, and definitely did not do anything intentionally to infringe on this person’s trust. I shut my mouth and listened to everything he had to say. I repressed the urge to jump in and tell him how wrong I thought he was at the time, or to deflect his anger.
Here’s a free conflict resolution tip: No angry person likes to be told that their anger is invalid.
When he stopped and was waiting for my reply, I did the thing that he least expected. I agreed with him. I said something like the following:
“Wow, I understand why you’re so angry. I don’t disagree with a single thing you’ve just said. For my part, I am not going to make any excuses – I don’t believe there is such a thing as a good excuse. I do think there’s been a misunderstanding and let me explain what I think happened.”
Within a few minutes of quiet conversation, he had calmed down, and we parted as friends.
What if I had sat there and laid a bunch of excuses on this person, what would have happened? I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’m guessing I would have pissed him off even worse than when he began. Why? Because excuses are bullshit.
What is an excuse? Think about when you were in school and you had to ask your teacher to be excused from the classroom to use the bathroom. When she is excusing you, she is (temporarily) relieving you of your responsibility for being in the classroom. This is an important concept, burn it into your brain.
When you make excuses for yourself, you are asking yourself and others to relieve you from your responsibilities. Doesn’t that, in fact, make you irresponsible. If you’re not going to be responsible for yourself, then are you really and adult?
Excuses are lies. They are lies we tell ourselves and others to feel better.
The biggest bullshit way we use excuses is to make ourselves and others feel better about our priorities. Example: I have friends who are consistently late for everything. I told one of them, “You owe me $160,000 for all of the time I have wasted over the years waiting for you.” They are always full of excuses, the traffic was bad, someone called me as I was going out the door, etc. If you are consistently 1/2 hour late, you learn from that and leave 1/2 hour earlier, or you just admit to yourself and others that respecting their time is not a priority for you.
People use excuses to make them feel better about their lives. I can’t be successful because …. fill in the blank. No, your priority is maintaining your comfort zone, and being successful at anything involves risks.
When people give me excuses about success I frequently invoke Oprah Winfrey. Oprah, an African American woman, grew up poor, in the South, and was sexually abused for much of her childhood. Today she may be the wealthiest and most influential woman on the planet. J.K. Rowling (writer of the Harry Potter series) was a homeless single mother, and today is wealthier than the Queen of England and has inspired new generations with a love of reading. I’ve had the privilege of meeting a man with no arms who is a rifle and archery instructor.
Whatever your excuses are – they are lies that suck. When I say “suck” I mean it – they suck the life and potential out of you.
The following video has been making the rounds on Facebook. I think everybody should watch it every day until you work it into the core of your mind.