When I saw this quote, the first thing that came to my mind is the inspiring story of 11 year old James who had a big, impractical idea. He was going to graduate from high school. Before you dismiss what would seem an alarmingly average accomplishment, consider his story.
James lived in rural, war-torn Uganda. He lost his entire family to disease by the time he was six and was raised by his grandmother who didn’t even earn enough for the $500/year school tuition.
A high school diploma was not the default path for James. And you could hardly blame him if he decided that goal was impossible—that he should give up and work in the fields.
But he didn’t. Instead, he and his grandmother devised a long-shot of a plan to secure the financing his tuition.
It all started with a goat.
His grandmother sold one of hers and, with the proceeds, James bought shoes, clothes, and a bus ticket to the capital city where he’d stay with his aunt.
That’s where the plan gets more interesting.
To get the money necessary for school, he’d sneak into the president’s compound and ask for a scholarship. It would require scaling a barbed-wire fence and getting past armed guards.
Once inside, though, he’d learned that he’d be greeted warmly and given money for tuition.
So that’s what he did. And—to everyone’s amazement—it worked. Today, now in his 30s, James has two masters degrees and is a leader with a great job.
Making excuses and giving up would have been easy and certainly forgiven. Regardless of where you are in life, there’s a link between the excuses you make and the success you achieve.
We’ve all experienced disappointment. You don’t get the promotion you wanted. You fail a test. An important relationship crumbles.
When it happens, you have two choices for how to respond. You can ask yourself, “What could I have done differently?” Or, you can tell yourself, “It wasn’t my fault. There was nothing I could have done.”
If you choose the second option, you’re doomed.
The more excuses you make, the worse you peform.
Making excuses now has a cascading effect on how you behave in the future.
An excuse is a way to externalize failure—blame it on something else. We’ve all done it. And we all know whywe do it. It makes you feel better!
But when you externalize failure, it also makes you feel like the outcomes in your life are out of your control. When you lack control, it’s difficult to find motivation work harder. Why bother if you’re not in charge?
When you lack motivation, your performance suffers. The chain reaction that follows an excuse ensures failure not just now, but spiraling into the future as well.
We all want to be the best we can be at whatever we do. But excuses are easy to make, and genuine commitments to improve are hard.
If you want to be the person who takes responsibility and gets what you want, it could all come down to the stories you tell yourself when you feel overwhelmed or fail.
There are two stories you can tell yourself: what can I do about it or it is not my fault. One you can control, and one you can’t. If you focus on the story you can’t control, you’ll spiral towards failure. But if you focus on the story you can, you’ll spiral towards success.
Today, take a second to ask which of those stories you tell yourself. What excuses are you making in your own life? And how could you change the story you tell yourself to make success more likely?