George Washington Carver
“Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” ―George Washington Carver
When I was a teenager, I was scared to ask girls to dance. I was afraid that they would say no. And, I rationalized that if they said no, it was because of me. So, when I went to parties and my friends would ask me why I wasn’t dancing, I told them I didn’t feel like dancing. I made up an excuse to mask my fear.
For many of us, fear stops us from doing what we want and need. Fear can be debilitating and paralyzing.
When your comfort zone is challenged, fear sets in and stops you dead in our tracks. Then you end up making excuses, which essentially just reinforces the fear. Instead of giving in to fear, it’s time to conquer the fears and live the life we were meant to live.
When I say conquer fear, I’m not saying get rid of the fear. I’m saying take action even though the fear is present.
Being completely free of all fears isn’t rational, or safe. Biologically we are wired to handle threatening situations by a fight, flight, or freeze reaction.
Walking down a dark alley at night isn’t a good idea. Why? Because we don’t know what’s lurking in the dark and it’s not worth the risk to find out.
Swerving through traffic at an increased rate of speed also isn’t a good idea. Why? Because we can’t predict the behavior of the other drivers and the results could be disastrous, even deadly. Those types of fears are normal and necessary.
There is a difference in “real” danger and “perceived” danger. For example, a real danger is you are hiking in the woods and stumble upon a bear. Perceived danger is you have to give a presentation before an audience of 300 people.
When you perceive something as dangerous and it is not dangerous, you make up irrational fears. Irrational fears then lead to the excuses you use to justify not taking action.
Irrational fear can be based on many things, some of which include:
- Uncertainty – worry about outcomes unknown
- Future – events or circumstances that may or may not happen
- Failure – defeat, lack of success or desired outcome
- Mistakes – imperfection, inadequate
- Comparison – being compared to others, insecure
- Embarrassment – public or personal humiliation.
By no means is that an exhaustive list, but they are some of the most common fears that keep us from moving forward; and, there’s an excuse for every fear.
We rationalize our fears by providing excuses so we aren’t forced to challenge ourselves. The thing is, without challenges personal and/or professional growth is virtually impossible.
A member of this community sent me something he found online called the Excuse Creator. It is a tool to create excuses. The tool has three columns with pre-filled items for you to use for your excuses. The columns are: Chose a lead-in, Chose a perpetrator, and Chose a delaying action.
It is quite funny when you mix and match the items from the columns.
Most of us have some common excuses we use by habit.
Let’s look at some of the best excuses we lean on, how to push past the fear, and start doing.
Excuse: I don’t know how.
Solution: If you’re reading this right now, you’ve got all the tools you need to discover just about anything. The internet is like having every resource known to man right at your fingertips. Videos and tutorials are the big things, in case you didn’t know. No one else on the planet is more responsible for what you know than you.
Excuse: I don’t like people.
Solution: First of all, that’s probably untrue and you’re deceiving yourself. Not being confident or comfortable around other human beings doesn’t mean you don’t like them. It means you need to expose yourself to others and learn that you aren’t so different after all. Humans are naturally social creatures. Just get out there and start mingling!
Excuse: I don’t know what I want.
Solution: Lack of direction will stop you from getting started on whatever it is you want to do. To combat this excuse you can begin by writing down a list of the things that make you happy, that make you feel good, and that make you feel smart, beautiful, and creative. On the other side of the paper write down things that make you unhappy or uninspired. Fix the compass of your life to point in the direction of the first side of the paper. Your goals and desires will eventually surface when you are honest with yourself.
Excuse: I’m too old.
Solution: Think of the examples that make this excuse untrue. Did you know Harlan Sanders franchised Kentucky Fried Chicken when he was 62? Or that Samuel Jackson didn’t land an award-winning lead role until he was 43? Or that Ronald Reagan was 70 when he became the 40th American President? Or that Peter Roget invented the Thesaurus at age 73? Age is a poor excuse. Don’t use it.
Excuse: I’m too young.
Solution: Same as above. Look at these examples of young people making a huge contribution. Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook at the age of 19. Alexander Graham Bell was 18 when he began developing the telephone. The Braille reading system was invented by Louis Braille when he was just 15.
Age doesn’t limit intellectual ability or creativity, but your excuse sure will if you allow it.
Excuse: I don’t have the time.
Solution: The truth of the matter is, if it’s important enough to you, you’ll make the time. Sometimes we can’t figure out a starting point and use a lack of time as the excuse to never even get started. It helps to start small.
Break up an overwhelming project into smaller tasks so it doesn’t feel so intimidating. Use an agenda, a calendar, or a project management app to get organized. Once you have steps it’s easier to climb.
There will always be fear. Frankly, it’s inevitable. There will also always be reasons to quit or not start at all. You will never know how far you can go until you take the first step. And the next. And the next….