Year To Success

Lesson 13: Making Excuses

By definition, an excuse is an explanation offered to justify or obtain forgiveness. In its true meaning then, an excuse is really nothing more than a reason. An excuse becomes an obstacle in your journey of success when it is made in place of your best effort or when it is used as the object of the blame.

It’s three o’clock on a rainy afternoon. While Jim is on his way to an important four o’clock meeting, his car starts to smoke and stalls on the freeway. After cursing the radiator, the car, and his Maker, Jim calls BobbyJoe’s Tow Truck Service and gets his car towed to the nearest garage. He then takes a taxi to the meeting and shows up at 4:45, 15 minutes before the meeting is over. When asked why he is so late, he proceeds to blame his car for breaking down, BobbyJoe for showing up late, the garage for requiring him to fill out so much paperwork, and the taxi for taking him “the long way.” After Jim’s sob story is finished, his boss responds with, “Would you like some cheese with that whine?” Needless to say, Jim’s name will not be coming up for promotion anytime soon.

Jim, like most people, realized that his car breaking down was out of his immediate control and that it was certainly a good excuse to use for missing the meeting. He figured that even by showing up after such an ordeal, his boss would be impressed. Knowing that, he did what most “normal” people would do in the same situation.

Remember that a successful person is not “normal.” He or she is part of that 2% of the population that tends to raise the eyebrows of others. Now given the same situation, “successful” Jim knows that no excuses are good excuses and that the best excuses are those never made. With that in mind, besides calling BobbyJoe’s Tow Truck Service he calls his sister, whom he persuades to drive her car over to him and sit in his broken down car, while he takes her car to the meeting, which he makes right on time. (Authors note: If Jim’s sister is anything like mine, the persuasion probably consisted of a somewhat large dollar amount.)

Despite your best efforts, at times you will be asked for an excuse. In another scenario, successful Jim, despite his best efforts, misses the first 45 minutes of the meeting. When asked by his boss why he is late he responds, “Car trouble. Next time when I hear my car making funny noises, I will get it checked and not let it break down. I really do apologize.” His boss responds with, “Well your car broke down, there was nothing you could do about it. Don’t worry, it happens to us all.”

Note how Jim in the last scenario took responsibility for missing the meeting and did not put the blame on someone or something else. Nor did Jim douse himself with blame. Jim realized that he made an error by not taking adequate care of his car and forgave himself.

Next time you are asked for an excuse for something, think about the other person and spare them the details that are only important to you. Better yet, use your creative mind to avoid the need for excuses altogether and you will find people will treat you with the respect you deserve.