Excuses Begone: Encouragement for Leaders

This is a photograph I personally took when Wa...

Dr. Wayne Dyer, author of "Excuses Begone" and other motivational books

How many excuses do we use on a daily basis without thinking about them? 

How do these excuses limit our (personal and) professional growth and that of our organizations?

As I was getting in a few minutes of exercise on the elliptical machine on a a recent  Saturday morning**, the tv in the gym happened to be tuned to a PBS pledge drive special featuring motivational speaker / self-help guru, Dr. Wayne Dyer.  Being an admirer of Dr. Dyer’s “positive thinking” philosophy, I quickly became engrossed in the program — a lecture where he was expounding on his latest work, “Excuses Begone!”

** Confession: I was trying to work off a little of the weight I was sure to be putting on the following day during a Super Bowl eating fest!

A centerpiece of the talk was Dr. Dyer’s list of 18 common excuses that people use to rationalize not taking action or striving to improve their lives.  As with most people listening to his talk, I imagine, I have to admit that I’ve used these excuses more than a time or two myself, so the subject matter resonated with me.  And it got me to wondering . . . while the excuses were written primarily to reflect personal mental roadblocks, perhaps they are just as apt in regard to professional, organizational, and career roadblocks — i.e., defeatist thinking that causes organizations (and managers, and individuals) to flounder rather than thrive.

With thanks Dr. Dyer for his insightful work, here are the dozen or so of the excuses that resonated most deeply with me:

1: It will be difficult (or risky).
This is true, of course, with most things of value.  But, were we hired to do the safe and easy things?  Or, is it time to take on a big (and risky) idea which can inspire our team and move our organization forward in a giant leap?

2: It will take a long time.

We shouldn't let the long road ahead daunt us

While quarterly earnings reports are a reality for all public companies, a constant focus on the short-term will inevitably create long-term risks by not putting into place the foundations for long-term success. If “slow and steady wins the race,” what can we do to build up our stamina and perseverance?

3: There will be drama.
Undoubtedly so.  But, isn’t the big goal worthy of managing through some short-term drama and upset? Can we inspire team members strongly enough that the nay-sayers and chronic complainers are marginalized into irrelevance?

4: It’s not my nature.
Perhaps so. But if we truly believe in the idea, can’t we go beyond our comfort zone in pursuit of the greater goal?

5: I (we) cannot afford it.
No organization (or individual) can afford everything.  But most organizations (and individuals) have enough resources to afford the thing(s) that are truly most important to them. What non-essentials can we do without so that we can afford the central things?

6: No one will help me.
Have we communicated our vision and asked for help in achieving the goal?  If we’ve done so and support is still lacking, is this the support of thing that we can keep moving along on our own, until conditions are more favorable and others can join us with more enthusiasm?

7: It’s never happened before.
This is coupled with its close cousin, “We’ve always done it this way here.”  What can we do in preparation to get more people on-board with the idea, and to make success more likely?

8: I am not strong (or smart) enough.

What can we do to build up our strengths?

What resources can we draw on to educate ourselves or strengthen our abilities?

9: I am too old or I’m not old enough.
As I was passing through the Atlanta airport recently, their was a poster congratulating the oldest college graduate (age 96).  ‘Nuff said?

10: The rules won’t let me.
Were the rules created to support success? Or, are the rules now an inhibitor to success?  Is this the time to take the stance of “making decisions now and asking for forgiveness later”?

11: It’s too big.
Can we break something big into more manageable pieces? Or, can we bring in others to help (e.g., “many hands make light work”)?

12: I am too busy.
It’s said that, “If you want to get something done, ask the busiest person you know to do it.”  I believe that there’s a lot of truth to this.  If time truly doesn’t permit, what non-essential “clutter” can we remove from our working lives to allow us to focus on the difference makers?

Can we see green lights (i.e., reasons to act) rather than stop signs (excuses)?

All of the above are offered as encouragement to leaders (i.e., all of us — whether we are leaders of organizations, leaders of our families, or leaders of our own lives).  Which excuse can we commit to eliminating from our list today?  It’s a rain-and-wintry-mix day here in the northeast U.S. What better day to start fresh with the hope of spring and new, positive habits?

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