Episode 163: How to stop the excuses, with Stephen Woessner.
Stephen is the CEO of Predictive ROI and host of the Onward Nation podcast. He is the author of two bestselling books, speaker, trainer, and his digital marketing insights have been featured in SUCCESS, Entrepreneur, The Washington Post, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, and other media.
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Good Morning Onward Nation…I’m Stephen Woessner. And before we jump into today’s solocast topic — I want to say thank you for all of the thoughtful and specific feedback following last week’s solocast, episode 158…which I entitled, “How to defeat the imposter syndrome.”
I love feedback — good or bad — and often encourage it at the end of my solocasts. But last week’s solocast was followed by more feedback than normal…and I am grateful.
I received notes via email, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. I appreciate the kind words — but even more so — for the insights into how the discussion helped. It is always awesome to find out someone likes what you have to say — and it is so rewarding to hear the connecting points between what is being shared and an experience. Those are powerful and I am grateful — thank you, Onward Nation.
So same request goes for today’s solocast — please let me know what you think — thumbs up or thumbs down — I want to know what you think and appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts.
It is a gift, a privilege, and an honor to be with you each and every day. It is important to me that you know how much I appreciate your time — I consider your time sacred — because it is — and am looking forward to spending time with you this morning delving into yet another deep topic that affects all of us.
So for today’s solocast…I am going to focus our attention toward an obstacle we all experience — something we all face. In fact, it is fair to say that everyone on Earth faces it no matter who they are. The obstacle is the art of making excuses…or “alibis” as Napoleon Hill described them in in his timeless work, “Think & Grow Rich.”
Hill goes on to explain that “Building alibis or excuses with which to explain any failure has become a national pastime. The habit is as old as the human race and is fatal to success. People defend their alibis because they create them. A person’s alibi is the child of his own imagination. It is human nature to defend one’s own brainchild.”
I am not going to get political — I have no conversation for you there whatsoever — but I will set Washington as a prime example of excuses — and then defending one’s position vehemently — and sometimes until the bitter end. Instead — an intelligent, non-defensive discussion that leads to a win-win compromise is often the best policy.
In an effort to dig deep into this topic…let’s examine some of the most common excuses Hill shares in his book. People who fail to succeed have one distinguishing trait in common. They know all the reasons for failure and have what they believe to be airtight excuses to explain away their own lack of achievement.
Some of the excuses are clever — and a few of them justifiable by the facts. As I read you the list — examine yourself — your thoughts — your actions carefully and think about how many — if any — of these excuses you have used.
I will say this — if you are open and honest as I share this list with you — it may be a painful process — as it was for me when I first reviewed and considered the list. In fact, as I read it the first time…I highlighted 17 excuses off the list and set about to resolve those and eliminate them from my thought process.
Please listen to the podcast for Napoleon Hill’s complete list of excuses.
And…here is the greatest excuse of them all, Onward Nation…
“If I had the courage to see myself as I really am, I would find out what is wrong with me and correct it, then I might have a chance to profit by my mistakes and learn something from the experience of others, for I know that there is something wrong with me, or I would now be where I would have been if I had spent time analyzing my weaknesses, and less time building excuses to cover them.”
This is a lesson — about the greatest excuse — is a lesson that I tend to learn and relearn over and over again. One of the most painful examples was taught to me was in June of 1990. I was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas for basic training. About midway through our training, we were asked if anyone was interested in volunteering and trying out for the Air Force special forces. Uh Rah! Count me in. So I volunteered to spend that Saturday gritting it out with the best on the base to see who would make the cut.
It was a long day…by the end…I was beat down. I was tired…had swam a mile and a half. Had run a mile and a half. Had just done pull ups, sit ups, and a variety of other exercises. I was hot, I was sweaty, I was exhausted.
My energy level was beat to the pulp.
But it was time for push ups, which perked up my energy level a bit because push ups had normally been a decent exercise for me.
This time…it came with specific instructions, which I failed to hear. And it wasn’t because the instructions weren’t loud enough — oh no — our instructors did not have an issue with volume. The instructions were to perform the movement in stages…you would lower your chest to the mat until you touched your spotter’s fist with your chest…and then raise yourself back to the starting position…hold yourself there for a beat…and rinse and repeat.
All the while…I needed to be looking face up…not down at the mat…throughout the entire movement. If any of these instructions were not followed…the repetition would not be counted.
I was feeling confident because this was “my” exercise — I knew I could bang out a bunch of reps despite being exhausted so I was excited to get started — so excited — that I did not pay close attention to the instructions.
I thought — very arrogantly — that I had this competition “in the bag” and based on my previous swim, run, etc. Yeah! I was going to be a candidate for the special forces. Well, I was about to learn how painful it can be to come up short — and the creative force to making up excuses that followed.
When the instructor yelled, “begin”…the race was on and we were on the clock to see how many push ups we could complete within the specified time. I was so concerned about speed…and quantity…I failed to perform a critical step. I was looking down at the mat during the completion of each rep for the first four…instead of “eyes front.”
It was after four repetitions, that my spotter pointed out my mistake, and I made the correction on my fifth repetition — and then my heart sank when I heard my spotter say loudly count out…“ONE”. Oh no…I was at least four reps behind. And I never did catch up.
By the time the exercise was over…I was still four reps behind the pack…and I knew I was probably sunk.
Then it was the long wait for the instructors to tabulate our scores and announce their selections. If you were selected, your normal basic training would be over and you would immediately join the special forces training program — first stop — the Bahamas for scuba diving. Um…yes, please!
But, when the instructor came out to announce the list of names…mine was not called. I had missed the cut by four points.
I had battled all day — and lost by four points. But did I blame myself for not following the very specific — very loud — and clearly articulated instructions? No. I blamed my spotter. For what? For doing his job? He wasn’t supposed to count bad reps — and he did me a favor by even telling me about my mistake.
He didn’t have to do that.
He, too was competing to win a spot on the list. But he did tell me.
My success was up to me, Onward Nation. Not him. And yet I blamed him.
Deep down inside, I couldn’t bare the thought that it was me who had failed — and to Napoleon Hill’s point — I then created an alibi that rationalized the loss and tried to make it sting a little less.
Several weeks later, I learned from the mistake at I made at the special forces qualification. I was outside my dorm on a break with my squad…and a drill instructor…not assigned to our squad decided to come up and harass us to see if she could get us to misspeak, not follow protocol, or make some other mistake. And for whatever reason, I was the lucky one she picked. Not awesome.
I don’t remember the line of questioning she bombarded me with — but — I missed something and made a mistake. I next found myself standing outside my squadron commander’s office in the hallway. My drill instructor had been summoned — we made eye contact as he walked down the hallway — and he shook his head in disappointment.
As I was called into my commander’s office to explain the situation, they were looking for any sign of weakness — of excuse making. I didn’t provide one. I apologized for the situation and accepted full responsibility without excuse.
I passed. But why?
Because I didn’t throw someone under the bus. I stood up and acknowledged the situation — accepted responsibility — and then moved on.
And it has been my experience in business and in life — and likely yours, too — that if we simply acknowledge our mistake — as hard as that may be to do — set our ego aside and apologize — and accept responsibility — then our customers, employees, spouse, or children are more willing to forgive us because everyone makes mistakes.
But no one likes excuses.
Michael Jordan famously said, that “A loss isn’t a failure until you make an excuse.”
When you make excuses — you lose credibility — you lose the respect of your peers — and you run the risk of damaging relationships.
So stop the excuses, Onward Nation.
Forget the alibis — do your best every time — own your mistakes — learn from them — and you will achieve success and greatness.
You were indeed meant for greatness. You are a child of the most high God. You are instilled with an infinite abundance of talent and gifts. How can I be so sure, you might ask? Because Luke Chapter 17, Verse 21 says so. The scripture reads, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” The kingdom of God is indeed great…and if the kingdom is within you…then that makes you great, Onward Nation. So please don’t let something so small as making excuses — and creating elaborate alibis — cheat you from your success…your greatness…your destiny!
So with that said…
I want to say thank you again for taking the time to be here with me today. It is an honor to have you here — thank you for tuning in — I am delighted you chose this episode to be what you listen to, study, and take with you on your morning run, or maybe Onward Nation has become part of your daily commute, or in some other way has become part of your morning routine.
However our daily podcast fits into your daily routine — I want you to know how much I appreciate you sharing some of your invaluable 86,400 seconds you have in your day with me and the strategies we learn and share each day from today’s top business owners.
And please continue to let me know what you think of Onward Nation…good or bad…I always want your feedback. My direct email address is email@example.com — and yes — that is my actual Inbox. No fancy filters or filing system and I read and reply to every single email.
So please let me know how you think we are doing. I look forward to hearing from you.
We will be back tomorrow with an incredible interview with John T. Meyer — he is off the charts amazing. His productivity strategy of “8 for the day” and the discipline he applies to mastering it is remarkable — which has helped him build a phenomenal business.
Until then, onward with gusto!