Life Without ExcusesSuccessful people take responsibility for their lives. They don’t use unexpected circumstances, the behavior of other people, or even their own feelings to serve as excuses for their outcomes. If they fail at a task, they simply say, “I failed.” No excuses.
But, successful people also know the difference between failing and being a failure. Everyone fails at something, sometime. Everyone. Great batters strike out and record-breaking quarterbacks overthrow their receivers. Fortune 500 executives miss trends. It’s unavoidable. But, these people know that having failed at something does not make them failures. It simply means they have to take responsibility for the outcome, learn from the situation, and face the next challenge with fresh determination and greater preparation. Often enough they will affect a positive outcome.
A failure is one who doesn’t take responsibility, learn, and prepare harder. Instead, he casts blame, complains, and generates an environment of suspicion and negative expectation. He prepares himself for greater let down in the future. The greater disappointment will occur, and so will the excuses. Spread this kind of experience out over a lifetime, and it will lead to failing at many of the most important things in life: faith, family, and career.
I hate to see anyone referred to as a failure, even if they do engage in self-defeating thought and behavior. I especially hate to hear someone refer to themselves as a failure. When they do they are internalizing shame-based thoughts, are deepening their pain, and are creating thought patterns that will continue to plague their future steps with expectation for more disappointment. I try to interrupt that pattern for them (and for myself, too, because I can engage in self-defeating thinking at times, as well). I firmly believe that anyone, anyone, can change their course from self-defeating to fulfilling if they will expend the thought, effort, and discipline.
Brad McCoy, teacher, coach and professional speaker, was faced with such a challenge on his high school football team. The season had gone ok, but he knew they weren’t mentally ready for district play. Too many of the guys were playing half-heartedly, and many were making excuses. He had to instill a sense of personal and team responsibility and accountability to rescue the season from a disappointing finish. How to do that?
He had the coaching staff, team and their dates to his house for a cook out. Assembling the group around a camp fire he asked, “Do any of you guys ever make excuses for not doing your best or maybe blame somebody else for stuff you did wrong?” A stunned silence followed.
Brad took the lead by shouldering the blame for the team’s less than stellar performance. “Do you know whose fault it is that things haven’t gone as we would like this season? It’s my fault. I take full responsibility. I’m the coach and I haven’t motivated you sufficiently.” The captain of this ship didn’t bail. He stayed in the midst of the heat and confusion and said, “The blame lies here.” His leadership inspired nobility among his players, and they began stepping up to share in the blame.
He then challenged them with a question: Did they say or do anything during the season that undermined their top performance? Distributing paper, he asked them to write down any excuse they made that robbed them and the team of their best. “If you were to wake up tomorrow morning, and all these excuses were gone ... what would your life look like? Now, throw those slips in the fire. Burn those excuses up. Don’t ever let excuses keep you from doing your best.”
Brad’s exercise was a masterful interruption of negative and failure-inducing attitudes. It turned the football team around, and I suspect it turned some lives around. He says his larger purpose is not just to develop football players, but men. “Only when we’re willing to get rid of our excuses can we do our best - on and off the field.” (Brad McCoy, Home Field Advantage).
Not making excuses for our shortcomings is so important, in any field of life, that the Bible has preserved for us one of the greatest admissions of failure ever. When confronted with serious personal sin, the King offered not one excuse. Instead, he admitted, “I have sinned.” May we be a as honest and responsible. If we are, there is no limit to our potential.
Note: Brad's book, Home Field Advantage, is an excellent resource for teachers, coaches, parents, mentors, and anyone else who works with young people. It also has very good insights and suggestions for personal improvement. Brad has a long history of working with young people and draws from those experiences for his book.
Interestingly, on the day I was reading Home Field Advantage I had lunch with a high school student, Robert, above. Since Robert is a three sport athlete (football, basketball, golf), I took the book along to share some of the sports stories and practical advice in it with him. "Have you heard of Colt McCoy," I asked Robert. He said, "Of course I have. He's my quarterback on my (fantasy) football team. I follow him." He was immediately interested in the book, and when I told him Brad is Colt's dad, Robert got even more excited about reading it.
Thanks for reading ...