Excuses

My grand­pa used to say to me: “You have more excus­es than Wrigley has chew­ing gum”. He grew up dur­ing the Great Depres­sion, fought in World War II, sup­port­ed 4 kids and a wife run­ning a postal route, was a city coun­cil­man, et cetera, et cetera.

I can’t think of one time that I ever heard him com­plain or offer an excuse or fail to take respon­si­bil­i­ty for some­thing that was brought to his atten­tion — whether or not if it was his prob­lem to begin with.

My life has been extrav­a­gant­ly deca­dent com­pared to his, but when I’ve been faced with adver­si­ty or failed at some­thing I’ve always kept that say­ing of his in mind, and his example.

  • If you’re held respon­si­ble for some­thing that isn’t your fault; there’s no point whin­ing about it — you’re already blamed. Clar­i­fy the sit­u­a­tion and help solve it. Take steps to ensure it does­n’t hap­pen again.
  • If you’re in any posi­tion of lead­er­ship, the fail­ures of any part of your team are your fail­ures. The instant you shift blame, you’re a whin­er, not a leader. Spread­ing blame is worse than a waste of time, it is counter-pro­duc­tive. Are you here to find a scape-goat or get some work done?
  • Don’t com­plain that real­i­ty gets in the way of your goals. Don’t invent real­i­ties that jus­ti­fy your fail­ures. Be hum­ble, be hon­est, work hard, and know your capabilities.
  • Admit your mis­takes but don’t give up; have anoth­er idea ready at hand. Ask for help, guid­ance, or feedback.
  • It’s okay to express frus­tra­tion, but it should be done in pri­vate; and the next step after that is called “get­ting back to work.”
  • The dif­fer­ence between an excuse and an expla­na­tion boils down to respon­si­bil­i­ty. An excuse avoids it, an expla­na­tion owns it.

When I have inter­ac­tions with peo­ple who do not seem capa­ble behav­ing in the man­ners described above, I feel pret­ty safe in assum­ing that they’ve nev­er tru­ly been held account­able to oth­ers & prob­a­bly won’t be able to hack it when they final­ly are.