Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Stop Looking for Excuses to Not Be Awesome

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Recently, I read a comment on a popular blog that bothered me. The reader suggested that because the blogger was the leader of a large organization, he didn’t have to work hard to earn his audience. That it was somehow easier for him than the rest of us.

This type of talk gets on my nerves, because it’s pointless. So what if someone had more privileges or more opportunities than you did? It still doesn’t excuse you from doing what you’re called to do, from honing your craft and sharing your art with the world.

Awesome Snowboarder

Photo credit: halseike (Creative Commons)

This type of thinking betrays an underlying worldview that I find disturbing. The fact is success looks different for everyone. But let’s call our objections and justifications what they really are: excuses to not be awesome.

Justifications for mediocrity

Every time you try to do something extraordinary, you bump into the status quo. You get resisted by a gatekeeper, telling you why “this will never work.”

Their reason for objecting? Because it never worked for them.

Or you run into some hard-working Joe who’s embittered by the success of others. Of course he’s going to shoot down your innovative idea or criticize your success. What else can he do?

The fact that you’re succeeding threatens his worldview — and the worldview of anyone who’s ever failed at anything.

The hard truth

But the reality is they’re right. All these people calling into question your awesomeness, saying that would never work for them — they’re right.

I don’t know why some people succeed when others do not, but it happens — every day. Some people get lucky or meet the right people or have a certain “it” factor that makes them more likable than others. They do the same thing others have failed at, and they kill it.

It’s a mystery, this thing called success, and it’s out of your control. But that doesn’t excuse you from doing the work.

How to be an outlier

Malcolm Gladwell talks about this phenomenon in his book, Outliers.

To a degree, Gladwell argues, your environment affects your success. He gives the example of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and how they were able to build their empires because they grew up in a unique place at a unique time.

At first glance, it sounds kind of fatalistic: The successful people will be successful because they will be, so why bother aspiring to more than mediocrity? But that’s not the whole story.

Yes, your environment matters. But here’s the good news: In a world where connection is free, you can affect your context. You can change your surroundings.

Now more than ever, we have the opportunity to change our lives. This is actually a pretty scary thought.

The secret to my (but not your) success

There is no formula to being an outlier. What you need to succeed is not what someone else needs. The trick is to use what you have to your advantage. This is what Jobs did. It’s what Gates did. Even what Mother Teresa did.

You can worry about not having the opportunities that someone else had — better schooling, better relationships, more money — or you can get on with it.

It won’t be perfect, but it could be amazing. If you will stop looking for excuses and just get to work.

Gifts and chances

Everyone has gifts and chances. You can waste them or use them. You can squander what you have and miss your opportunity, or you can be grateful and seize the day.

This is up to you. No one can give you a platform. You will have to earn it through your own sweat and tears. This isn’t playing God or manipulating your destiny. It’s taking responsibility — being realistic about what’s holding you back and acknowledging the privileges you already have.

By the way, if you’re reading this on an amazing piece of technology you own, you have more wealth than two-thirds of the world’s population. So stop whining about your lack of opportunity and do something already. (Yeah, you should tweet that.)

We’re waiting.

What’s one way you’re looking for an excuse to not be awesome? Be honest. And share in the comments.

*Photo credit: halseike (Creative Commons)

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About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. Check out my new book, The In-Between. To get exclusive updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • http://www.coachingapproach.co.uk/ Tony

    Hi Jeff. Love this post and you’re so right. There are so many reasons and excuses to hide behind, but life begins at the end of our comfort zone. Keep up the great work and helping me to stretch my own comfort zone.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Thanks, Tony!

  • http://messymiddle.com/ Amy @ themessymiddle

    And in “Outliers”, Gladwell pointed out the need to have done something 10,000 times, hours, weeks,, or whatever the measure. The point is, virtually everyone who had advantages still had to put in the hours.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       That’s right.

    • http://twitter.com/GregGulliford Greg Gulliford

       But remember, the 10,000 referred to becoming a Master at that “one thing.” I don’t think that is what Jeff is saying here. We often talk ourselves out of doing what our heart wants us to do. That “voice” inside tells us we just can’t do it because it didn’t work for “them”. Overcoming negative self-talk that has been supplanted by a “voice in the past” keeps most of us from evening attempting our dreams.

  • Eileen

    Great thoughts. “Choosing to be grateful and seizing the day.”

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Thanks, Eileen.

  • De jold

    Excellent Jeff! There are times when I feel my efforts will just be wasted.  Sometimes doubts ruin my enthusiasm to be great.  

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Ditto.

  • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

    Excellent post Jeff and a much needed call out. Too many times we look for any excuse we can get to not take action and this is one used by many, we have to stop! We have to make our own way and not worry about anyone else and what they’re doing.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Well said, Kimanzi. You’re blazing a trail yourself.

      • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

        Just following your example buddy!

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

    “This isn’t playing God or manipulating your destiny. It’s taking responsibility.”
    Best line of the post right there. It ultimately comes down to taking personal responsibility for our actions. We can’t necessarily change our environment – which is why we shouldn’t focus on it. Take action on the things we can change.

  • http://www.danapittman.com Dana Pittman

    Jeff, great post. To be honest I feel my life has always been a stretch. Pulling. Kicking and screaming. Jumping…shouting. For a while I just wanted to get to my destination already. However, I’m realizing that’s not how my story is meant to be told. I will resume…kicking, shouting and stretching into my destiny. Thanks again for this little kick in my “but”.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Dana, I think this is ALL of life. It’s how we grow. I wrote a book about this (will share more soon!).

      • http://www.danapittman.com Dana Pittman

        It is. But I’m wrong for wishing… :) Your book “You Are a Writer” is on my list for this week. Thanks for jump starting my day.

  • http://angelaamman.com/ Angela Amman

    I think this is so important:
     It’s taking responsibility — being realistic about what’s holding you back and acknowledging the privileges you already have.

    There are things I rationalize that I need to stop rationalizing and just jump the hurdle.  Fear is one of them.  I’m working hard, it’s true, but I’m not always working in the smartest way possible, and that’s going to be a problem until I change it.

  • http://colebradburn.com/ Cole Bradburn

    Love this post.  It’s so easy to handicap our own success or be a critic of others because it keeps us in our comfort zone.  You have to try in order to be awesome, be devoted.

    In fact, I think it is more of a state of being.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       well said, Cole. Love your perspective.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       well said, Cole. Love your perspective.

  • Donnakelly721

    Amen! After a lifetime of excuse making, last year I took responsibility for my own career, health, and happiness. Ten months after taking the plunge, I have lost 60 pounds, gained self esteem, and changed the course of my career.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Wow! Congrats, and good for you!

  • http://www.selfemployedmoneymanagement.com/ Ryan Eidson

    Excuse: “I don’t know enough yet about _____.”

    Reply: I know more than enough to get started, so let’s do it!

    I enjoy learning, but sometimes I find myself enjoying the learning more than putting it into practice.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       amen!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       amen!

  • Tonyameers

    Well Said Jeff, it always annoys me when people are quick to put others down, if you want something in this life you have to go out there and get it, no-one has it handed to them on a plate no matter how much they earn or their social status, we all have to work hard to get what we want out of life.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Thanks for sharing, Tony.

  • http://annieboreson.com/ Annie

    This is very inspirational. I think you are gently (with one steady heave-ho) pushing us from the comfort of being just another writer with an excuse…to “Get on with it, Dude!” Thanks!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Indeed. You’re welcome!

  • http://annieboreson.com/ Annie

    This is very inspirational. I think you are gently (with one steady heave-ho) pushing us from the comfort of being just another writer with an excuse…to “Get on with it, Dude!” Thanks!

  • http://www.love-laugh-learn.com/ Deanna

    “It’s a mystery, this thing called success, and it’s out of your control. But that doesn’t excuse you from doing the work.” 
    thanks for kicking my bad attitude in the behind! 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       :)

  • http://www.trochia.org/ Ines Franklin

    Awesome people get attacked.  Just about any little mistake becomes the obsession for jealous assailers. I make mistakes, big ones. I don’t like being assaulted. Yes, I am afraid to be awesome; but I still do the work, often unnoticed.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Actually, awesome people inspire awe. That’s it. Some awesomeness is more visible than others. Growing up, I knew a woman who LOVED to clean our church’s toilets. She was awesome in her own way.

      • http://www.trochia.org/ Ines Franklin

        True! You inspire me to focus on doing the work, and if awesomeness happens, may it inspire others for the good.

  • http://thompsonkelly.wordpress.com/ Kelly Thompson

    Right now I’m letting my resentment for someone else’s success be an obstacle to my own. Having a bit of a “no one’s interested in what I have to say” pity party. Your post was informative and inspirational, as they always are (which is why I follow you). Thanks for sharing your hope and knowledge. My readers are out there…we just haven’t found each other yet!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       I’ve been there, Kelly. I think a lot of us have.

  • TylerHess


    By the way, if you’re reading this on an amazing piece of technology you own, you have more wealth than two-thirds of the world’s population.”
    This can be an excuse or distraction itself…we’re already so wealthy that a lot of people don’t even want to put out the effort

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      That’s right.

  • http://www.riatarded.wordpress.com/ ria

    Just the inspiration that I was looking for today! :) 

    Thanks Jeff! Much love to you! 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       My pleasure. Thanks for reading!

  • http://shes-mental.blogspot.com/ Shannon

    Ok, I don’t know that I can agree with this entire happy, happy, joy, joy post. And maybe that is my excuse for not being all the awesome I can be. I just think that, Yes, you have to take responsibility for your own actions, but please…people who have come from privilege DO have an advantage. You can’t tell me you don’t believe that…or are you from privilege? Sorry not to be a “faithful follower” of your message, but lets be real here!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Good call, Shannon. I didn’t think I was being “happy, happy, joy, joy” (great Ren & Stimpy reference, btw), but so be it.

      The point is of COURSE privileged people have it easier. But that doesn’t matter. You still have gifts and chances. They may be different, less, or whatever, but you STILL have them. You still have something. We all do.

      We can spend our lives resenting those who got luckier than we did, or we can do something with what we have. Maybe it won’t be as good as those who were born with a silver spoon, but it could still be really awesome.

  • http://www.genialesstudium.com/ Nikolaus

    Jeff, I’ve been following you for some time and this is – for sure – one of your best posts. Very inspiring, very well written. I’m so happy about these opportunities we have nowadays, just imagine… You start writing, we start following you, you convince and help us so much, then we start writing and others will follow us, and we can help and convince them…
    Connections, just to cite a great phrase of yours, are free, so let’s go and change destiny. Thanks and big love, Nikolaus (Germany)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Thanks, Nikolaus!

  • http://www.findingfruit.blogspot.com/ Jen

    I’m with Ines. I am not sure I want to be awesome. Being known opens you to attacks and demands on your time that I don’t have to deal with in my own little part of the web. I have a few followers but I get to write what I want without worry of creating controversy. I enjoy my quiet place to write what I want. But I am privileged. You are right. I have the technology, the financial freedom (I’m a stay at home mom), and the time to write a book just because I want to do it. 
    So I guess my excuse is I am not seeking awesome. But I am committed to doing the work that God has placed on my heart. And I am privileged to get to do it. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Good point. Clarification: Awesome at being you and being famous is not the same thing.

      • http://www.findingfruit.blogspot.com/ Jen

        I learned this from my oldest. He does not want to be rich or famous. But he does want to play in the NHL. He seems to separate the two. 

  • http://twitter.com/ConnieMcKnight Connie McKnight

    All I can say is Wow! You certainly took away all the excuses and you said it such a manner that proves that if you truly want to be awesome, it’s yours for the taking. It’s not going to be handed to you on a golden platter – you actually have to work for it.

    Way to go Jeff!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Thanks, Connie.

  • Amanda Mianecki

    My “excuse”: not being sure if this is what God wants me to do.  For instance: does He want me at Allume Social this year, going after sponsorships and ways to get myself there?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Good question. I hope this doesn’t ring disingenuous, but one thing I KNOW God doesn’t want you to do is stand still.

      • Amanda Mianecki

         Good point.  Thank you.

  • http://www.theskooloflife.com Srinivas Rao

    I”ve found sometimes the very thing that you think is holding you back ends up being the thing that gets you where you want to go when you learn to reframe it.  The problem with excuses is that you live your life through the lens of those stories and your actions align accordingly.  When you’re free of the excuses it’s easy to have a whole new story. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Interesting.

  • FreddieTeague

    My excuse, in all honesty, is my current occupational status.
    It hits me at times where I think:
    “I am just a pizza boy. Who cares what I write or think?”

    What I do to break that mindset?
    Be awesome!

    Thanks for the great post!

  • http://www.revolutionarylife.org/ D.E. Stanley

    I read a post the other day about how successful people accept things as they are so they can effect change. Seems to me that excuses are a constant state of denial of your current situation. As long as we blame others and talk about how it was easy for them, but not for us, we will get NO WHERE.

    Good point Jeff. Thanks a ton.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       My pleasure.

  • Stacey

    Between you and Julien Smith, the two of you are kicking my bottom! Very motivational and just what I needed to start the process all over again… Oh, and congratulations on the new arrival, BTW. Looks like your bio-blurb needs to be tweaked to add a certain someone…

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Honored to be counted among Julien. He kicks my butt, too. Good call on the bio.

  • Michael

    Hi Jeff, 
    Long time reader but never really had a comment to leave cause you pretty much nail it every time. I’ll say this though, I’ve gone through some tough times and in reading your blog and the others that are out there, I’ve found a common theme. The theme is to just be. To create. To live and see where the chips fall. I’ve always been to nervous about the results so that kept me from starting. Fear is dangerous. So I stepped onto the ledge and am starting my own blog. I don’t really know where it is I’m going with it but I know it needs to start if only for my own outlet. 

    I kind of just rambled on in my first post called Lyrical Procrastination. I was having fun. Don’t know if it has a voice yet but it’s a work in progress. Please feel free to drop by and read it.

     Here’s the link http://wp.me/p2sXZZ-1. 
    Thanks Jeff for helping this wanna-be turn into a soon-to-be. 
    Cheers!
    Michael

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Thanks, Michael. I agree. There’s a lot to gain and little to lose in putting yourself out there. Great to hear from you!

  • http://twitter.com/lornafaith Lorna Faith

    This year I stopped making excuses and started blogging, sending in short stories to different magazines and am almost done my 1st novel. So far the blogging has gone well…I’ve had one article which will be published in June and …the book will be out in the Fall. Everytime I sit down to write I find it scary, nerve-wracking and think ‘I don’t know if this will be any good.’ But I try and sit down to write anyway. I like what you said that ‘everyone has gifts and chances. You can waste them or you can use them.’ I think I’ve finally got tired of wasting my chances :-) Thanks for the great post!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       awesome! love it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Juan-Cruz-Jr/100002369801554 Juan Cruz Jr.

    Jeff, what a call to arms to stop the excuses! Awesome! Thanks.

  • http://blog.intelligentsia.eu/ Erik Back

    My excuse is classic: I don’t have time! (or maybe I’m just being impatient?) for instance, I have stopped publishing every day on my blog to get time to work on my ebook. Then I don’t have time to being awesome at my blog. At the same time I have to work to earn for a living and prepare to become a dad in september.

    I do all I can to be awesome, but I don’t feel awesome. I feel in lack of time.

    Thank you for a great post Jeff!

  • Joseph Cleary

    One way?  There are several, but the biggest right now is reading about how to be a better writer instead of sitting down and writing.  I realized that as soon as I asked myself the question.  Good timing!  Thanks, Jeff.

  • http://www.discoveringtogether.com Eyvonne

    This reminds me of a conversation I had with co-workers the other day.  We were discussing foreign policy and doing good in the world and the Aids crisis in Africa.  One of them asked, “But how many other countries are giving billions to address these issues?”    I told them it doesn’t matter.  We still have a social responsibility to to good in the world even if no one else is doing it.   This same concept is what you’re saying we should personalize in our writing.  Bravo!

  • http://www.themommyhoodmemos.com/ Adriel Booker

    dang, tell it jeff!

    you’re kicking some butt in the best possible way.

    i’m working hard to develop more discipline in the areas that matter. it’s not “fun”, but i know it will be worth it. (the results will be “fun” and–more than that–meaningful.)

    but even though i know some of the right answers, i still need some friends to kick me into gear sometimes. cuz sometimes the progress feels slow and tiresome. so yeah… keep on kicking! it’s good.

  • http://www.transformationaleditor.com/ SuzanneG

    I have to acknowledge that I’m the person who sets my priorities.  Once I get them straight, I find I run out of excuses.

  • Luvsjesus4life

    The Secret Ingredient is Fear of Failure… (at least, for me it is.)

    If you don’t mind, Jeff, I would be honored if you would take some time to read my blog entry. It was partially inspired by your posts, and I would be very grateful for your critique. :) Thank you.

    (By the way… I can’t figure out how to space my blog properly, and that’s why it’s one huge paragraph. If you know how to do that, please let me know so I can fix it.)

    http://blessedout.blogspot.com/

  • Rob F.

    Probably the main way I’m looking for excuses to not be awesome is by finding ways I think I’m going to disappoint the people closest to me by trying. Things like taking time away from them, burning myself out, neglecting other things I ought to be doing as the owner of a house, etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Heidi-Densmore/1457195386 Heidi Densmore

    One of the most important points in Gladwell’s book was that all the outliers spent more than 10,000 hours in their practice. I actually found this to be true in my life. I wrote for 20 years on and off, but it was when I spent a year writing for a master’s degree that I must have gone over my 10,000 hours, because the creative juices just seemed to flow as if I was born a writer. I agree with you on this. Just Write. Do Morning Pages. Do writing exercises. Just Write.

  • http://www.thecolorsofmysoul.com/ Lena

    Brilliantly said. Haven’t we heard of  people who have not been very fortunate  in their early life and yet have changed their situations to facilitate success? 

  • http://shantomo.com/ Shanti Hadioetomo

    “The trick is to use what you have to your advantage.” – Thanks for this little nudge. 

  • http://www.astridbryce.com/ Astrid Bryce

    Thanks for the constant motivation. I will go be my own awesome now.

  • Hannelie

    Hi.
     Funny how we think we really want something and then a couple of months later, having started the process of manifesting this “something” (in my case actually just really thinking things through, writing down visions and goals that I had been thinking about for years), the “real thing” shows up:  On the 6th of June I decided this is it:  Never mind if NOTHING ever gets published, I declared myself  a writer and acknowledged my NEED to write, almost like Luther – “this is what it is, so help me God” (or something like that but you get the point.) I wrote  a small declaration and even acted it out:   I took a piece of rope, placed it in the middle of the room and stepped over from one side to the other, signifying “crossing over” from thinking and dreaming to BEING.I’ve saved this link on my mails about a month ago, took time to read it today and almost cried as I read the Manifesto. Here goes.

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