Stop Looking for Excuses to Not Be Awesome

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 an audience. That it was somehow easier for him.

Awesome Snowboarder
Photo credit: halseike (Creative Commons)

This type of talk gets on my nerves. 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.

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.

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, he argues, your environment affects your success. He gives the example of Steve Jobs and how he was able to build his empire, all because he 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.

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 Steve Jobs did, 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? Share in the comments.

79 thoughts on “Stop Looking for Excuses to Not Be Awesome

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

    1.  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.

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

  4. 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.

  5. “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.

  6. 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”.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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!

  14. “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! 

  15. 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.

    1.  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.

  16. 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!

  17. 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

  18. 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!

    1.  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.

  19. 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)

  20. 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. 

      1. 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. 

  21. 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!

  22. 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?

  23. 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. 

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. 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…

  27. 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 
    Thanks Jeff for helping this wanna-be turn into a soon-to-be. 

  28. 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!

  29. 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!

  30. 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.

  31. 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!

  32. 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.

  33. 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.)

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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? 

  37. 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.

  38. Very good points, Jeff. Thanks. [One way I’ve tried not being awesome was by allowing myself to get distracted by all the ideas in my head. I’ve been a dreamer most of my life (not the good kind) and have always enjoyed (1) thinking up ideas, and (2) never having to do anything about them! But now, I’m older, and have done my share of working for others (who may not have my best interests in mind), and it’s getting more painful being a dreamer. So I’m back at the drawing board, learning to become more of a “do-er”. And learning to focus. And to let go of the things I can’t control. It’s a process, of course, but I’m doing better.

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