Saturday, December 24, 2016

The World Doesn't Want Your Excuses

You can have your results or you can have your excuses. You cannot have both.

I've been training with a high school player who has found and verbalized a number of excuses at every workout that we've had. During our first session, we had to train outside. The truth is, playing basketball outside is not always ideal, particularly when you are working on your shot. The concrete is slicker than the gym floor, the wind might affect your shot, and the sun might be shining at an angle that affects what you are trying to do. Those are all real things and they could even be considered obstacles.

During our second workout, the player complained that he was having a hard time shooting because he had sweat in his eyes. To which I responded, "then wipe it out".

Today when he first walked in, he let me know that he hasn't been feeling well, so maybe we could take it easy today.

Acknowledging the existence of obstacles is one thing, but blaming them for your lack of success, or acknowledging them for the purpose of providing yourself a built in "reason" for your failure is something else entirely. The first, I think, is helpful. The second is extremely detrimental to our growth and success personally and professionally.

I believe that trying to ignore/dismiss the excuses or obstacles that pop into our mind is counterproductive. Sometimes we need to acknowledge their existence so we can then determine how to succeed in spite of them, or decide what the next best action is.

For example, if the sun is shining on a certain spot on the court, I don't know that it is best to just stand there and stare into the sun while you try and shoot, pretending like that obstacle isn't real. The weakness isn't acknowledging the obstacle, the weakness lies in blaming the obstacle for your inability to succeed, or failing to do something about it.

Just move to a different spot and keep shooting.

One of the biggest problems with giving power to all of these excuses is that they inhibit our ability to learn, to be coached, to be creative, and to find solutions. We set up mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual roadblocks for ourselves, and then wonder why we can't achieve those things that we are working towards. Well, we don't really wonder why, we have a long list why, and when we don't reach our desired end, we are well prepared to point back to all of the reasons we've established along the way.

After we acknowledge an obstacle or hear the excuse that has popped into our head, we then need to decide what we are going to do about it. It may be that we acknowledge it and then choose to ignore it. Maybe it means that we put on a jacket (It's cold (whiny voice)). Maybe it means we have to try harder, get up earlier, or change our approach. But the mindset, in my opinion, should focus not on why we CAN'T do something, but what is it that we CAN do given the circumstances.

When the time comes that we are unable to answer that question, then we should probably quit. If we can't look at an obstacle or an excuse, and make a decision about a next best action in the current situation, then we must either stop complaining and live with the situation as is or quit altogether.

For the most part, I don't condone or encourage quitting. I actually believe that there is (almost) always an answer that we can choose as a next best action. However, if we are going to be so wrapped up in all the things we can't do in a given situation, or all of the things that are inhibiting us from being successful, without committing to solutions, then what's the point of continuing in that endeavor?

And what I have found, is that there is rarely an ideal. Your boss is going to be too demanding, or not demanding enough. You aren't going to get enough involvement from your students' parents, or you are going to get more involvement than you want. You don't have enough time, money, or expertise to get to that "place" that you hope to get to (yet). You aren't yet qualified for the job you want, or you are too qualified for the job you have. There aren't enough resources, the expectations are too high, the expectations are too low, it's too hot or too cold, your clients don't pay on time, your employees aren't as passionate as you are, and the list goes on and on and on.

There is a truckload of excuses and obstacles that we could hide behind every day, no matter what it is that we do in our lives. The question is, so what? What are we going to do about them? What's next?

During my first job interview after graduating college, I was interviewing for a teaching job that required me to travel just over an hour each way to and from work. I remember the principal, who happened to be a former coach of mine, telling me this: He said, "You need to understand that nobody is going to care about your commute. Nobody is going to want to hear about why you are late, or what is going on with your family, or the fact that you can't do this or can't do that. Parents, teachers and administrators are going to expect you to figure out how to do your job."

It was a little harsh at the time, and maybe it still is. I've certainly worked for plenty of people who did care and give credence to my personal situations. But I think his point is valid. The truth is, at the end of the day, you and I have a job to do. Whether that is in our homes, on the playing field, or in our profession. We have things to get done, people to take care of,  and people to become. Our excuses don't help those things, and on some level or at some point, people aren't going to want to hear our excuses. And you and I shouldn't want to hear our excuses either.

The obstacles aren't going away. Find a way.

Much Love,

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