Don’t Let Excuses Stop You From Reaching Your Potential

Learn any skill faster by taking action rather than making excuses

Jesse Yang lost both his arms in an accident when he was six years old. Instead of using this as an excuse as to why he couldn’t do certain things, Jesse held no such beliefs and proved that things were still possible.

He went on to become a champion swimmer, photographer and public speaker. He learned to speak five languages and loves activities such as taekwondo, football and calligraphy.

According to Jesse, it is easy to make excuses and painful to do the work. But you have to make yourself feel a little pain to get the results you want.

Break out from your limitations, stop believing that you can’t do something and start working so that you can. Conditions will never be perfect, so if you wait, your dreams may never happen.

Jesse Yang doesn’t make excuses, even though he has no arms.

Why do we make excuses?

“The person who says something is impossible should not interrupt the person who is doing it.“ — Chinese proverb

There are many experts on “it can’t be done”. And their argument is usually backed up with an excuse.

It’s too hard; I don’t have the time, it’s impossible, I don’t have the right genes, I could have done it if I wanted to, it’s not important, I’m too old, I don’t have the opportunity; are all common excuses that stop us from taking action.

Excuses are in this way, consistently preventing us from reaching our potential. We prefer making an excuse to why something cannot be done, rather than admit that we can reach our potential if we put in the effort. The easy option is to say that something cannot be done, and therefore it is no point to even try.

The most common reasons why we make excuses are to:

  • Avoid having to put in the hard work it takes to achieve improvement;
  • Protect our self-image if we fail; and
  • Avoid doing things we are not already good at.

What all excuses have in common is that they make our lives easier. It’s easier to do nothing, rather than working towards improvement.

Unfortunately, taking this road of least resistance will not contribute to achieving any of your dreams or ambitions.

Nothing is harder than saying, “I gave it my all, and it wasn’t good enough.” The worst fear for many people is to try their hardest and still fail, leaving themselves without any excuses.

If you don’t try your best, don’t prepare as well as you could have or don’t study for the test and then don’t succeed, you have an excuse. You can point to this explanation as a reason for why you didn’t do better.

If you tried your hardest, on the other hand; did everything you could to prepare and put all your resources into achieving something, it can feel devastating if you don’t succeed.

Protection of self-image

Trying to become good at something takes a considerable amount of effort, and it can be painful for our self-image if we don’t make it. Many of us, therefore, use our resources to protect our egos, rather than on learning. And one of the main ways to do this is by not trying.

To be looked upon as the person who tries hard, but still isn’t very good is often regarded as unfavourable. The opposite is more desirable; not working very hard, but doing well regardless. When you think like this, you are at least as concerned with how you appear to others as you are with your actual performance.

These views stop you from reaching your potential, and you can improve what you achieve by letting go of them. It is more productive to think that not giving your full effort prevents you from reaching your potential.

Stop making excuses

“Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.” — Les Brown

Creating excuses is a common way to protect your self-image. But if you want to improve at something, it’s crucial to challenge the explanations you are making for yourself. Try to find ways around them, prepare well and work as hard as you can.

It will hurt a bit if you don’t immediately see the progress you hope for. But you increase your chance of improving dramatically, and if you consistently practice with quality, over time, you will make substantial improvements.

A great thing about putting in the effort and trying very hard is that if you fail at your original goal, you may still achieve more than those who don’t even try.

Take responsibility for your learning

“A year from now, you’ll wish you had started today” — Karen Lamb

One of the most important things I learnt at football practice, was the importance of coming to practice not “to get practised”, but “to practice”.

A coach can create a stimulating environment and give you lots of suitable exercises, but they cannot learn the skill for you. This is the responsibility of each player. It depends on their ability to focus on what they are doing and applying effort and attention to the task.

Whether it is at school or when learning a new skill, showing up is not enough to learn something. It is a good start, but from there, the outcome depends on your efforts.

Avoiding activities you are no good at

“I am always doing what I can’t do yet in order to learn how to do it.” — Pablo Picasso

It is common to avoid things you are not already good at, and this creates a vicious circle where you most likely never will become good at those things. It does not feel good to be bad at something, especially in front of other people and if it is something that you are supposed to know already. To counter this, people will often try to avoid such situations to avoid embarrassment, rather than facing the task of improving a particular skill.

An example from my own life is that I was always quite bad at making a fire when we were on hiking trips. I was not too fond of this activity and was no good at it, so I usually avoided it and did things I already knew, such as setting up camp or preparing the food. In hindsight, it is easy to see that this didn’t leave to improvement on the skill of fire-making.

Take home message

Making excuses is a self-protection strategy that prevents us from trying our hardest and preserving our self-image if we fail.

Make practice a priority if you want to learn a skill. Make it come first and stop yourself from finding excuses not to do it.

Conditions will never be perfect. So there are always excuses that can be made. This will take you nowhere in life. If you want to be sure you stay the same, don’t reach your potential and never learn anything, making excuses is a great strategy. If you’re going to improve and flourish, taking responsibility for your learning will lead to much better results.

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