Several years ago a friend and I had a great business idea. We sat together and brainstormed for a couple months, developed a plan and set a date for our launch. We had our product in hand and it was a good product. It was spring 2007 and the possibilities of the future made it an exciting time in my life. My visions of success would finally allow me an escape from the golf business, money and leisure time.
I could already feel the island breezes through the palm treezes!
Then, while on vacation in West Palm Beach, I noticed a quarter-sized numb spot on the bottom of my right foot. It felt funny when I walked, but presented no other issues so I didn’t put too much thought to it.
I left my Florida vacation on a Sunday morning and received a phone call from my mom that a good friend of mine had be shot and killed while on duty for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. I cried the entire way home. SC and I had not talked in a few years, but throughout our teen years we were like peas and carrots; inseparable.
It would take several weeks of crying for life to start getting back to “normal.” It was during this time that I noticed the numbness had spread and now my entire foot and part of my right leg was numb. When i say numb, imagine the feeling you get when you’ve sat on your leg and it falls “asleep.” I decided to visit one of the members of the country club who had worked as a podiatrist for 40 years. He examined me and recommended I go see a neurologist. His speculation floored me: multiple sclerosis!
My thoughts went immediately to Anette Funicello as she was the only example of MS that I knew. I investigated the disease online, freaked out a little, then got my head right and started the search for a neurologist. While this was going on, my business partner and I still had a business launch waiting in the wings! We had product produced and it was waiting for me to sell.
Long story short, I was ultimately diagnosed with a disease called transverse myelitis, a fancy term for sick spine, which would serve as my precursor to multiple sclerosis. My right leg was numb to the shin, I was experiencing a lot of shooting “flash” pains in my legs, arms and hands. It was a scary time as I thought my life was finished and I should start picking out the fabric, style and color of my wheelchair!
One regret I have inside me is the truth of knowing I used my medical issues at the time as a excuse to dodge the challenge of starting that business. Up to that point I was excited, full of enthusiasm and scared out of my mind! So when T.M. came along I had my out; and I took it. After all, who was going to argue with me?? All of my friends were in shock and we had no clue what was really going to happen! Who knows where my life might have ended up? It might have failed miserably. I will never know.
What I do know is the chains of excuse making can be very powerful. Once you make backing down a habit, it becomes easier and more probable to continue to do so!
Wikipedia describes making excuses as follows:
In psychology and logic, rationalization or rationalization (also known as making excuses) is a defense mechanism in which controversial behaviors or feelings are justified and explained in a seemingly rational or logical manner to avoid the true explanation, and are made consciously tolerable – or even admirable and superior – by plausible means. It is also an informal fallacy of reasoning.
That’s a fancy way of explaining how we get scared or feel inferior or incapable and instead of facing a challenge we back down and rationalize our retreat. “I would go workout, but my back hurts.” I would go back to school and complete my degree, but I’m too old.” “I wish I could start my own business, but I don’t have enough money.” “I would volunteer at the nursing home, but I don’t have the time.” I would start eating healthier food, but it just costs so much.” I could list enough excuses to fill 10,000 books!
We makes excuses for a few basic reasons:
- They make us feel better about ourselves.
- Ignoring a problem is easier than making change.
- Failure makes us feel insecure and making excuses helps cover up our mistakes.
- We don’t like to admit the truth about ourselves and excuses help us maintain how others view us.
Ultimately, you either die making excuses, having lived a life full of regret and missed opportunities OR you admit to yourself and others that you abuse making excuses and determine that you are going to change your habits.
What I do to try to overcome excuse making is to take action immediately when my mind says not to do something. As some of you have read, my wife Evelina is from Poland and I have recently taken up the challenge of taking Polish lessons. I bought the Pimsleur Approach (highly recommend) and take my lessons right in my home. Yesterday I needed to check “Polish lesson” off my to-do list and my mind said “let’s just do that later.” I immediately did the opposite and thanked myself 30 minutes later.
Once again we come back to lifestyle habits!! Designing your life does not happen by chance, it takes tremendous focus and effort to develop positive habits.
Pay attention to your speech patterns. Do you make statements about things you want or wish to do and follow that up with “but?” Often, what follows the “but” is the excuse. If you have doubt then go ask a friend who will tell you the truth.
If you use excuse making, chances are others around you realize it; you are not fooling anyone but yourself! This is the most honest article I’ve written and it was difficult to do so.
What I ask in return from you is to be honest with yourself about your ability to do more with your life and the excuses you might be using that keep you from excelling.