The excuses that stop you from being great

by Jeff Hilimire on November 10, 2011

Ron Swanson, one of the greatest men of all time.

Note: I challenge you before you read this to stop for a second and jot down a few things that you would write if you were given this topic to expand on. I’d love for you to share a few of those thoughts in the comments to see what I missed.

I’ve worked on this post for a few weeks now, coming back to it to add things as I had more time to think about it. Many of these things are from my own experience, either where I was prohibiting myself from succeeding or where I’ve witnessed others using these excuses.


“I don’t have time”

We all have time. This should be restated as, “I choose to do other things with my time.”

Interesting, this applies to watching TV too. When someone asks you if you watched a certain TV show last night, don’t say, “Oh, I don’t have time to watch TV.” What you really mean is that you chose to do other things with your time. Saying you don’t have time to watch TV basically says to the person you’re talking to that you are busier and work harder than them, because they have time to watch TV and you don’t. We all do some things to waste time and get away from reality. #soapbox

But the point is, you do have time if you really want to find it.

“I don’t have the authority in the organization to do that”

BS. Just do it. I’m working on a separate post about this one because its a huge inhibitor to progress within organizations. Too many people wait for permission to try to make change and think because they don’t fall somewhere on an org chart, that they can’t do it. Control your destiny.

“I don’t have enough money”

Money really has never stopped anyone from being great at something. Steve Jobs never had money. But he was passionate and worked like crazy and believed. The money followed.

“I’m scared about the risk”

This is certainly a legitimate concern. But being scared can be a good thing. It can be a motivating factor in your success. Or it can be a crippling factor that stops you from taking chances that are required if you want to be great at anything.

“I don’t know what I want to do.”

Yes, you do. It’s what you’re passionate about. If you just want to “be great” at your job, for instance, and you’re not really passionate about the work you’re doing…you’ll never be great at it. You need to think about the things you’re most passionate about, the things you enjoy doing the most that make you want to give your all, and do that. More on passion here.

“I’ll do it tomorrow/next month/next year/etc”

This one is a killer. It’s so easy to put off the difficult things until a later date, which really never comes. Raj, Danny and I were “lucky” enough to be forced to commit to our business way back in 1999. Here is a snippet from our story:

In 1999, fate struck in the form of New Zealand, Choudhury’s latest destination. He had begun to establish relationships and convinced a company to fly out Hilimire, who had graduated and was currently living with his mother.  “Our biggest project up to that point was like a $1,200 website,” said Hilimire, so when a contract worth more than five times that much was signed, the boys were more than thrilled.

Maybe it was time to move the company out of Mom’s basement.

Naturally, the next location for this growing company, originally called NBN Designs and later renamed Spunlogic, was LA Fitness. They even added a couple employees onboard. It appeared that from a dorm room to mom’s basement to New Zealand to a gym was the inevitable path to success, but they may have been too optimistic.

In January 2000, the New Zealand based company went out of business, leaving Hilimire and Spunlogic behind in the wake of its crash with no money.

“At the time it was the worst thing to happen,” Hilimire said.  They had just signed a yearlong lease, added an employee, and Choudhury had ended his trip, but because of that it, “made us really go.”

If we hadn’t won that account, committed ourselves to the business completely and then subsequently lost the account, we may never have gotten around to dedicating ourselves enough to the business to ever be successful.

“I don’t know how to get started.”

You very well might not know how to get started, but you can find out easily. Google it. Ask someone who knows. You can figure out how to get started. Don’t hide behind that excuse.

“I have kids and therefore, I can’t take the risk or spend the time doing it.” or “I just got married.”

I’ve heard this a lot and I realize that its much more difficult to step off that ledge and take chances when you have a family. I get that, I really do. But last Friday I interviewed a guy that is looking for a new career, he has two little kids at his home in Texas, and they are going to either be moving to Atlanta or Seattle. He’s doing that so he can go to a company that will allow him to be a leader and really push himself. But its a huge risk considering his young family.

And one of my favorite entrepreneurs in Atlanta, this dude, has a very young family and is still out there pursuing his dream. So it can be done.

~~~ I got the idea for this post from a Brogan post with a similar name. In typical fashion though, I didn’t read it, rather preferring to use the topic as a thought starter for me to see where I would land if this question was posed to me.

  • Drew Hawkins

    I would add “I’m not talented/smart enough to do that.” Just because you have talent doesn’t mean you’ll be successful and vice versa. I remember my dad would always tell me “You’re never too smart to screw up,” mainly to re-iterate how talent should be backed with hard work to thrive.

     I’ve seen a lot of people with God-given gifts let them waste away because of a lack of work ethic. However (especially running xc/track in school) I’ve seen a lot of people that weren’t necessarily the most talented see a lot of success from passion and a stellar work ethic. If you’re passionate about something, natural ability – or lack thereof – shouldn’t stop you.

  • Andrew Jones

    I think you missed one. It’s simply: “I’m afraid.”

    I think, particularly with creative endeavors, the people involved have something wired into their DNA. Something that says they’re not good enough to pull this off. Something that says if it can’t be perfect, don’t even try.

    I am that neurotic artist. Nothing has ever frightened me more than a blank screen or piece of paper. I agree the “I don’t have time” argument is (most of the time) total bullshit. I watch the odd tv show, a baseball game, or play Call of Duty for an  hour before bed. That’s time I could’ve been drawing, coding or writing. On the other hand, I tell myself nobody can be working ALL the time. This is how neurotic artists justify things to themselves.

    I’ve tried to find ways to break this cycle, but they usually have limited success. I’ll get inspired to do something like “13 posts of Halloween” on my blog and then peter out at number nine. I’ll vow to do a sketch a day, but then get frozen at the blank page. My sketchbooks are largely empty because I’m afraid my “sketches” won’t be great. How messed up is that?

    At any rate, this is pretty long for a comment, but I firmly believe it’s the main reason that I’m not either a) an accomplished cartoonist or b) a published author. Maybe both.

    Maybe I just need a good mentor or life coach :)

  • Jeff Hilimire

    “I’m not talented enough” should definitely make the last, thanks DH.

  • Joe Koufman

    Again in typical fashion, I did not read your blog post, but just looked at the picture of how awesome(sauce) Ron Swanson is…

  • Adam Harrell

    Great post. Fear is always a big one. One of my favorite books on this subject is ‘The War of Art” by Stephen Pressfield. If you haven’t checked it out, give it a read. Think you’d like it. 

  • Karen Bowen

    The “this dude” link isn’t working. Who is it?

  • Jeff Hilimire

    Karen, the link works for me, its to Rob Kischuk’s twitter account. Perhaps Twitter was down when you checked earlier, but let me know if it still doesn’t work for you and I’ll dive deeper.

  • Festusomotara

    Oh yes, you have skillfully brought out secrets of what is hindering most people to become what they are wired for. If they would listen to the above there is definitely a deliverance. I can see many people coming out from their bondage brought by excuses and moving into their greatness. Keep on shouting it to the ears of the prisoners. They shall definitely be loosed. Fire on

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