Frankly, I might be preaching to the choir a little bit here, because a lot of you have taken upon this mentality for yourselves. I think those of us who have this mentality in our lives, eventually end up going on to accomplish bigger, and better things in our lives which is the mentality of “no excuses.”
It’s sad, because when I look around, whether it’s in my own little family dynamic here, or on the teams that I happen to be coaching, or the men that I interact with every day through this organization, I see this trend of increasingly pawning off responsibility and obligation to outside people, outside factors, organizations, and even governments.
When we shift the burden to somebody else, we simultaneously give away the power that we have to do anything about it. So, a lot of people are stuck and not able to move forward because they’re “Waiting for somebody to fix their own problems.” We all know how that plays out when we’re waiting for other people. Well, nothing ever comes from it. Ultimately, I think the objective of these people who are creating excuses is that they absolve themselves of any burden of responsibility to do things for themselves. In other words, it’s everybody else’s fault.
They become a victim, and they have reasons for why they’re not achieving anything in their life. Well, I’m here to tell you that if you want to achieve big things, if you want to have a thriving, healthy, engaged, romantic, intimate relationship, then it’s up to you to ensure that happens. If you want to have a meaningful, significant, profitable, business or career then it’s up to you, not your boss to ensure that happens.
If you want to be deeply and powerfully connected with your children, so they can go on in their own lives to do the things they want to do, then it’s up to you. It’s not their school teacher, or not their coach or their mentor, to ensure that they’re learning the lessons they need to be learning. If you want to have the body, if you want to have the bank account, if you want to have the relationships, any facet of life, then it’s ultimately on you.
Now, here’s the rub. There are other people that are involved in the process. And so what we do when there are other people involved in the process is that we tend to believe that they have an obligation and responsibility, too. Yes, they do. Somebody who’s entered into a relationship with you, whether it’s professional, or personal, has an obligation to do the same thing I’m talking about with you.
Now, the reason I talk about this is I remember a vivid, vivid lesson when I was 18 years old. I was in the Army National Guard, and right out of high school, I was about to go to basic training. I was fortunate enough to train and drill with my section prior to going to basic training. One of the sergeants in the section was teaching me about what I needed to be aware of, and coaching me through what I could expect as I went through basic training. What he said is to take the phrase, “No excuses drill sergeant” and memorize that phrase and use it anytime that I messed up, or that I was perceived to have messed up. I remember specific situations during me, I think it was four months while I was doing basic training and advanced individual training, where I did mess up.
I can’t remember specifically, but I remember drill sergeants getting in my face and asking me why I messed up and trying to get me flustered, and everything else. I remembered this phrase, and I would use the phrase “No excuses drill sergeant.” Inevitably, when I use that phrase, these drill sergeants would look at me and stop yelling at me, and basically say something to the effect of, “All right private, well carry on, drive on.” They would leave me alone, and they’d go on to the next poor subject who didn’t know that phrase. They’d come up with all sorts of little excuses as to why they didn’t perform, and then the drill sergeant would smoke them.
I realized very quickly that there’s power in taking responsibility and ownership for your life in the set of circumstances which you find yourself. I think that this is one of the baselines, one of the foundational principles of being a man, being responsible, and focusing on what you can control, and giving it your best effort. When things fall short, not coming up with excuses, but simply saying to yourself that, “I have no excuses.” Then fix the problem moving forward.
So, what I’m going to share with you today are five strategies to help you adopt the no excuses mentality into your life.
1. FOCUS ON THE CONTROLLABLE
There is so much that exists outside of your control. You can’t control your wife. You can influence her, but you can’t control her. You can’t control your boss, the weather, or the economy. There’s just so much that you can’t control. When we attempt to focus on things that we can’t control, we’re really just handcuffing ourselves because there’s nothing that we can do about it. We’re spending inordinate amounts of time on things that we can’t do anything about. Instead, take that energy, and redirect it towards the things that you can control which is the way you’re showing up, the way you’re communicating, the way you’re being tolerant, and the way you’re expressing yourself. Those are the things that you can control, so focus on that. If your boss is an asshole, what are you going to do about it? Nothing. I can’t tell you how often I get questions from guys that say, “How do I deal with a bad boss?” What does that even mean, deal with? There’s nothing you can do to fix that person. This is a man or a woman who’s 30, 40, 50, 60 years old, and you what? You’re going to do something to change 60 years of programming in their life? No.
2. SWALLOW YOUR PRIDE
It’s tough for a lot of guys because we need to swallow our pride, arrogance, ego, and we need to learn to say, “I’m sorry.” Those words, not, “I apologize.” Or not, “Oh, it’s unfortunate.” No, “I am sorry.” If you mess up and did something wrong, and it’s your fault, learn to say, “I am sorry.” And you know what? It’s okay. It’s okay to mess up. All of us are going to mess up. All of us are going to fall short. We’re all going to make mistakes. Saying “I’m sorry” isn’t always a comfortable thing to do, which means that we don’t want to say it. So, either we don’t, because it’s uncomfortable, or … and this is the better solution, we stop messing up. We stop engaging in the activities in which we know we’ll have to apologize for. We pull our heads out of our asses and do the job or the task correctly, so we don’t have to apologize for it later.
I don’t like saying I’m sorry, and I don’t like being wrong. I will when I am wrong, but I’m going to try not to be wrong more often so I don’t have to say I’m sorry as much. When you mess up, fess up, own it, fix it, and do better next time.
3. ASK FOR HELP
Again, this is another thing where our pride, arrogance, and our ego gets in the way. If you’re not asking for help, then you’re probably not going to improve. A great example, coming back to baseball, is we’ve had a rough season for my oldest son. His team is not playing well, and we are really, really struggling. Last night, as I was thinking about the struggles that we’ve had as a baseball team, I couldn’t help but think that part of it is my fault as a coach. As their coach, I decided to focus on the controllable.
Last night, as we were losing the game, I really thought about what I could be doing differently. So, I reached out to my old high school baseball coach. I simply said, “Hey coach, we’re having a rough season. I don’t know if it’s my kids, I don’t know if it’s me. I think it’s me, could be our kids.” I was so confused. He wrote back this really thoughtful message and he said, “Well, sometimes you can’t always win on the scoreboard. You have to swallow a lot of pride when that’s the case, especially because you’re competitive. What you can do, is you can focus on gradual improvements in their game. Not the scoreboard, but in their game.” So today, I went to the local hardware store, and I bought a whiteboard that I could carry around with me to list out some of the things we can control other than the scoreboard.
Hopefully, this will help them improve and become more competitive and just have a better season altogether. But I had to reach out and ask for help. If I wouldn’t have asked for help, I would have just continued to blame it on them, the league, the weather, the fields, or anything else other than myself.
4. DO THE AFTER ACTION REVIEW
I know I’ve talked about this at length, soI’m not going to beat a dead horse. But the after action review is very, very powerful. It allows you to focus on what you actually can control, and what you actually can improve moving forward. The after action review consists of five simple questions:
- What did I accomplish?
- What did I not accomplish?
- What did I do well?
- What did I not do so well?
- What am I going to do differently moving forward?
This series of questions places the burden of responsibility exactly where it lies, which is your shoulders. Notice all of those questions are, what am I going to do? What did I do? Where did I fall short? Not what the team do well, although you can do that. But where did I fall short? Where did I Excel? What can I do to fix this situation moving forward? This again comes back to point number one, focusing on the controllable.
5. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR LIFE
Take responsibility for life. Take responsibility for your relationships. Take responsibility for your health. Take responsibility for your bank account. Take responsibility for the team. Take responsibility for the activity, or the task, or the project, or assignment at work. Take responsibility for sweeping up the floors. Take responsibility for taking out the trash. Take responsibility for making dinner. Take responsibility.
I know a lot of us don’t want to take responsibility because it represents extra work, but that’s what we do as men. We’re responsible. We’re producers, and we take this weight upon our shoulders. This brings purpose and meaning, and significance to an otherwise meaningless, and dull, and boring world. When you’re sitting back and you’re assuming that everything else is everybody else’s responsibility, you don’t give yourself the opportunities to find meaning, and purpose, and motivation, and ambition, and joy in life.
We need to reject that idea that, “Well, that’s not my responsibility. It’s not in my job description.” Maybe that’s true, but why wouldn’t you want to take that responsibility? Why wouldn’t you want to open yourself up to the opportunity that comes from taking on that responsibility? It seems general, but I think there are so many opportunities, very specific opportunities that you can probably think of right now where you can step up to the plate in a big way, and do the things that you know you’re capable of doing. And give yourself the opportunities that present themselves only, only when you take on these types of responsibilities in your life.
So, gentlemen, I think you guys all get this. I think we understand that we need to reject the idea that it’s somebody else’s responsibility, or we’re looking for a savior to fix our lives. It’s on us. Nobody is coming to save us. It is on us to take responsibility, to ask for help when needed, and to focus on the things that are controllable.