Some excuses are bad enough. A few though, are simply too much.
How we like to label failures.
The most prominent reason is that it makes us feel better about ourselves. And, of course, about our own failures. Or supposed failures.
Failure is a complicated thing. A result may seem like a failure at one time. A few years later that same supposed failure might seem as if it was sent by the Gods Of Success. (You didn’t know success had gods? What? You thought it was merely preordained and post-rationalized by business books?)
The thing about some people, though, is the excuses they use. Their exceptionally poor excuses are more reason to call someone a failure than any result of their own actions.
Here, then, are the six worst excuses that I’ve used — I’m sorry, I mean that I’ve heard — for things not going quite the way you planned.
1. The Whole World Was Against Me.
Yes, the World Council sat and considered: “Whom shall we be against today?” By acclamation, they decided it was you. You’ve been tempted to go there, haven’t you? A series of events occurs, leading to an awful outcome, and you can’t help wondering what you’ve done to make Karma so volcanic? It’s impossible for the whole world to be against you. Neither in life, nor in business. It may well be that several people got together to conspire against you. Sometimes, though, they do that because they see you as a threat, a challenge to their own supremacy. Think of it as flattery.
2. They Just Didn’t Understand What I Was Trying To Do.
At what point did you realize they didn’t understand? While you were trying to do business with these people? Or only after it all went heirloom tomato-shaped? If you get the sense that people you’re trying to do business with are myopic, brain-free or merely a touch slow on the uptake of your incendiary brilliance, the time to do something about it is when you still have a chance to create clarity, not when you’re bellied up to the bar whining at your poor, bored bartender.
3. It Was Fixed.
And it could have been. There were you trying to do business the honest way. And there were your competitors with an inside track, offering an impossible earth or even a very down-to-the-ground backhander. The fact that it was fixed isn’t an excuse. It’s a reason simply to think about whom you want to do business with. There are some dirty people out there. Instead, try and find this greatest joy — actually doing business with someone who keeps their word, understands your value and pays on time. They exist.
4. I Didn’t Go To Harvard Or Yale.
I can see how this one is a powerful temptation. The exuberant arrogance offered by so many who chose to freeze to death while going to a ridiculously expensive college full of extremely large heads can be unbearable. Their body-blocking in the corridors of power can seem both stifling and unreasonable. But seriously, just because those people appears to succeed sometimes, this is a painfully inadequate excuse. Harvard and Yale is a good story. So is Number One Draft Pick. And in the world you admire, how many Number One Draft Picks were really number one when it came to the big leagues? I give you Joe Montana, third-round pick. I give you Tom Brady, sixth-round pick. I give you Ki-Jana Carter, Aundray Bruce, Michael Olowakandi, Joe Barry Carroll and Greg Oden. All No.1 picks.
5. My Momma Never Loved Me.
She might not have done. She also might not have been the best communicator of love. On the other hand, you might have been the most intolerable little beast since Damien from “The Omen.” We all have things we’d like to work through. Some of us go to shrinks. Some of us date shrinks and hope to get the emotion-fixing for free. But one part of success surely lies somewhere in the weeds of us understanding and then accepting just how messed up we really are and why. If you blame a lack of parental love for your supposed failure, it’s only because you haven’t dealt with your lack of parental love. Or your lack of realizing that there was plenty and you are just an intolerable whiner.
6. Shoulda Woulda Coulda.
I’ve never understood why it’s that way around. Shouldn’t the “Coulda” come first, then the “Woulda” and finally the “Shoulda”? It is, you see, the Shoulda that hurts most and comes last. Our perception of a failure permits us to beat ourselves up. I was in a meeting a few weeks ago and the more I thought about it, the more I’d wished I’d said this one thing. It bugs me like a dentist with a booming voice. Frankly, though, I have no idea if it would have made a blind bit of difference if I’d said the thing I think I Shoulda, just as I have no idea whether the deal might still happen and in a different form from the one I’d imagined. It’s fine to analyze what you wished you’d done differently. For perhaps an hour. Then get on with something better. The deal you think you want is rarely the one that will actually make you feel wonderful.