“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you, never excuse yourself.”
Henry Ward Beecher

There is a pandemic out there.  You should be very afraid of it.  It’s infectious and contagious.  It spreads quickly, and the infected are entrenched throughout the globe.  Excuses are everywhere.  They are pervasive.  Even society’s leaders have succumbed to their contagion.

You can rise to the top, almost instantly, wherever you are, in whatever market you find yourself a part, by simply not allowing yourself to excuse yourself.  There are reasons for one’s lack of performance, and those reasons should be discovered and corrected.  However, there is NEVER an excuse for second-rate performance.

I’m brutal with myself.  No butt chewing from any Marine Corps Gunny ever came close to the level of correction I give myself.  I hold myself to a higher standard than anybody else expects of me, and in doing so, I easily rise above the cesspool of non-performance out there.

Excuse making is a habit on the part of the mediocre, the average-minded performer who tells themselves they are doing everything they can to succeed, but…insert the excuse for another month of missed sales targets here.  In fact, the excuses are red flags, letting out what you truly believe. Excuses reveal your most closely held opinions about yourself and your abilities.  The reason we make excuses is called cognitive dissonance in psychology.  Cognitive dissonance is when our behavior and actions conflict with our self-image, the kind of person we would like to be. 

In 1957, Leon Festinger conducted the initial recorded investigation into cognitive dissonance. His findings arose out of studying a cult which believed the end of the world was going to happen on a certain date and time.  When it didn’t happen, the members admitted they were wrong and silly to think such a thing and changed/adapted, right? WRONG! They doubled and tripled down, citing a re-interpreted view of their “evidence” to show that they had indeed been right all along, and the earth was spared because they were faithful, and they had, in fact, saved the planet. You’re welcome!

Festinger’s research led him to propose that cognitive dissonance is a powerful internal driver. One which causes us to maintain consistency and congruence and can give rise to irrational and sometimes maladaptive behavior, a fancy term for making excuses to escape the discomforts in life. Most humans readily and habitually chose excuses over doing the work to adapt and change.

If you don’t know who you are, how can you believe you are doing the right things? How can you know that you are justified in your actions?  How can you be congruent? How do you know if your actions/habits/behavior match up with your self-image if you don’t know who you are?  Most people have no idea who they are. When asked, they reply with an external label, usually tied to what they do for a living, (e.g., I’m a real estate agent). This is the exact reason why the average-minded performer cannot help themselves from making excuses. They have no internal identity.

The peak performer has a clearly defined internal identity. They know exactly who they are, and the kind of person they aspire to be. And when cognitive dissonance appears, they immediately do the hard work to adapt and change, to make the necessary course corrections to bridge the gap.  They make NO EXCUSES because they live by the mantra, “I’m the problem, and I’m the solution.”

Herein lies the secret to hitting every sales target you ever set for yourself. The average-minded performer bridges the gap between their actions (or lack thereof) and their targets by making excuses to solve the dissonance problem. The peak performer, the one who hits their sales targets every time, without fail, bridges that same gap by changing their behavior to solve the dissonance.  If you miss your sales target, instead of coming up with excuses why you didn’t perform, find the cause. Most of the time, the reason behind a missed sales target is usually due to not enough prospects in the pipeline. Instead of coming up excuses as to why this happened, just put an excessive number of prospects into the pipeline and see what happens. 

Today, take notice of how those around you deflect personal responsibility for their actions and behaviors.  Take notice of yourself and ask yourself, “Am I excusing my own substandard performance?”  If so, why? Is it just out habit? Or is it that we cannot face ourselves objectively, and own our results? Why do excuses pour from our lips?  Is it easier to blame others, blame the economy, blame society, blame our co-workers, or blame the weather? Of course, it’s easier, but that is a downhill run to mediocrity and worse.

Make today the day you stop blaming the dog for eating your homework.  If you forget to do your homework, ask yourself why? If you didn’t do it because you were lazy or chose something more conducive to your comfort, then put on your “Big Girl Pants” or your “Big Boy Pants” (as my wife says), and own your choices.  Own your feelings. Own your thoughts. Own your behavior. Own your character. Own your work ethic. Own your results. Own your life. Own yourself.

Any excuse is worse than no excuse.