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How Your Excuses Damage Your Growth, Career, and Reputation

Adopt the mindset of an 18 year old West Point cadet.

I dare you – in fact, I double dog dare you - to count the number of excuses you make this week. If you pay attention, I think you will be shocked.

When things get difficult, too many people quit too soon because they are too quick to embrace their own excuses. Without an excuse, the effort put into explaining a failure becomes time and effort used to solve the problem. Without excuses, people see obstacles as movable, solvable, and avoidable.

At West Point, excuses were forbidden. I was 18 years old and had a hard time with that concept. But what I learned was that when I eliminated excuses from my vocabulary, I no longer had a safety net if things didn’t work out. When I realized I couldn’t fall back on my safety net, I began to plan better. I began to evaluate what could go wrong and plan for those situations. When something did go wrong, I went immediately to problem solving and forgot about blame shifting. That caused me to face an obstacle, see failure as a short term set back, and keep pushing forward. If excuses were possible, I would probably have quit before a solution was found.

Excuses are a problem for many people that limit their growth, damage their careers, and hurt their reputation.

Excuses affect Growth: Excuses usually shift blame to circumstances or to other people. When we do that, we are basically saying that we couldn’t have controlled what happened. We have no responsibility and therefore we have nothing to learn. Excuses cause us to stop short of looking for what we could have done better and learning from those lessons.

Excuses affect Careers: Excuses cause us to stop short of solving problems. We may hit an obstacle and try to get through it once or twice. But after that, excuses convince us to protect ourselves. We communicate our excuses to peers and superiors. We tell them of the problems we’ve encountered and justify our lack of progress. Unfortunately for the excuse makers, it is the problem-solvers who add value to the team, and therefore see their careers continue to grow.

Excuses affect Reputation: Excuses become part of who we are. They are a habit. Each time we voice an excuse, it becomes easier to rely on an excuse again with the next obstacle we face. People will notice if we consistently make excuses. In their eyes, we don’t put in the effort to solve problems, and therefore we are unreliable. That is a reputation that will follow us in both our personal and professional lives.

Defeating Your Excuse Habit

At West Point, “No excuse, sir/ma’am!” was a statement that was drilled into our vocabulary and eventually into our way of operating. This is my proposal to you. Adopt the mindset of an 18 year old West Point cadet. Don’t make excuses. Seize responsibility instead. Don’t let your old habit of making excuses hurt your growth, your career, or your reputation.

Without the safety net excuses provide, you will grow. You will catch the attention of people who matter. You will be seen as someone who gets things done and can be relied upon. Eliminating excuses is one of the easiest ways to exercise your Duty and to become the Leader of Character you were designed to be.

Dig Deep Questions

  • What excuses did you make in the last week?

  • What obstales are you going to face in the coming weeks for which you need to proactively elimate excuses?


Here is a quick assessment that will take you 5 minutes to figure it out. Nobody will ever see your results but you.

Warning: If you are not going to be honest with yourself this is a worthless assessment.

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