We all have excuses why we can’t quit the job we hate, or why we’re not doing the things we love, or why we haven’t started our dream businesses or projects.
“I hate this job but I can’t quit because I need money for my family. I can’t find a job that suits my skills. I can’t do it because I’m just an average person — I didn’t graduate college. My parents are poor. I don’t have the money to start that business. I don’t have time. I am not born to be successful. I can’t… I don’t… I am not…”
I, too, have excuses for not starting the creative projects I’ve been dreaming of. Or for not delivering my tasks on time. Or for procrastinating (I’m working on it):
“I don’t have enough time. I don’t have the money. I don’t have the tools, the skills, the connection. I can’t focus; it’s noisy. Nobody likes to help me. I am not good enough.”
The challenge is to determine the source of these excuses — which are sometimes irrational. And why we keep making them, though we know it doesn’t help our situation.
There are many reasons. But let’s talk about the most common one we all share — fear.
Our fear of the unknown builds up, making us paranoid of something completely harmless.
We then make excuses to cover fear and pretend everything’s fine, wearing this “I’m fearless Mask” around our families and friends.
But the truth is that, deep within we’re just afraid.
Deep within, we’re drowning in fears.
We fear that if we quit the jobs we hate, we’ll starve.
We fear that if we start a new project, we’ll lose money or our reputation.
We fear that if we chase our wild dreams, people will ridicule us, making us the biggest failure.
But that’s okay. Because fear is normal. As Danielle Laporte once said, “Respect your fear. It’s part of the creative process. And it keeps you alert.”
Rather than making excuses to conceal fear, why not acknowledge it?
Acknowledging our fears is the first step to finding solutions. It gives us a clearer lens to view our circumstances.
As the famed physicist Marie Curie famously said, “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
1. Acknowledge that it’s hard to leave the job you hate.
And you can’t do nothing for now — you have a family to feed — but to keep showing up and sacrifice more. No excuses. (I encourage you to find a new job, though. More on that later).
2. Acknowledge your imperfection.
Tell your most trusted friends about it or connect with like-minded individuals. Open up. Share your fears. Listen to feedback. But how? Use the Internet.
3. Acknowledge the uncertainty and the possibility of failing.
Yes, you may fail. And that’s a good thing because failure can teach us something. I’ve failed a lot of times in life, and I can attest that failures bring so much lessons I’ve never learned from school.
Failure is our universal teacher.
Now, you might say it’s easy for me to tell these things because I’m in a better situation or I don’t have kids or I don’t work for a mean boss or I have enough time to do the things I love. Maybe yes. Or maybe you’re making excuses again.
Because if your life is horrible and you want to change it, drop your excuses and start doing things towards the change you want to see. I know it’s possible because I’ve been in that situation — I know how it damn feels.
So what did I do to get out from the rut? Here are some approaches that worked for me:
1. If you hate your job, don’t quit immediately. Build a bridge.
Build a bridge to the job you wanted for yourself, or a business you’d love to hustle. This would stop you making excuses because of family and bills. Somehow, this will give you a little comfort because you believe your bridge will be finished soon, and it’s time for you to move on (be patient).
But how can we build that bridge? Work more.
My story: After 7 months working full-time as a ghostwriter in an outsourcing company, I was burned out. I lost the excitement I felt during the first 3 months. I could write no more. I wanted out.
The problem is I didn’t have enough money to cover my bills in case I don’t land a new job. I had no savings — I was in survival mode. So what I did is work on side projects (writing gigs) at nights while still working full-time. I work harder and harder for 6 months until I had clients to work with, enough to get by. I, then, quit graciously.
Lesson: Just because you hate your job doesn’t mean you should quit right away (of course, that’s up to you). Instead, prepare for your transition, especially if you live independently or you have a family to feed. You can start a small business on the side or any profitable project and still work full-time. I know it’s exasperating, and there will be days when you don’t want to show up. Just stay positive. Hang on.
2. If you don’t have enough money to start your business or project, don’t stay stuck. Find an alternative.
This can be tricky as we have different life templates. And I don’t want to sound a know-all — my situation is different. But as I’ve learned from experience and observing people, if you let “lack of money” stop you from starting a project or any venture, it simply means you’re not that serious to achieve it.
You don’t have money? Then find money, or an alternative where you don’t need to spend that much.
My story: During the formative days of my metal band, Remnants of Catacombs, I realized we need a lot of money to sustain our passion. In our locality, newbie metal bands rarely receive talent fees from playing live shows. So it was always unprofitable since we also pay for band rehearsals. For any struggling college students (I was still in college that time), spending the money for band rehearsals is just impractical.
After 10 months since the band’s inception, we decided to record our songs and release an album (finally). Turns out that almost all the metal bands in our area have similar goals. But they couldn’t make it, they lack funds. Financial problems, the ultimate barricade of all time.
My mind perceived 2 options: (1) Send our demos to recording labels, and if they like it, voila! They would finance us. (2) Break the big goal into a smaller one.
I chose number 2. Instead of writing 5 songs to record an EP album, I decided to try an alternative route. What if we record only one song and release it? My bandmates agreed. So we worked hard for a few months polishing that song. And we hit the studio on the 5th of July 2014 to record our first single. Yay, we did it!
Lesson: Lack of money isn’t an excuse for not achieving your goals. If the goal is too big, break it down into smaller ones where you can afford it (this is subjective). But that’s the alternative. Sure, it would take you longer than it usually takes (we have not yet released an album), but at least, you’re doing something to make that happen. Just start somewhere.
3. Keep learning. Learn through actions. Repeat.
One thing I’ve learned from reading biographies of successful people is that they don’t think the same way most people think. If they love something and want to pursue it, they don’t waste time making excuses. Instead, they focus on learning things they need to learn and take actions.
Now, most of us can do that — to learn new things. But here’s the difference: After learning those things, most of us stop for some reasons. Whereas successful people take actions, apply what they’ve learned, and persevere. Even failure can’t stop them. Their failures are their teachers.
My story: Early 2015, I dreamed of blogging. But it took me a year to give it a shot. What were my excuses?: I have no time. I don’t know what to write. I’m not good enough. I’m afraid of the critics. I don’t have enough money to set up a blog. And I’m still busy with my music. Excuses, of course.
Throughout 2015, I kept learning stuff about blogging. I read a lot of books and blogs. Listened to podcasts and watched videos of bloggers I admire. I never stopped. And almost every day, I tell myself that I’m ready.
But afterwards, excuses again and again: I need to read more, learn more. I need more experience. I need more time. And so on.
The lessons I’ve learned, the books I’ve read, the blogging tips I’ve noted — all of them are pointless if I don’t take action. So on February 2016, I finally took action with the help of two people: my web developer friend and my employer. And on July 2016, the blog went live.
Lesson: Excuses are fears in disguise. There are always solutions to any problems. And if you want to do that one thing you really want to do, or maybe you just want to get out from the rut, then learn what you need to learn and take actions. Read blogs or books. Listen to podcasts or watch interviews of people you admire. Ask help from the right people.
It’s Not Going to Be Smooth
At times, we couldn’t find a solution or an alternative route. And so, we risk — we take the leap of faith.
I’ve read stories about people quitting their jobs unprepared, borrowing money to start a business, selling material possessions to travel the world, raising funds through unconventional ways, and so on. Although some of them failed (or even suffered), I admire them for their guts. Kudos for trying.
Nothing’s wrong with taking a leap (depends on your situation). But we must accept life isn’t always smooth. No matter how many times you wish or pray for an easy life and whether or not you prepared for your transition or took the leap, there will always be rough roads. There will always be consequences. Guaranteed.
Excuses are normal, of course. But if every day you make excuses for not doing the things you love to do or for not living the life you wanted to live, then your life will be a life of excuses.
As Annie Dillard famously said, “How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives.”
Remember: We now have access to infinite information through the Internet. We now have the opportunities our ancestors would dream of. If we want to do something, we can learn it for free. Do it. Drop the excuses.