Jonathon Babinski was the best at it. One of the members of my organic chemistry study group, I can still hear his whiny little voice: “Dr. Channing is the worse! He must be tenured, because he obviously isn’t interested in teaching!” “I’m sure the school purchased this lab equipment in the 20’s. No wonder we can’t ever get the experiments to work out.” And one of my favorites: “I’d get straight A’s too if I looked like her and wore those short shorts.” (Uh, no! And I doubt you’d get any dates either with that attitude).
Excuses! That’s all I ever heard from Jon. If he would have worked half as hard studying as he did coming up with all those explanations of how life had dealt him such a bad hand, he might have actually learned something that semester. Instead, he decides, “school isn’t really made for guys like me.” Last I heard, he had robbed a gas station and was taking an extended, all-expense-paid, vacation courtesy of the taxpayers of Nebraska (guess things worked out for ole Jon after all).
I shouldn’t be too hard on Jon though. I love excuses, and I’m pretty sure you do also. Excuses just feel good. Like a familiar hand massaging our tired muscles of inadequacy, excuses whisper softly to our subconscious that there is no reason to beat ourselves up, that there is a legitimate reason why we came up short; while at the same time providing the satisfaction of another hour of dreamy apathy.
Some of my favorite climbing excuses are: “I’m too old”; “I’m too young”; “I’ve been climbing too long and my body is broke”; “I haven’t been climbing long enough so of course I’m not at that level”; “The moves are too reachy, or too compressed, or too crimpy, or too . . . (you get the idea)”. Another favorite is: “that just is not my style of route” or “I’m a boulderer, of course I have no endurance.”
And every time that I use one of those, I feel better. I have an reason for failing. A legit reason! The route really is compressed and crimpy and that really is NOT my style. I don’t have to feel bad about it. I can walk with my head up and my chest out (and I look good like that!).
That is, until I begin looking around at what younger, older, healthier, sicker, and so many others doing and I honestly begin asking myself what I really am feeling good about. Am I truly coming to terms with my failures or am I actually just creating justifications to not have to work on them?
The even scarier question is: how much of this attitude is bleeding into other areas of my life?
I just spoke to a lady in my medical practice. I asked her if she had been getting any exercise and she said: “I want to, but this weather, it’s just been crazy!” Really, the weather? I mean, we’ve got weather 24/7 here in Kansas. If something as simple as weather can make decisions for you, what chance do you ever have of succeeding?
That is the big danger of becoming excuse makers, isn’t it? It becomes a life style. Like my old bud Jon. Next thing we know, we never take responsibility for anything. When that happens, there is no longer a reason to try to improve. And so: our job sucks because the hours are bad; our health sucks because we were born were born with bad genes; our finances suck because some unexpected expense showed up; our relationships suck because he or she or they just don’t understand us.
The truth is, our excuses suck.
So what can we do about it? President Harry Truman kept a sign on his desk in the oval office. It read: “The Buck Stops Here” (the ‘buck’ refers to the buck knife, used in the American Frontier. During a poker game, the knife would
be passed to the next person to deal. If they chose to pass on the responsibility of dealing, they were said to be passing the buck). Truman’s point was that he wasn’t making excuse and he wasn’t blaming anyone else.
The beauty of this approach is that it frees up all that energy wasted trying to cover our own weaknesses and allows us to then use it to find real solutions (like maybe discovering why that ‘way to reachy route’ of yours was just sent by some kid half your size 😂). And as we practice this, a new habit is formed: a habit that says we can do anything, that nothing is impossible. An attitude that doesn’t see problems, but see’s opportunities!
SO . . . Jon Babinski. Quit your whining! The entire classroom has the same chemistry professor and equipment. The only difference between them and you is . . . well . . . um . . . YOU!
Think, believe, and . . .
Follow your bliss,