5 Lessons Learned When I Quit Making Excuses

Ancient proverb: “A man resembling a beached whale must travel a journey beginning with a single step.”

WL journey final

When I saw the picture on the far left seconds after it was taken April 8, 2012, I knew a “first step” was needed. The next day—at 195 pounds—my journey began …

Now at 152 pounds, I’m a happier guy. To learn more about my amazing It-Won’t-Sell-On-Oprah diet, as well as the extensive and expensive fitness regimen—health club memberships, best-selling books, and brightly colored spandex clothing!—that got me here, read this from last November: The Power of Simple.

But the journey almost didn’t happen; the first step was almost never taken.

In last week’s post, The 3 Components of Personal Change, we mentioned “self-talk.” Talking to ourselves is how we process experiences, make decisions, evaluate people and problems, beat ourselves down, give ourselves encouragement, and persuade ourselves to do this or not do that. Bottom line, our “self-talk” is our thinking—and our thinking is everything.

And sometimes, we think wrong.

I recently heard, “A man standing alone can talk himself into anything.” I suppose it applies to women, too. And I do know this: I’d talked myself into not taking my weight-loss journey’s first step by engaging in some self-defeating, insidious, powerful, goal-killing self-talk. It’s called …


Here are just some of my excuses that almost prevented me from taking that critical first step:

  • I travel a lot and it’s hard to eat right in airports and hotels.
  • I look fine, really—I do.
  • I hate vegetables.
  • This is just the way I’m built.
  • I don’t have the time or energy to exercise.
  • I don’t like exercising.
  • I tried losing weight before and got nowhere.
  • There are no nice places to walk; just straight, dull Colorado dirt roads.

So, how ’bout you? …

Is there anything you need to accomplish, but the Self-Talk of Excuses is standing in your way?

If you do have a goal of any kind to achieve, here are five lessons I learned when I quit making excuses. Maybe you can apply them!

1. Start Today. More on the secret to reaching goals here, but it is all about ACTION NOW.

2. Start Small. For those who want to lose pounds, no, do not join a health club or try to jog five miles today. Just skip those fries at lunch and walk around the block.

3. Stay Simple. While being interviewed by host John Lee Dumas for his Entrepreneur On Fire podcast, I was asked what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. The word “simplicity” kept coming to my mind. Keeping all we do uncomplicated is an outstanding way to live life. Again: The Power of Simple.

4. Slay Excuses. Not to be too hokey here, but the Self-Talk of Excuses really is a dragon that must be slayed. Put your dragon slaying sword into action by writing down all the excuses you’ve been making, share them with a trusted friend, and then ask that person to speak up when you utter one. Recall from our last post, Awareness is the first step toward personal change.

5. Stay the Course. In general, direction supersedes pace. Moving forward is key! In the weight-loss arena, some lament, “I only lost a pound this week.” THAT IS A GOOD THING!!! Remember, one pound/week is four pounds/month which is 24 pounds in six months which is … well, you can do the long-term math. So think long-term, stay the course, and you’ll be fine.

Those are my lessons learned, and I hope you can use them. If you’re wondering, I don’t think I’ll ever really know what caused me to flip the switch in April 2012—but the switch was flipped and I’m happier for it.

For discussion and comment:
  • Please share a goal with us.
  • What excuses have you been making for not tackling this goal?
  • Which of the five lessons above do you need to focus on the most?

Okay, no excuses … start sharing, we’re waiting!

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51 Responses

  1. John – what a solid, simple, and direct way to tackle an issue. I love this list.

    My goal is to finish writing my 1st eBook.

    My excuses have been: limited time, competing higher prioroties, the desire to add more content for a delayed release.

    I absolutely need to stay simple – I can get too wrapped into ideas, concepts, new features, format, design, re-design, etc. I need to say no to some good things, to say yes to the great things.

  2. Congrats John. Love reading your QBQ notes!

    “Life is not the way it’s supposed to be, it’s the way it is. The way we cope with it is what makes the difference.”

    You are so right about keeping it simple.

  3. What I read is if you lose the excuses you can lose the weight?

    Or lose any other behavior you want to change?

  4. The one that speaks to me the most is to stay simple. I often make things too complex so keeping it simple is a powerful yet simple approach!

  5. John,
    The key to weight loss is really simple, its the ELEM diet; eat less/excersize more! I lost 50 lbs on that diet, the problem is that I eventually changed to the EMEL diet, and gained it back. But it doesn’t change the fact that it is still simple. I needed more #5 Stay the Course.

  6. Great post!
    My self-talk is horrible, even I wouldn’t be friends with the person I talk so ugly about!
    Life is good. Its time to believe in me!
    2 goals. I just began graduate school (at 60) I plan to finish.

    Find exercise I can enjoy and will do consistently. I plan to try something new tonight!

    Thanks for the inspiration, John!

  7. My goal is to get a Masters in Nursing Science. I get distracted by everyday chores, the phone ringing, and people asking for favors or just attention. I am 66 and a lot of people ask me why, at this age, I’m even bothering. That’s discouraging and I think that it really would not matter if I never do finish. I get offered excuses to not finish!
    I also get asked if my health is good enough to stand the strain because I have had illnesses in the past and am diabetic.
    I have a few cheerleaders who encourage me: my husband, my daughter, and a woman at Church whom I admire.

  8. My goal is at least a mini-walk every day (to the end of my street and back). Love your simplify tips. I’ve been a extreme “all or nothing” kind of person in the past. Starting small and building now!

  9. Needed the reminder to quit making excuses. #1 goal – eat healthy. If I’m healthy, the rest of life will go smoother and be easier to tackle.

  10. My goal is to get down to 175 lbs. I started my goal at 225 lbs and could us my belly for a cup holder when sitting. That is what flipped my switch. When I started, I was happy walking 5000-8000 steps a day. As the pounds came off, I increased my steps and I’m now walking 18000 – 20000 steps a day. I also set smaller goals of 5 to 10 pounds or be below 200 lbs. I’ve lost 33 lbs and almost to my next step of under 190 lbs. The last few pounds will be harder and I will need to continue watching what I eat and drink. I know I can do it. I just need to keep taking one step at a time! Thanks for the reminder to stay the course!

  11. I have set a goal of losing the weight I gained last Christmas before Christmas this year. I’ve started small, I ride an exercise bike for 15 minutes at a time and I eat more fruits and vegies and less junk. I started over a week ago and I’ve lost 2 pounds so far.

  12. Wow! My goal is to write an ebook and was thinking of that as I read your post. When I saw Jon’s comments as well it was as if you both were being used to tell me to stop with the excuses and do it. Ever wish you could be given a sign that something you want to do is something you really should or are supposed to do? 🙂 The time I can do this is evenings and weekends. My excuse is that I’m tired and then make the additional excuse that I don’t have the creativity in me at those times to even turn out worthwhile content. I guess I will never know if I don’t stop making excuses and start! Thanks to you both! And Jon, best wishes to you in your endeavor. I will pray for your success!

  13. Don’t let the others distract you from the prize. Take the time to finish your goal. Imagine the inspiration to others if you finish. You just may inspire others to attempt and finish not only their goals, but more importantly, their dreams.

    God Bless

  14. Several years ago a colleague gave me her formula for losing weight. She gave up
    B.L.T.s since she came to realize that every Bite, Lick and Taste she took of something REALLY did count.
    Recently I’ve been indulging in BLTs with the excuse that I’m in school, they are long days, my energy is low and I deserve it.
    Sunday I decided to give them up. Yesterday, I succeeded. Today isn’t quite as easy. We’ll see how it ends.

  15. losing that last 5 pounds – I use excuses like: I’m not that overweight, I eat relatively well, I can lose that if I run around a little with the kids.

    My focus is the simple step. Take the first step of going to the gym, getting on a bike, walking to get a coffee instead of driving.

  16. No excuses=no regrets. This came “just in time” for me. I realized that the excuses I am making are holding me back from the changes I need to make. Thanks!

  17. Weight Loss……a heavy subject! And one that I try to avoid. Seems like just talking about it makes me gain weight. My body is anti-diet. That said my husband and I made a committment August 1st on our 40th anniversary that we would move more and eat less. We both knew it would be a slow process and are staying true to our committment. So far so good!

  18. My goal is to lose the 25 I’ve put on in the past 3 years (20 in the past 2- I know, right?). My excuse has been ‘I’m too busy’, but I’m too busy not to-

  19. This literally came at the perfect time today. I just finished posting an excuse on another site about why I hadn’t done something I’ve been trying to do for a week. How fitting that I read this after the fact so that it helped to clear my mind. My worries and emotions get the better of me sometimes and I often talk myself out of doing what my clear-thinking mind knows is the best solution for the issue.

    It really does pay to take that first step the moment you know you should. So many things in my life might be different if I wasn’t so scared to take the leap and eventually talked myself out of important life situations.

  20. You have perfect timing, John! I really needed to hear your message today. I am struggling with exercise in the wee hours of morning (I run at 5:30 AM in the dark in order to get to work). I can feel the excuses coming on with the shorter days, colder temperatures, and rapidly approaching winter. I need to slay excuses – just take my dogs and get out the door. Thanks for helping me keep it simple!

  21. Fell in love with the QBQ at it’s first introduction to me. To have been able to take the teachings from that to each different area of my life has been incredible, Not only did it introduce me to personal accountability but it changed how I communicated with my family making me a better parent. I will forever be grateful to the QBQ and consistently use it in my day to day life!

  22. I have a number of goals that I have set for five years out. They are fairly lofty and would be easy to dismiss as wishful thinking if not achieved. Today what I need to is to begin setting benchmarks and start working towards those. I am in a position of uncertainty while being certain that I need to make changes in order to live my dreams. Starting today and keeping it simply is key.

  23. This year, I turned 50. One of my goals this year was to make less excuses and take more action and this blog has come at a time when my resolve was slipping. Thanks, John, for reminding me that simple is best!

    P.S. I also agree with improving health the simple way! I’ve been making simple changes over the last year, eating healthier, getting more exercise, and it is paying off!

  24. John – thanks for the post… is interesting what you can do with support to achieve your goals. Sometimes it’s the tapping into others support that can help, making it fun. Thought you and your readers might be interested in this one I found about about after listening to a TED talk. It was designed by a gamer – you can play a game that helps you track your goals …
    See https://www.superbetter.com/ It’s a safe link, promie. Regards, Felicia

  25. I have lost 45 pounds since just before Easter. EASTER when there are Peeps everywhere, we have an annual event called the Easter Fry, where we batter and deep fry anything we can get our hands on in big vats of grease, and of course the Easter bunny visits our house and leaves entirely too much chocolate. I told myself that I should just wait until after Easter, like I had waited until after valentines day, Christmas, and Halloween. When does it end? So I just started. I allowed myself to cheat at the Easter fry, but because I was in the mode, I didn’t cheat as much as I thought I would! It was amazingly easy to avoid the chocolate, and I figured out how many “points” a peep was and I allowed myself to have 1 or 2 a day. Usually I could eat a row or two of those peeps in one sitting! After around a 40 pound weight loss, my weight was below 200 pounds. I feel great! I have a way to go, but there are no excuses! If I fall down one day, I get right back up and keep going. Now, I just need to apply this no excuses rule to $ and budgeting. Thanks for these emails! I don;t always have time to read them, but when I take the time I am glad I did. 🙂

  26. My goal is to get to business partners for my company in a couple of months. What is standing in my way right now is fear of rejection when speaking with others. I need to remember to stay the course. I sometimes feel like I am not doing enough but I have to remember every small step, every conversation, every smile, every hello is one step closer to finding amazing people to partner with.

  27. Its amazing how we can be so accountable in our work or workplace, yet such victims making excuses in our personal lives.

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