Accountability: When Reasons Become Excuses


Needing a carton of Outstanding! books mailed out (our special pricing here), I messaged our 23-year-old carrier, Jocelyn. She’d been off work for a few days due to a family emergency. This exchange then took place:

John: “Good morning, Jocelyn! Are you back on the route today? I have an outgoing shipment.”

Jocelyn: “Morning! I am, but will be later than usual. Lots of stuff didn’t get delivered while I was gone.”

John: “Should we blame that sub guy, Louis?” 😆

Jocelyn: “Oh, no—there’s no one to blame but me for not showing up to work.”

John: “So. Darn. Accountable.”

Jocelyn: “What can I say, that QBQ! book you gave me is a great read.”

Some truth: Jocelyn’s family challenges were out of her control, as was the competency and effectiveness of her USPS replacement.

But also true: Jocelyn did not use these reasons as causes of working harder and longer than usual, and not being on time for her customers. If she had, they would’ve become …

… excuses.

Totally Real Scenarios

Growing up the son of the Cornell University wrestling coach, there were great expectations of me on the mat. The problem, however, was I was never aerobically “in shape” or physically strong enough to attain many victories. Why?

Because I detested running and did not like weight-lifting. Said differently, I didn’t want to do the work; I didn’t care enough about winning on the mat to do what was required.

No excuses.

Another example, a decade later ……

On a hot July Friday afternoon in 1986, early in my sales career, my boss, Jim, rang in to see how I was doing setting up face-to-face sales meetings by phone. This was my job every day.

On the call, I whined, “But, Jim, it’s 3 o’clock on a Friday and the weather is lousy—we’re even under a tornado warning right this minute! I can’t reach anyone.”

His response was much-needed “tough love” from a mentor who changed my life: “Well, John, right now there’s an executive sitting at his desk waiting for you to call.”


I went back to work, setting three appointments before the day was out.

How Excuse-Making Happens

Our attached image says it all. Excuses are lies we tell ourselves are true so we won’t be held accountable by others—or ourselves—for undesirable outcomes. As long as there is a reason, I am not accountable and the pressure is off. If I can convince the world the objective is unattainable, I avoid the heavy burden of expectations, concluding, “Hey, I did all that I could!”

But did I? Most likely, I did not.

How Reasons Become Excuses

In my own life, I’ve found this is how I convert a reason into an excuse:

  1. I share the reason with others by speaking, emailing, or texting it. Once expressed, I’ve sold myself on why I failed to achieve an objective and am attempting to sell others.
  2. I use a reason to quit all forward motion. By not trying harder and longer, I have purposefully chosen failure.
  3. I fail to adapt when confronted with a reason. When I employ no creativity, ingenuity, or change behavior, making no progress comes easily.
  4. I use reasons to rationalize poor results. This is me letting everyone know why I failed to reach the goal—and it wasn’t my fault.

Ponder those four statements above, and decide which you engage in most often.

Do You QBQ!?

As a practitioner of our QBQ! material, you know what to do to resist turning reasons into excuses. Just ask The Question Behind the Question—QBQ—such as, “What else can I do to reach the goal?” 

If the answer is nada, nothing, zilch—then I truly gave it my all. But too often I’m doing the excuse-making thing, and never forget, excuses get me nowhere fast.

So, let’s all be like Jocelyn—the Gen Z mail carrier—and make no excuses today!

Even if there are reasons. 😉

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