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Triumph Over Excuses

None of us like to think that we make excuses, but we do.
One of my business partners, Dustin Hillis, defines excuses in this way: “Any reason you didn’t do what you said you do.”
I love that definition because it’s transparent, powerful, and most important of all, it’s inescapable.
It’s inescapable from accountability.
There’s no way to dodge it.
There’s no way to get around it.
There’s no way to bypass it.
There’s no way to circumvent it.
If you said you would do it and you didn’t get it done, then it’s on you.
And whatever your reason is for why it didn’t get done is your excuse.
It’s easy to hold others to that standard but we don’t like to hold ourselves to that standard.
When someone else didn’t get it done, it’s because they had some lame excuse.
But when we didn’t get it done it’s because…
“I didn’t have time.”
“I decided I didn’t really want to.”
“I need to wait until there is a better time.”
Or, the number one excuse of all is blaming others for failure.
Blaming others is a natural outlet because none of us like to admit when we’re making an excuse.
But what if instead of looking for a justifiable reason, a rationale explanation, or an acceptable excuse, we instead just spent that energy looking for a solution?
That’s what winners do. They find a way instead of an excuse.
To use Dustin’s definition, finding a way means “doing what you said you would do, no matter what.”
Finding a way means you double down on your effort to achieve the target despite the odds.
Finding a way means you get creative about organizing resources to make it work.
Finding a way means you refocus your energy into problem solving and solution finding instead of into excuse-making.
Most of all, finding a way means owning your results yourself.
It means making a decision that you are in charge, you are accountable, and you will not be stopped.
Finding a way means remaining determined to figure it out because failure is not an option for you and excuses are unacceptable.

Chasing Dreams with American Idol Winner Kris Allen – Episode 213 of The Action Catalyst Podcast

Kris Allen was born June 21, 1985, in Jacksonville, Arkansas. He had an early interest in music, which stayed with him through college, church involvement, and missionary work in other countries. In 2009, he became a finalist on the eighth season of American Idol, and triumphed over fellow finalist Adam Lambert in the season finale. He was the first married contestant to win the competition.

Show Highlights:

My dream was so big, I didn’t know how to move towards it. @KrisAllen

I was surprised at the results every round. @KrisAllen

All the time I spent playing in my room and in bars prepared me for the show. @KrisAllen

I am incredibly lucky and blessed that this happened to me. @KrisAllen

I do not take winning American Idol for granted. @KrisAllen

My time on the show felt incredibly surreal. @KrisAllen

When Ryan announced my name, I knew life was going to change. @KrisAllen

I thought I would never play an instrument again. @KrisAllen

Learning to play again has been hard, but I am a better now than I was before the accident. @KrisAllen

You will find happiness in going after your dreams, not in settling. @KrisAllen

Having the dreams allows you to move towards it. @rory_vaden

Too often we don’t even allow ourselves to have the dream. @rory_vaden

You have to be willing to work for the dream. @rory_vaden

Excellence is never an accident. @rory_vaden

The Action Catalyst is a weekly podcast hosted by Rory Vaden of Southwestern Consulting every Wednesday. The show is regularly in the Top 25 of Business News Podcasts, has listeners from all around the world and shares “insights and inspiration to help you take action.” Each week Rory shares ideas on how to increase your self-discipline and make better use of your time to help you achieve your goals in life. He also interviews special expert guests and thought leaders. Subscribe on iTunes and please leave a rating and review!

Which of these two are you?

“You’re either looking for a way or you’re looking for an excuse.”

The late legendary majority shareholder of Southwestern, Spencer Hays, use to say it all the time.

It was part of his life philosophy that led him and so many near him to become tremendously successful.

You’ve probably heard that same quote before and it’s true. In any given challenge you’re either looking for a way to solve the problem or you’re looking for an excuse as to why you don’t have to.

But sometimes when we hear it, we process it as a diagnosis of either we’re “tough” or we’re not.

We’re either “strong willed” or we’re not.

We either have what it takes to be successful or we don’t.

But after reflecting on a conversation I had with one of the world’s leading experts in neuroscience and author of Activate Your Brain: Understanding Your Brain Can Improve Your Work and Your Life, Scott Halford I want to present to you an alternative distinction for thinking about it.

According to Scott your brain is like a computer, “it’s happy to do whatever you tell it to do.”

But if you don’t tell it what to do then it will run its own natural operating system.

What is the brain’s default programming?

Simple: to keep you alive. To survive. And to conserve energy.

Knowing that, hopefully it makes sense to you then why we all start with a natural resistance to change that must be overcome.

Because changing anything requires work. Change requires energy. And any type of change is always considered to be a risk because it’s different than what you know now.

So IF you leave the brain all to itself to decide…

It automatically has resistance to doing the work it takes to be successful because it takes work.

It naturally rejects change because it comes with risk.

It defaults against doing something new because it requires an expense of energy.

This happens not because you’re lazy, weak, or destined for failure.

It happens because you’re human and you have a properly functioning brain.

You’re brain is looking for an excuse. Not necessarily because you’re weak but because that is what your brain is designed to do in order to conserve energy keep you safe.

The problem with success (from your brains point of view) is that it requires the opposite of all those things.

Success requires work.

Success requires change.

Success requires risk.

Because you have to learn new things, let go of
your old comfort zone, risk doing something new and put in the necessary work to make it happen.

And so you have to “teach” your brain, instruct it and get coaching to program it to do what you need to in order to be successful.

Now while the work of being successful might seem “harder”, it only is in the very beginning.

It’s similar to going hiking in the woods. It’s safest, easiest, and less risky to stay on the paved path. That is what your brain defaults to doing – the same thing you’ve always done.

But if you decided that you want to form a new path that would take you to a different, more beautiful destination, you’d have to form a new path.

And the first time you walked that path it would be the hardest because you’d have to knock down trees, move rocks and build bridges.

But then even the second time down the path would be exponentially easier. So would the third and then the fourth.

Until at some point you had new (neural) pathways formed that made it easier to stay on the new path than it would be to go back to the old path.

In that instance your brain is still happy to do what you tell it to do. The difference is you told it to do something different; something better – and so it did.

That’s how success is. It’s seems hard but only at first and then it gets easier and easier.

Part of the power of having a coach is the on going accountability helps reinforce thinking that ultimately leads to success.

So we all have a chance for success if we can learn to guide our brain in the direction we want it to.

Creativity working in the wrong direction is fear. It’s coming up with reasons, justifications and excuses as to why you can’t or why you shouldn’t try.

Creativity working in the right direction is problem solving. It’s coming up with answers, solutions, and possibilities.

Either way your brain is happy to do whatever you tell it to do.

It will find you an excuse.

Or it will find you a way.

Choose wisely.

Here’s What You Don’t Know About Sales

Everyone is in sales.


Not just because we’re almost all involved in some way at some point in our life actually increasing revenues, asking for a raise, gathering donations, helping to keep a customer, or literally calling on prospects and collecting payment.

Sales is all that but sales is much more than that.

Sales, the study of sales, and the art of selling extends far beyond issues related to just gathering money – even though that’s traditionally what we all think about.

Sales is the psychology of moving people to take positive action.

Sales is studying, understanding, and implementing strategies to help someone create change in their life.

Sales is compelling someone to go from where they are to a better place they could be.

Sales isn’t just about overcoming objections; sales is about doing the genius work of influencing someone to break free of the inertia in their life of how they’ve always done things.

Sales is about inviting someone to engage in the process of improving their own situation.

Sales is about challenging someone to break free of their comfort zone to live a better life.

So if you’re a teacher trying to get students to learn….

If you’re a doctor trying to get patients to change their lifestyle…

If you’re a parent trying to get your kids to brush their teeth…

If you’re a recruiter trying to get someone to join…

If you’re any kind of a coach…

Or any kind of a campaigner…

Or any kind of evangelist…

Or any kind of leader…

Then you are in sales!

Because you are engaging in the process of moving people to take positive action.

And the sooner you embrace that you’re in sales, the sooner you can learn and be coached to do it the right way instead of the wrong way.

In the past, you may have resisted thinking of yourself as a salesperson.

If so, it’s likely because you thought of sales as “talking people into stuff they don’t want.”

But that’s not sales!

Sales isn’t talking people into stuff they don’t want.

Sales is helping people figure out what is best for them.

Sales is moving people to take positive action.

Sales is teaching.

Sales is coaching.

Sales is recruiting.

Sales is evangelizing.

Sales is campaigning.

Sales is leading.

Most of all…

Sales is serving.

That’s why we at Southwestern Consulting use the term “Servant Selling” and that’s why we coach people from all different types of professions about how to sell.

We’re teaching them the eloquent art of moving people to take positive action.

And perhaps you’ve followed this blog because you first heard about us from our Take the Stairs book on self-discipline and overcoming procrastination.

Or perhaps you heard about us from our Ted talk on prioritizing and multiplying time.

Or maybe you heard about us from our leadership virtual training Mastermind.

And so maybe you’ve wondered “Why does Rory write so often about selling? What does self-discipline, procrastination, leadership, and productivity have to do with selling?”

And the answer is, it has everything to do with selling because selling is moving people to take positive action!

If you can learn to sell then you can learn to lead, teach, coach, or recruit.

If you can learn to sell you can learn to help and you can learn to serve.

So embrace selling, learn to sell and help people take positive action in their own lives starting now.

5 Healthy Heart Transformations of that Result from Giving – Episode 212 of The Action Catalyst Podcast

Rory shares his own personal struggle as he learned the power of giving and the 5 transformations he went through that dramatically changed the way he views money, time, giving and more. The lessons in this episode will translate to how you spend your time, lead other people, how you feel about yourself, and even the ability to overcome your own psychology of procrastination when it comes to working out and exercising.

Show Highlights:

In theory, we all want to be generous. We want to be known as people who give. @rory_vaden

For many, there is a disconnect between wanting to be generous and actually being generous. @rory_vaden

When asked, “How much money do you need to feel happy?” for most, the answer is “it’s more than I have now.”@rory_vaden

Scarcity is always feeling that you don’t have enough. @rory_vaden

There is a payoff that comes from submitting to obedience. @rory_vaden

Sacrifice in the short term to gain in the long term. @rory_vaden

Submit to self-discipline temporarily for long-term payoff. @rory_vaden

There is nothing weak about obedience. @rory_vaden

Giving out of obedience creates a long-term payoff. @rory_vaden

The amount of the gift we receive is in direct proportion to how we handle that gift. @rory_vaden

Learning to give money creates freedom. @rory_vaden

Your ability to acquire more money is inversely proportionate to its power over you. @rory_vaden

The joy in the experience comes from seeing others receive. @rory_vaden

The Action Catalyst is a weekly podcast hosted by Rory Vaden of Southwestern Consulting every Wednesday. The show is regularly in the Top 25 of Business News Podcasts, has listeners from all around the world and shares “insights and inspiration to help you take action.” Each week Rory shares ideas on how to increase your self-discipline and make better use of your time to help you achieve your goals in life. He also interviews special expert guests and thought leaders. Subscribe on iTunes and please leave a rating and review!

What Leadership Really Is

It’s possible that you think of leadership completely wrong.

It’s possible that you don’t even accurately understand what leadership really is.

Because for whatever reason, we often think of the leader as the person who is elevated.

We think of the leader as the boss who should be feared and respected.

We think of the leader as the person in charge and the person who calls the shots.

And because we sometimes think about leadership in that way, then when by pursuit or circumstance we get designated as the leader, that’s how we think it should be.

We think we should be elevated.

We think we should be the boss.

We think we should call the shots.

But we are wrong.

Or that is at least an immature understanding of leadership.

Over the years at Southwestern Consulting we’ve had the opportunity to work with great leaders, coach great leaders, and we’ve been lucky to have been mentored directly by great leaders.

One of them, CEO of the Southwestern Family of Companies Henry Bedford, taught us early on that one of the jobs of the leader is to remove barriers from people on the front lines.

He taught us that leadership is not about having the fancy back corner office but that the important work is done on the front lines.

He taught us that leadership is not about having people working for you but about having people and a mission for whom it is worth working for.

In simple terms, he and other mature leaders like Ken Blanchard, have taught us that leadership is about service.

It’s not about being served; it’s about serving.

It’s not about being protected; it’s about protecting.

It’s not about being revered; it’s about revering.

But serving doesn’t mean you’re weak. And it doesn’t mean you just do whatever people want you to do.

It means you look out for the best interest of the team.

It means you protect the pursuit of the mission.

It means you strive to provide for the people in your care.

And it means you lay down and move beyond your own ego and dedicate yourself to elevating the status and survival of the collective.

In short, leadership means serving.

So if serving is beneath you, then perhaps leadership is beyond you.