To Achieve More, Start Challenging Your Own Excuses

Last January, I was invited to a sushi dinner in Amsterdam.  The dinner was hosted by Menno Henselmans, whose Bayesian Personal Training course I was then taking.

I really wanted to go, but there was one big problem: I live in Los Angeles, so Amsterdam is…not typically a weekend trip for me.  

As soon as I saw the invite, the overwhelming thought in my head was that there was no way I could do it.  

Fly all the way to Europe just for a dinner, and maybe like a couple of days exploring Amsterdam?  The whole process would take about five days of my time.  I was sure it would cost well over a thousand dollars– there was no way I could afford it.  

At this point it would have been easy to just delete the email, move on with my day, and put the idea out of my head.  That’s not what I did.

Instead, I went to Skyscanner to see how much a flight to Amsterdam actually would have cost.  To my surprise, I could have bought a round trip ticket for as little as three hundred dollars.  Hostels were also more affordable than I expected– around sixty dollars a night.  

It turns out I could have done the whole trip, with three whole days in Amsterdam, for around six hundred dollars if I was thrifty.  That’s less than many people spend on a weekend ski trip, or a couple days in Vegas.

As it happens, I still decided not to go.  January didn’t sound like the best time to visit The Netherlands, and I don’t really want to go to Europe if I can’t stay over there for a month or more, which I didn’t have time for.  

Nonetheless, I’m glad I actually researched the price of the trip rather than assuming it would be out of my price range.  

When I wanted to start an online business, I came up with all kinds of excuses not to do it.  I didn’t have the investment capital.  I’d be living off savings.  I didn’t know how to run a business.  How many people want to start a business, only to decide against it for those same reasons?

In this case, I did start a business, but I didn’t just ignore the objections in my head.  Instead, I looked for ways to hedge against the risks of starting a business.  I took a course on starting an online business.  I picked a business model that required very little capital– write articles, offer online coaching.  

Instead of quitting my day job, I stayed at it and started my business on the side.  Even after quitting my day job I freelanced as a marketing consultant for a while.   

When you get the idea to do something ambitious, it’s normal for your mind to immediately start coming up with reasons why you can’t do it, like mine did.  How you react to those excuses will determine how successful you are in life– do you accept them at face value, or do you look for ways to negate them?

Whenever the topic of self-doubt comes up, the focus tends to be on how to silence the voice of doubt in your head.  Personally, I don’t know of any way to do that.  

I’ve talked to a lot of top performers– professional athletes, CEO’s, investors, entertainers– and they all seem to have self-doubt, just like the rest of us.  

I don’t think silencing that voice is even necessary.  Let it be, but just don’t be a slave to it.  

It’s normal for your mind to reflexively make excuses when you want to do something new, or challenging, or ambitious.  Hell, sometimes those excuses are even valid.

The lesson here is– don’t let that inner voice boss you around.  Overcome that reflex to say Oh well, I guess it can’t be done.  Instead get in the habit of saying Well, how could I do it?  What would it take?