9 Excuses That You Need to Stop Using Right Now!

Do you know what’s frustrating? Talking to people about their dreams. The closer I get to publishing Dream Chasers (the Kindle edition is available for pre-order NOW, if you’re interested), the more time I’m spending digging into people’s lives and asking them about the things that they want to accomplish or achieve.

It’s weird, because that shouldn’t be the type of conversation that leaves me frustrated. If we’re talking about someone’s passions, someone’s goals, someone’s dreams I should leave the conversation feeling inspired, right? But I don’t – at least, not very often. Why not? Because when you ask people about their dreams, the first things they want to tell you are all the reasons that their dreams aren’t happening.

I, for one, am tired of that kind of talk. I’m tired of the way we give ourselves permission to stay stagnant. Because at the end of the day, most of those reasons that we have for not chasing after our dreams are just excuses. They may sound good, they may seem legitimate, we may even believe them … but 95% of the time, they’re nothing more than thinly veiled excuses that give us permission to do nothing.

But if we’re serious about achieving a goal (whether it’s writing a book or buying a house) then the excuses have to stop. They have no place in a dream-chaser’s mindset. They can’t help us – they can only hurt and delay us. So here is a list of 9 excuses that I hear all the time – excuses that you should STOP using right now, if you ever want to make your dream become reality:

1. “I don’t have the time.” This is the biggest and most common excuse I hear. In fact, you can probably relate to it yourself. But I’m going to let you into a little secret – NO ONE has the time. Our lives and our schedules are so jam packed that most of us struggle to find enough time to sleep at night. You’ll never “have” the time to do anything until you are willing to “make” the time. And that’s about deciding that your dream is a priority in your life, and sacrificing other (even important) things in order to make it happen. I have a friend who started a side business years ago, something that she did to make extra money on nights and weekends. Her goal was to eventually shift it from her “side business” to her “actual job.” But she didn’t have the time to really invest in making it grow the way she wanted to, and so she found herself in a rut for years. Do you know what she finally did to get herself out? She cut back her hours at her regular job, and committed to working on her business a few days a week instead. It was a very real sacrifice. It cost her something.  But it was her dream, and she MADE the time to see it succeed.

2. “I don’t have the money.” Again, this comes down to a matter of priorities. I understand that you may be in tight financial circumstances, and you may not have the freedom to complete your dream at this moment. But don’t let that be an excuse. Instead, use it as a prompt to push and prepare yourself. If you don’t have the money you need right now, sit down and build some extra savings into your budget. Be willing to sacrifice your daily coffee or that new handbag, if that’s what it takes. If you need to fix your credit, put a plan together to do that, and start working on it today. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself in exactly the same financial situation tomorrow, next year, and ten years from now. In other words, if money is a problem – start fixing it, but don’t let it be an excuse! And in the meantime, find something that you can do to pursue your dream that doesn’t require a financial investment. Work on that. But for heaven’s sake, do SOMETHING!

3. “I’m not inspired.” There is no greater nonsense in this world than the idea that creativity can only come as a result of inspiration. In fact, I have found that one of the best ways to stretch your creative muscle is to use it in the service of productivity. I think it was Plato who said “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and he was right! I have another friend (two friends? Really? I know … don’t be jealous!) who is an incredible artist. She works full time as an art teacher, she has three kids, and her schedule is crazy busy. But one day someone asked her if she’d be interested in showing her art at a hip new gallery in Brooklyn, and she instantly said yes, even though she had NOTHING to show. She spent the next few weeks trying to come up with a theme for her work – only to find herself completely devoid of inspiration. But eventually she ran out of time – she HAD to start, or she wouldn’t be ready in time. But as soon as she committed to putting paint on canvas every day, the ideas suddenly began to flow. Her need to produce inspired her creativity. So if you’re lacking inspiration, start getting productive. Even if you start off producing garbage, it will eventually lead you to the inspiration you’re looking for.

4. “I’ve already tried and failed.” This is one of those “reasons” that seem so legitimate, because it’s grounded in a painful truth. Maybe you have tried and failed, and I know that it sucks. But the best thing you can do in the face of failure is to learn from your mistakes, get up, and try again.  There’s a simple secret to overcoming failure – all you have to do is refuse to give up. As long as you’re still trying, as long as you’re willing to brush yourself off and take another shot, your failure doesn’t have to be permanent. It can be a stepping stone on your personal climb towards success. The only thing you have to do is keep moving forward. The world is full of success stories that start with struggles, false starts, and failures. So if you’ve tried and failed, don’t let that be the end of your tale. Be willing to get back out there, to try again, and don’t give up until you find your success!

5. “I don’t know how.” Here’s another one of those “big secrets” that I feel compelled to share with you – you’re not alone. Everyone who has ever tried to accomplish anything worthwhile had to start somewhere. When they started, they had no experience, no expertise, and maybe no idea what to do next. Ignorance is not a reason to give up, it’s an opportunity to learn. If you know nothing about the field you want to enter or the career you want to start, begin by doing your research. There are so many resources available on line for people who want to learn. Take advantage of them! When I started writing my first book I didn’t have the slightest clue how an author got published. So for the first year I spent almost as much time reading and educating myself about the publishing industry as I did writing that book. It was a huge learning curve, but it wasn’t impossible. All it took was time and dedication, and eventually I found myself with the knowledge to make educated and informed decisions about my publishing options. You can do the same thing – and you can start right now!

6. “I don’t have the right connections.” I understand how important connections can be – knowing the right people has a wonderful way of opening doors that you might struggle to open by yourself. Having good connections with mentors, teachers, industry insiders, and potential peers is certainly an advantage. But it’s silly to use your lack of connections as a reason to give up! First of all, if you’re that serious about connecting with other people, you can do it right now. We live in an age of digital community that makes it possible to listen to, learn from, and actually befriend all sorts of people whom you might never otherwise meet. Go ahead and start using your social media for it’s intended purpose – not to sell or self promote, but to socialize! Reach out and get to know people. But keep in mind that before you meet your ideal mentor or your new industry-leading bff, you should already be putting in the work to hone your skills and move towards your dream. No connections, no inside track is going to replace hard work and dedication in your ultimate climb to success!

7. “It’s too late.” Listen, unless your dream is to become a prima-ballerina or a professional athlete, I just don’t believe you. It’s not too late to go back to school, to start your business, to switch careers, or to write your book … no matter what you think. It’s not too late to get serious about your art or to hone your craft. It’s not too late to do anything, not if it’s important to you! I don’t care if you’ve damaged your chances, made bad decisions, put yourself in debt, or waited “too long.” You can still make a fresh start towards your dream today. All you have to do is decide to do it! So stop letting the time that’s already passed by stop you from using the time you have now. Don’t let your yesterday define your idea of what is possible tomorrow!

8. “This isn’t a good time” UGH. Ok, honesty moment – I hate when people talk to me about how they’re putting their dreams off until a “better” time. Who was it who gave us the idea that we would reach an ideal moment in which all distractions would disappear and our dreams would suddenly fit perfectly into the schedule of our lives? Who is it that convinced us that tomorrow will be so much better suited to our plans than today? How are we still falling for this nonsense? There is no ideal time, no perfect moment in your life for starting something new and important. The more time you spend waiting for that elusive tomorrow, the more time you’ll waste doing nothing at all. Let today be the day that you take your first step, even if it seems like the worst time to be starting anything. Don’t wait until tomorrow – trust me, it never comes.

9. “I can’t.”  Stop it. Just stop. Do you know what I want to say to people who tell me they can’t do something? I want to say “Of course you can’t. You’re so convinced that it’s impossible that you won’t even lift a finger to try. How can you ever expect to succeed if you’ve already decided that you’re doomed to fail?” Seriously though, this phrase, and the mentality it promotes, is the easiest way to ensure that you’ll never get anywhere or do anything. Don’t fall for it any longer. Stop saying “Can’t.” It’s a dirty word for every productive, successful, achievement-oriented person out there. And the sooner you take it out of your vocabulary altogether, the better!

So there we have it – my list of the 9 worst excuses you can use to put off the dreams you want to realize. What do you think? Do any of these sound familiar? Did I miss a few? Leave a comment below and let me know.


Freedom, Cost, and Responsibility

When I first started looking into my publishing options for My Brother’s Keeper, I spent a lot of time reading about the pros and cons of traditional vs. independent publishing. One of the things that surprised me was the vast volume of blogs and articles on the topic of independent publishing as a path to freedom from the tyranny of the evil publishing overlords.

Most of the posts sounded something like this: Big publishers are evil. They don’t care about good books or good writing or good authors. They’re just money making machines. And if they don’t see your book as a money-maker it doesn’t matter how good a writer you are, they’ll never give you the chance you deserve. And even if they do publish your book they’ll give you pennies for every copy sold and keep the rest for their greedy selves. But that’s ok because now I can publish my book myself and prove them all wrong!!!!!

And for many people who choose to independently publish their work, there are certain kernels of truth in statement like this. Many perfectly good books are rejected by publishing houses every day. Publishers make hard decisions about what books to print and what books to reject – and often it comes down to what they think they can sell. But that’s to be expected, because lest we forget, publishing is a business, and as a business it’s end goal is to be as profitable as possible.

That doesn’t make big publishers evil, dictatorial, or cruel. It makes them pragmatic. It makes them capable of surviving in the midst of an industry that is undergoing radical transformation. It makes them smart.

So yes, if you don’t fit into the mold of what’s popular and sellable, then self-publishing may be exactly what you’re looking for – “freedom” from the limitations of traditional publishing. But if you’re going to take the plunge, it is important to acknowledge exactly what this “freedom” really means.

You see, freedom is a tricky thing. The freer you are, the fewer rules and restrictions you are subject to, the greater responsibility you take on to govern and monitor yourself. Because no matter how free you may be, you’re still subject to the consequences of your own actions (not to mention the other “free” individuals with whom you come into contact).

As Americans get ready to celebrate our national Independence Day, we are, essentially, about to throw a giant continent-spanning freedom-party (with BBQ and fireworks and everything!) But I, for one, am thankful that I live in a place and a time where my freedom is not absolute. I have the right to make my own choices, to live and speak and worship as I desire. But I don’t have the right to kill someone or to take what does not belong to me. I don’t have the right to punch a stranger for looking at me weird. I don’t have the right to wander naked through the mall or smoke in a store. There are still laws that I must obey, and police to make sure that those laws are enforced. There is order in my society, rules and regulations, social expectations and cultural norms, and all of those things limit (in small ways and tiny measures) the breadth and depth of my freedoms.

But the self-publishing industry isn’t part of the 21st century world. It’s closer to the old wild west. As indy publishers we are trail blazers, wanderers, adventurers seeking our fortune in places where “societal norms” have not yet settled. That’s a good thing. It gives us freedom. But it can also be a bad thing, because it means that there’s no one policing our choices. There’s no one keeping us out of trouble.

That means that you can produce exactly what you want in whatever manner your choose. You can sell your book for a million dollars or give it away for free. You can create a 500 page tome made entirely of jumbled letters and childlike scribble. You can do pretty much whatever you like, slap a cover on it, and call it a “book”.

You can do any of those things, because you are free; but each choice that you make as a self-published author comes with its own set of consequences.

So before you make the decision to self-publish, you first need to identify your motives and expectations. Are you publishing because there is a message that you want to get out there and you think print-media will help you in accomplishing that goal? Are you publishing because you want to make a career out of writing? Are you publishing because you want to make money? Or are you publishing because you want to finish a written work that has never felt complete as long as it’s sat in manuscript-form in a drawer somewhere?

There are no wrong answers here. You can publish for whatever reasons strike your fancy. Nevertheless, it is still important for you to understand the “why” behind your decision to publish; because that why will dictate exactly how much freedom you have in this process.

You see, you as a self-pubishing author are not the only one with freedom in this equation. The reader – your end user – also has freedom, specifically freedom of choice. You have the right to publish whatever you want and to present it to readers for their enjoyment, but each individual reader has the right to pass over your book without a second glance. So if your motivation for publishing is tied to commercial success, your freedoms are limited by what you can expect your readers to accept.

What does this mean? It means that you need to know what your readers want and like, and then you need to give it to them. You are, of course, free to put a picture of a zombie on the front of your recipe book, or to cover your spy thriller in pink hearts and flowers. But you will then be subject to the free choices of an audience who will quickly and quietly move on to something that looks more like the books they want to read.

You are free to finish a first draft, print it out, mark it with a kiss, and declare your work complete. You are free to argue that the nuggets of gold that are found in your writing more than make up for the 22 typos that can be found in the first chapter, and that no one cares about which version of to/too/two you use in a given sentence. In other words, you are free to publish your unedited, unproofed work. But your readers are then free to write the scathing reviews that come with such shoddy work.

As an independent author you have freedom – more freedom today than perhaps at any other time in our history as writers. However, that freedom comes with responsibilities and consiquences. So if you are serious about your writing, if you want to be treated like a professional, make sure that you’re acting like a professional. Don’t abuse the freedoms you’ve been given. Treat them as something precious and special – something to be treasured – because that’s precisely what they are!