A few years ago, I was having a rough patch working for a major area marketing agency. I was asked to take on responsibilities for one of our major clients. This was my first shot at the big time. Yet within a week they wanted me off the business. Kind of a rocky start to the relationship to say the least.
The agency’s president called me into his office and closed the door. There was some yelling, maybe screaming. At one point, I’m pretty sure he straight up asked me “What do you even do here?” Fifteen minutes later, I escaped barely clinging to my job.
In the aftermath, I took a Post-It note and stuck to my desk with a simple phrase written on it. Something that would give me a kick in the pants when I need it. Something that would keep me from having that conversation ever again.
That phrase? “No Effing Excuses”
Pardon my French. Sometimes, you have to be strong to get a point across.
It’s not that I didn’t know what I was doing managing their business. I had been at the firm for a couple years by then and management clearly thought I was worthy enough to plan the marketing for a key account. I had earned that opportunity by handling everything the team could throw my way and always contributing new ideas for other clients. It was clearly time for me to step up.
I just wasn’t kicking it into a higher gear to rise to the challenges presented to me by this new large client. Why? Because I made excuse after excuse.
- I don’t know enough about the situation
- This needs more thought than I can muster
- Let’s try this after lunch/break/the weekend
- First I needed to do X before I can get to it
- I don’t have the time for Y right now
- I really need to concentrate on Z, then I’ll come back
- Let me just read one more article first, then start
In hindsight, none of this was really true. Every single one of these “reasons” was an excuse not to do what was important, put it off until some nebulous future date, or avoid it completely. Whenever a new challenge arose, I would default to doing the same basic tasks that made up my entire career to that point. This is how I found comfort in what was a situation that would otherwise cause anxiety. Not the best strategy when trying to grow professionally.
When I realized this, I got angry. I knew I could do better if I could stop mismanaging my time and priorities and start actually applying myself. Hence the Post-It with No Effing Excuses written on it.
What Excuses Are You Making?
We all have this tendency. It’s called being human. We seek our level because it’s the easy thing to do. Challenges arise and we solve them in the simplest way possible. That doesn’t always mean it’s the right thing to do. It’s just the path of least resistance.
Sometimes these challenges ask more of you than you want to give. Why don’t you give it? Because you have the power to rationalize it in your head. You procrastinate. You reprioritize. You avoid uncomfortable situations in favor of the familiar. It’s okay.
With that said, realizing this was happening was my first step in fixing the problem. The No Effing Excuses Post-It was next. Overcoming the natural tendency to give the least amount of effort possible was the only way to really succeed in the end.
2015 Was Great; 2016 Will Be Extraordinary
Since the point I described, I’ve rebounded nicely. I did end up maintaining a role with that client and dozens more after that incident and even moved up through the ranks at that agency to become second in command. Now, I have a whole new set of challenges running a new marketing consulting business. I can’t afford to make excuses anymore. It’s not fair to my clients.
I still use that same No Effing Excuses message on my desk to amp myself up when I get lethargic. It’s natural. We all need a kick in the pants sometimes. Let this serve as a call for 2016. You don’t need a New Year’s Resolution. You need to stop making excuses and putting off what you know you need to do, whatever that is.
I’m going do to everything I can to make this year extraordinary. To fall short knowing you could do better is to make excuses. After all, to paraphrase a legendary Jedi, “Do or do not, there is no try.”
This year, no effing excuses. Use #YearOfNFE if you wanna join me.