Throughout my life, a parade of cringe-worthy circus-qualified baboons has traveled through the doors of my home. Each baboon would sit on my mother’s couch and share with her (or me, or my sister) its dreams and aspirations . . . and all of the reasons (excuses) it hadn’t achieved said dreams and aspirations yet. Each baboon complained that it didn’t have the proper training to be a better baboon. It didn’t have enough money. It didn’t have the right opportunities.
These baboons looked to my mom for guidance, or, most of the time, for money. “If you could just help me out this once,” the baboon would howl. My favorite was when they would detail their expenses, and then politely reject my mom’s offering of help until she insisted–this way, they weren’t obligated to pay her back because it was, after all, her choice to freely offer the money.
Do you know what’s really funny? One baboon has made something of itself. The others are still squawking about expenses and opportunities. Another favorite: “[Nameless, faceless corporation] cut my hours because [nameless, faceless boss] doesn’t like me.” Yeah, well, considering this has happened to you repeatedly, at different jobs, for 20 years, you might start reconsidering the idea that the boss is the problem.
Yet another favorite: “I’m trying to break into [creative industry], but the opportunities just aren’t available for people like me.” You mean literary agents want someone who’s actually written a piece of original fiction? Or talent scouts want someone who can actually sing?
People come to my mom looking for answers. She is amazing. She is tough. She pulled herself and her two babies out of Hell and fought her way to Heaven. Fairy tales can’t even begin to write princesses like her. She understands the value of hard work, of patience, of dedication, of fiscal responsibility, of family, of education, of compromise, of picking the right battles and choosing wisdom over vanity.
My mom is a candle that burns bright. People want to know how she does it. People want to know how she managed to become the strong one of her siblings. She stopped telling them how much work it takes years ago. She grew tired of listening to their excuses: “I don’t have time to do that,” “My health won’t permit it,” “My husband/wife would never support me.”
That last one, oh, that last one. She can’t stand it. She never used that last excuse, and she had it in spades. The best thing she ever did was keep pursuing her passion, and when her husband left, that was when she really started to move up.
I’ve learned so many lessons from the best mentor in the world. Follow your passion. Let no one hold you back. Invest in your talents. Be intelligent, be wise, be polite, be correct. Be brave.
Nowadays, people come to me. I am, after all, my mother’s daughter. People want to understand how I’ve managed to accomplish what I have, professionally and personally. The first thing I always want to say is, “Well, I’ve worked for it.” Sometimes, they respond, “Well, I’m working too, but you’re getting better breaks than I am.” The truth is, I’m not.
See, people like my mom, people like me, don’t wait around for opportunities. We set a goal and we actively seek out the things that will move us forward. At work, I heard grumblings that the person in charge of scheduling was ready to throw in the towel, so I made it well known that I wanted a shot at it. After a probationary period in which I created a month or so of carefully scrutinized schedules, scheduling was reassigned to me. That’s a huge success for a 22-year-old new hire.
I’ve recently battled with someone about the abundant opportunities in his life, and he employed my biggest pet peeve of all: he determined all of the reasons he would hate these new opportunities if they were handed to him. Maybe it’s a method to keep one from getting his hopes up, but it’s a damn stupid tactic.
It all boils down to this: if YOU, dear friend and darling reader, say that you CAN’T do something, it does not matter what your excuse is. You are exactly right–you CAN’T move forward and you will NEVER move up. But it’s not your excuses holding you back. You are.