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  • 01.20.15

The 6 Excuses Preventing You From Designing A Better World

What’s holding you back from doing your very best work?

Think of your biggest goal in life. You know the one I’m talking about: the super-secret one that you’ve only told a few people about because it’s so exciting and nerve-wracking. The goal that you would give up everything to pursue. Maybe it’s an entrepreneurial venture or something big that you want to achieve at your organization. Achieving this goal would change your world; maybe even the world. It could be huge and give you a legacy to leave behind.

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So why aren’t you doing it?

Let me guess: you don’t have the time or money. Perhaps you have too many responsibilities, no one has ever done it, or you’re not smart enough. Maybe you’ll do it when you have X or don’t have Y. But really you know you can make the time, find the money, and get the allies and ammo you need to compensate for what you don’t know.

Excuses are what really stand in your way, preventing you from getting what you really want. But excuses are just stories that we invent about people and circumstances to defend our behavior, avoid doing something, or just get out of thinking big. The fear might be one of failure, embarrassment, success, change, uncertainty, or even growth and responsibility.

The first step to overcoming your excuses is to recognize when they show up in your life. Here are six personas that use flimsy excuses that you should avoid becoming at all costs:

1. The Blamer

It’s never your fault or responsibility. You’re never the one left holding the bag. And if you are, it’s not your fault. You’re quick to place responsibility with others and jump from one company to the next, never staying long enough to develop a record of successes or failures. In clients, this manifests as blaming the politics, red tape, size of the organization, budget, timeline, team, technology (and on and on). In consultants, blamers point to client personalities, project scope and power company rules. The idea is that you blame something externally when you’re just not pushing yourself internally.

2. The Brat

You have an eau de entitlement. Things should be easy: the job, project, whatever. You’ve worked hard on my degree and had some success, so now it’s just gonna rain because you say so. I interviewed a brat this morning–he was too cool to create a portfolio and spent most of the hour name-dropping or giving short answers on his previous projects because he believed that his reputation should just speak for itself. For you, it may show up when you feel like you shouldn’t have to work at something. This should be easy, given to you. You deserve it. You’re special.

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3. The Bullied

You’re the victim. You are not the bully; you are the person who is letting yourself be taken advantage of. You’re not the best developer. You don’t have enough tenure here. You’re just an intern. Your boss would flip or doesn’t like you. The one I see most is when graduating students feel they didn’t learn enough in college to get the job they want.

4. The Sheep

You go with the flow, holding fast to a herd mentality. You aren’t necessarily scared to put forth your ideas or fight for an idea, but you are certainly more comfortable with upholding the status quo and making sure it’s smooth sailing. Sheep often wait to chime in after it’s clear which way the room is swaying. In design, sheep look at best practices to see what others are doing first. In research, sheep ask the safe questions and use safe methodologies that clients feel comfortable with, even if the methodology is faulty.

5. The Slacker

At first glance, you could be seen as a sheep. The key difference is that the slacker is simply not ready to shine yet. You’re procrastinating, worried, scared, lazy, or too cool to take any action. Really, you’re just not confident in your idea, so you ignore it and put it off. If you don’t try, then you’re not risking anything or going to be asked to risk anything. You are waiting for the right time. You use a lot of “later,” “soon,” “when,” “once,” and “if” words and phrases in your sentences. For example, “I’ll leave my job once I save more money.”

6. The Square

You love the lines that make up a box: rules, regulations, clear boundaries, and job descriptions and responsibilities. You use those to defend why you can’t innovate and do the crazy things that would truly make you happy. You use the truth as your defense. You state facts that no one can argue with: “This is a Fortune 200 finance company, and it takes time to innovate.” “We don’t have enough designers.” “We didn’t plan for research in the project plan.” My favorite one from entrepreneurs is “I don’t have the money.” But what if you borrowed money? What if you implemented your plan in phases? What if you saved more money by not spending in other ways?

One or more of these probably resonates with you. Are you feeling defensive or skeptical? This truly isn’t about judging you or creating insecurities. My goal is to help people solve problems with creativity.

Fear drives decisions, shutting down opportunities for creativity, innovation, and success. Selfishly, my hope is that if we teach people that these exist, then they can identify them, handle them, and ultimately get to work. That way, we are all inspired to solve cooler, complex, meaningful problems and change the world.

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Mona Patel is founder and CEO at Motivate Design, a user experience and design thinking agency, and the recruiting firm, UX Hires.

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program.

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