Lots of lawyers I meet are in a constant state of anxiety because they feel like they aren’t getting enough done – in particular that they aren’t doing enough meaningful things with their life.
The practice of law can be fulfilling, but only if you work it that way. If you just let your career happen around you and gently waft along with the current, then you are absolutely going to need some excuses handy so you don’t feel too bad about yourself.
That’s OK though, because today I’ve got you covered with some purpose built excuses that have stood the test of time to prevent people from actively working on their lives, being productive, effecting change of any kind, or ultimately doing anything meaningful at all.
You can use these excuses, with the necessary modification, on:
- yourself (this is pretty important);
- mum (or mother-in-law, if required);
- your boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse;
- annoying friends who are honest with you;
- bosses and colleagues;
- strangers in the street who point at you and laugh
What are we Talking About?
Although these excuses can help in many situations, they are primarily to be used when confronted with the possibility that there is something more for you to do in life than turn up to the office.
Ever thought about starting a charity? Did you do it? What about making a website – did you do that? What about traveling overseas – did you get there?
Starting a business?
Learning a new skill?
Following a passion that you put to one side?
If you haven’t done those then what, exactly, have you done recently?
Obviously making excuses is an important talent when confronted with these missing elements from our lives. Because without the excuses, you might have to actually get in an do something important, rather than just tell yourself that you can’t.
I’ve tried to cover the field, but if you have any more excuses you’d like to add to the list, please feel free to throw some in the comments.
1. I Haven’t Got Time
As lawyers we love to say how busy we are, working on important stuff and generally spending 29 hours a day in the office plugged into the caffeine drip.
So this excuse is really purpose made for us and it’s a doozy. Everyone will believe you because they assume you’re telling the truth.
I mean, just because you go out twice a week to drinks and stay out until midnight, sleep in on the weekends until midday and watch every episode of 6 different TV series is kind of irrelevant, right?
2. I Need to Focus on My Career
Ah the career oriented one. After all, we are on a constant curve, striving desperately towards partnership and that is our one and only goal in life – to become a partner in a firm.
Any slight deviation from that laser-like focus could derail us for years, if not decades, from achieving that goal.
You should definitely follow the same path as all the other lawyers around you. Because there is safety in numbers.
3. I Haven’t Got [The Thing] I Need
I can’t start a podcast because I don’t have a microphone. I haven’t got a studio so I couldn’t record anything for Youtube.
I can’t email that important person I’d like to touch base with, because I don’t have their email address.
I can’t propose to my girlfriend because I don’t have a house, a car, a good career, and I haven’t traveled the world yet.
There’s always something missing if you think hard enough about it – and if you tell yourself often enough it can become absolutely essential that you have X before you even think about starting Y.
4. Person X Hasn’t Done what they Said
AKA “it’s not my fault, it’s theirs”.
I can’t buy the plane tickets because the travel agent never called me back. I haven’t done that thing you asked because my secretary didn’t print something out.
Sound familiar? Shifting the burden to be someone else’s problem as frequently as possible is a good strategy to ensure that the ball is never, ever in your court.
5. I’m Too Busy with X
This is similar to “I haven’t got time” but with this one you can point to a specific reason. Thing X could be any number of fantastic excuses to avoid taking deliberate action in your life. Common examples include babies, family (including spouses and children), work commitments, golf and tennis.
As with the other one, it’s best not to mention in the same conversation about how you were watching Game of Thrones over the weekend.
6. My Family is My Top Priority
This is a good one because no-one in their right mind will call you on it as they would seem callous and cold-hearted if they did.
Naturally your family doesn’t keep you off the golf course, or away from your email at home, or from the pub with your friends, or interfere with your latest movie watching. But that’s OK – provided they are your top priority.
7. I Haven’t Finished Planning Yet
We love planning, and it’s a wonderful road block in any process that requires us to actually achieve something. The good part about the planning process as an excuse is that you can also rely on some other excuses in this list in the same breath like “haven’t got time” and “Person X hasn’t done what they said”.
Of course your plan is probably a 5 year plan and in fact you haven’t even picked up the phone to find out if your business name is a trademark infringement yet – but that’s OK, because you need to ensure that you have built a colourful spreadsheet to show what might happen should the planning phase ever end and the implementation actually begin.
8. It’s a Work In Progress
You’ve started – woohoo! This one is a good follow up to the “haven’t finished planning” excuse because it looks like you’re making progress.
After a time the “I’m still planning” excuse becomes a little stale if you use it too much on the same people, so you can then progress to this one.
This is a lot like when a client asks you how the letter you said you’d write for them is going, and you say “it’s underway” which means “I’ve printed out all your instructions and they are sitting on my desk somewhere”.
9. My Life is Complicated at the Moment
Everyone’s life is complicated so this one is good because, again, it has the ring of truth to it. It also avoids the possibility of further discussion on the topic because there aren’t many people who actually want to “get deep” enough with you to find out just how complicated your life is and exactly what you meant when you said that.
10. I’ve got Too Many Urgent Things to Do
The Tyranny of the Urgent – a wonderful excuse. The beauty of it is that the urgent tasks actually never finish. They are just on a sliding scale of slightly urgent to really urgent, and so you will always have too many urgent things to do which keep you from doing anything important.
11. That’s Not My Job
Similar to “person X hasn’t done what they said” this is good when you really just don’t want to do the important thing at all.
In a sense it’s like getting up on the roof to clean out your gutters – everyone knows it needs to be done, but really someone ELSE should do it, right?
12. I Don’t Have Permission
This is good if your important and meaningful task is inside a corporate context. There’s always somebody from whom you can say you need permission. I need to run it past “Bob” or “Jane” or “Mary”.
Of course Bob, Jane and Mary don’t know this yet and you haven’t spoken to them, but that’s OK because you are impeded from doing anything until somebody gives you permission to get started.
13. It’s Too Risky
I catch a bus to work – I’m concerned that one day the bus will tip over because they are much higher than cars, but nonetheless I take that risk because I know I need to get to work.
That’s about as risky as we lawyers should get though.
Definitely don’t stick your neck out for anything.
Certainly don’t take any financial risks, because no business person ever succeeded by taking a risk.
Obviously you shouldn’t risk embarrassment by making a telephone call or sending an email that was anything other than completely predictable – those things are just silly.
14. It’s Not Perfect Enough
This goes hand in hand with planning, and is a good one if you are looking to avoid developing a product or new kind of service. Just because there’s a book about the Minimum Viable Product doesn’t mean that the author or the many people who have successfully done things on a shoestring know what they are doing.
No – definitely anything you do must absolutely be ironed within an inch of its life, completely and utterly finalised without any missing detail and have the input of 100 different stakeholders before you can action it.
15. I’m Fine How I Am
This is a personal growth related excuse, for those who feel that reading comic books, drinking heavily and listening to music is more productive than reading non-fiction or learning new skills.
Because you’re pretty much OK – right? I mean, you do OK, don’t you?
16. I Don’t Know the Right People
This is a good road block in a connection world, because not knowing people in today’s economy is a critical problem.
17. My Idea Isn’t Original Enough
In order for any idea to succeed, it has to be completely original, right? It’s not like you could take an existing idea, give it your voice and your personal spin, hustle hard and make something work.
Because there’s only 1 online book seller.
And only 1 coffee shop franchise.
There’s only 1 law firm, brand colour, logo design business, copywriter, CLE service, motivational speaker, financial advisor and business consultant.
Nope there’s nothing like that – you need an original idea, not just to do something authentic, different and high quality that adds value to people’s lives.
18. I’m Worried About What [X] Will Say About It
The variable here can work for everyone. Mothers, fathers, spouses, bosses, colleagues, friends, cousins, aunties and church members are all good places to start.
It should be someone who has a habit of judging others and their choices so that it’s believable. Other than that, you not wanting to hurt somebodies’ feelings but them judging you for going out on a limb is a pretty good reason not to “commence to start” right?
Of course if this is a real concern and not just a convenient excuse, then clearly it’s unacceptable for you to approach that person and speak with them about it. Because that’s just silly.
19. [X] Said It Wouldn’t Work
Connected with the one above, this is where someone who cares has proactively expressed an opinion about your hair-brained scheme.
“You can’t renovate a house, you don’t know what you’re doing!”
“You shouldn’t go into business, you don’t know the first thing about it”
“I didn’t pay to put you through law school so you could throw it all in the toilet”
See how compelling these are?
20. I Started but I Hit a Wall
You got up and running and it was great, but then something went wrong, ruining your chances of success forever.
Your website crashed.
Your partner left you.
Your investor pulled out.
Obviously you can’t just start over – I mean, nobody has ever done that before, right?
21. I’m Not Smart Enough
You don’t have a way with words. You can’t write sales copy. You don’t know how to run a website, start a business, register a trademark or any of the “essential” things (see numbers 3 and 7 above).
In short – you’re just not good enough.
Generally this is for the “business on the side” or the “start a charity” style goals, but it can work in a variety of areas if you tweak it just right.
22. [X] Tried That and it Didn’t Work Out for Them
My uncle’s friend started an online business trying to sell widgets and it didn’t work out.
Bob (you know – Bob) he tried to get something off the ground raising money to feed the homeless, but he couldn’t get any support.
It’s not hard to find somebody who failed at a similar thing to what you want to do. Just Google it and you’ll have enough anecdotes to stop you from doing anything, ever.
23. I’m Too Tired – I deserve a Break
I know – I’m tired too, I should definitely rest.
How long would you like? 1 year? 5 years?
Perhaps if you rest long enough, you could retire after you’ve finished resting, and have a nice rest from it.
Got Any More?
Where are your excuses – I want to hear the best ones in case I need them – in the comments below, if you please.