No Excuses

No-you're not excused.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the December 1999 issue of . Subscribe »

Many people daydream about transforming their business ideas into multimillion-dollar companies. But only a few ever take that first step toward fulfilling their entrepreneurial passions. Why? Excuses. Many would-be entrepreneurs construct such compelling cases as to why they can't succeed in business that they never act on their million-dollar ideas.

Here's how it works. Remember the laws of motion from physics class? One of them states that an object at rest stays at rest until acted upon by an outside force. Excuses, like inertia, keep you in your present situation--unless something compels you to move forward.

In 1991, Marianne Szymanski, 32, got the boost she needed to start Toy Tips Inc. by looking at the risks of starting her own business in a different light. "I thought of the idea [for Toy Tips] at age 24 and decided the real risk was not to go for it and later regret what I could have done," recalls Szymanski, whose Milwaukee company researches toys for advertising sponsors. Inspired, she started Toy Tips within three months of getting the idea. Eight years later, Szymanski has become a nationally recognized toy expert, regularly appearing on Good Morning America and CNN's Parenting Today and frequently quoted in parenting and family magazines.

What would Szymanski's life be like if she had allowed herself to make self-limiting excuses? If your passion is to be your own boss, don't let excuses keep you stuck where you are today. Here are four steps to overcoming inertia:

1. Identify your pet excuses. On a sheet of paper, write, "I'd start my own business, but . . . ," and complete the sentence: " . . . I need to stick with a job that pays the bills," " . . . I have no clue how to get started," or whatever immediately comes to mind. Complete the sentence as many times as necessary to put all your excuses on paper. This exercise will clarify the key issues that stand between you and where you really want to be.

2. Change your outlook. When you make excuses, you dwell on the negative--why you can't do something. Instead of validating your excuses, challenge them. Look for reasons you can succeed. When you run up against your weaknesses, brainstorm ways to overcome them. "I don't believe in excuses," says Szymanski. "I call them challenges, and when I see them on the rise, I plan for them and immediately look for solutions."

3. Design an excuse-elimination plan. Suppose one of your pet excuses is that you don't have enough money to start a business. Outline a strategy to get the cash. How much start-up capital will you need? How much can you start saving today, while working at your present job, to get your company up and running six months or a year from now? Consult experienced entrepreneurs, asking them how they've overcome the obstacles you're now facing. The bottom line is that for each excuse, you can create a plan to debunk it.

4. Act now. Once you've designed a plan, go for it. Resist the temptation to dream up excuses as to why your plan won't work. If you're burning inside to start your own business, the best way to succeed is to do as Szymanski did: Focus on what you stand to lose by not pursuing your dream.

Sean M. Lyden (


When you catch yourself saying or thinking "I'd start my own business, but . . . ," stop! Then shift your focus to thoughts that empower you toward your goals by asking yourself such questions as:

  • What qualities do I possess that would help me succeed in my own business?
  • What do I need to improve on to be an effective CEO for my own company?
  • What makes my business idea feasible? What are its weak points? How can I eliminate them?
  • How much money do I need? What financing options do I qualify for? Who do I know that can help point me in the right direction?
  • If I decide not to start my business because I'm worried friends and family would think I'm crazy or irresponsible, what would that worry cost me in terms of lost opportunities and life fulfillment?
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