[April 10, 2014] In the U.S. Army we are fond of saying the “maximum effective range of an excuse is zero meters.” This is a play on words that harks to the effective killing range of a weapon system. I learned this the hard way when, on my first day as a platoon leader, several of my unit’s armored vehicles would not start. Good military leaders will tell you that one of their best pieces of advice is to never give an excuse for failure.
We’re told to “suck it up, learn from the failure, and move on.” Yet contrary to this advice, when questioned by my company commander who was my immediate boss, I gave the excuse that this particular day was only my first day on the job – and it was my first day. After a considerable ass chewing I learned a valuable lesson; if we’d been in combat many people would have died because I neglected to check the vehicles.
“And oftentimes excusing of a fault, Doth make the fault the worse by the excuse.” – William Shakespeare
The only value in giving such a poor excuse was that I never again made that mistake. For a new and very junior officer the lesson was of considerable value but I should have never made it in the first place. I was a reader of military literature, schooled at the best Infantry course in the world, and an avid player of sports; all which acknowledge the value of never making an excuse. It is human nature to push off responsibility and in a moment of weakness I had failed both my platoon and myself.
Whether you are a leader or not, make no excuses is a habit that should never be forgotten. It is not a new concept but it is put to frequent use. As I was returning home from Texas earlier this week, I experienced a rude flight attendant. Without hesitation, the head flight attendant apologized (that’s okay) but went on to excuse the bad performance by telling me that the attendant had trouble at home (inappropriate information). The excuse, of course, didn’t change the behavior.
Make no excuse is always the better choice when confronted with failure. No one ever excused himself to success.
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Good Habits #1: Never Assume Anything: https://www.theleadermaker.com/good-habits-1-never-assume-anything/
Good Habits #2: Walk Around and Talk with People: https://www.theleadermaker.com/good-habits-2-walk-around-talk-people/
Good Habits #3: Read Mission-Related Material: https://www.theleadermaker.com/good-habits-3-read-mission-related-material/
Good Habits #4: Take the Initiative: https://www.theleadermaker.com/good-habits-4-take-the-initiative/
Good Habits #5: Effective Use of Time: https://www.theleadermaker.com/good-habits-5-effective-use-of-time/
Good Habits #6: Show the Human Side: https://www.theleadermaker.com/good-habits-6-show-the-human-side/
Good Habits #7: Speak Properly: https://www.theleadermaker.com/good-habits-7-speak-properly/
Good Habits #8: Transparency: https://www.theleadermaker.com/good-habits-8-transparency/
Good Habits #9: Continuous Learning: https://www.theleadermaker.com/good-habits-9-continuous-learning/