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Excuses and Blame

Apr 27, 2023 5:18:31 PM / by Tim McCarthy

“No one cares about your excuses as much as you do. In fact, no one cares about your excuses at all, except you."

When people’s actions have outcomes that don’t line up with how they see themselves, they tend to insulate their egos by blaming other people or unfavorable circumstances. Phrases like, “It was a great idea just poorly executed,” “We did the best we could,” and “We never should’ve been in this situation in the first place,” are manifestations of this self-preserving tendency.


Here’s the thing: it might be true. Maybe it really wasn’t a bad idea, just bad execution. Maybe you really did do the best you could. Maybe you never should have been in that situation in the first place. It doesn’t really matter. No one cares. None of it changes the outcome or solves the problems that still remain.

Just because something happened that was outside of your control doesn’t mean it’s not your responsibility to deal with circumstances the best you can.

“Focus on the next move. The next move makes the future easier or harder.”

I picked this quote up from Farnum Street’s newsletter.  www.farnumstreet.com

Early in my advertising career, I was stunned by the amount of time we would spend deciphering who was to blame for every mistake.  It caused me to make this list below trying to understand how we learned to dodge blame by using excuses.  Do any resonate for you?

  1. Living with hyper-critical people, particularly as you grow up. Nothing makes us feel more anxious or guilty than being constantly reminded we are not perfect.  In my case, it also made me place too much value on other people’s opinion of me.
  2. Judging others, myself. Over time, I had become very good at (and somewhat proud of) seeing the splinter in someone’s eye.  Panic ensued once I noticed the log in my own.
  3. Guilt, the Judeo-Christian noose when poorly understood.  But in proper context, this ethic can be the foundation for a more fulfilling life since it breeds empathy.     
  4. “Irrational confidence”, better known as the need to “be” right. A friend once said to me, “McCarthy, you are often mistaken but never in doubt”.  My need to be right required endless debate and battles, even with those closest to me. Dumb.

Every human being is delightfully imperfect, and the blame game stunts our growth.  My strategy for getting others focused on the next thing is to quickly volunteer “it was my fault”, whether it was or not.  This seems to relieve those I’m working with of any need for excuses. 

Moving to solutions is way more fun than playing “whodunit”. 




Tim McCarthy



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Tim McCarthy

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