Excuses are the Tools of the Incompetent
Last night my daughter came downstairs. She was doing her laundry and on top of her laundry basket she had a picture and she handed it to me in a sort of, hey, what do you think? Sort of way. She didn't say, what do you think? But she handed it to me. And immediately when I took it into my hands, I saw that it was this really delicate painting she had created. My daughter's 14 and on the piece of paper was this really beautifully intricate, watercolor painting of flowers and vines. And I don't say beautiful, intricate just cause she's my daughter. It really truly was this delicate painting of flowers and vines and flowers that were purple and flowers that were red and flowers that had, the the center of the flower. I forget what it's called. It's a pist or stamen something like that, that were yellow and these different colors. And she said, Hey, you know, huh?
I said to her, this is really beautiful. She said, yeah, it's kind of like childlike.
And she started putting the work down and I said, no, no, no wait, wait. First of all, a child doesn't work in watercolors. This, this depthly and delicately, anybody who has ever worked in watercolors, and I'm by no means of visual artists, but anybody who has worked in water colors, we'll know that water colors is one of the most challenging mediums in painting to work with because when you mess something up, it just, it's messed up. There's no getting around it. And so I began to tell her, look, no, no, no, you did this. Look at these details here and how delicately you did this and how the colors are complementary and how every single flower in a different way, shape and form and size has these details in it. And then she did this sort of, in order to cover the negative space around what she was doing. She did this sort of, you know, when you flick your paintbrush with your finger and you pulled the bristles back and then you let them flip forward in the paint flies onto the canvas. Or she did that, but she didn't overdo it and it was gorgeous.
It really, it really was lovely. And she brought it down to me to show me and to, you know, the, the sort of, the reason why, one of the reasons why any way behind her bringing it down was to get some encouragement to get my approval.
And I noticed something and I told her, I'm like, hey, you're onto something here. This is really great because a few weeks before she brought down this other watercolor painting that she had did, which was this picture of the sky, but it was of the sky as though you were laying on the ground on your back and looking up and above. You are these telephone wires stretching across and you see the pole and there's the telephone wires and the clouds are these patchy clouds that you can see. I shouldn't say they're patchy clouds, but you can see blue sky through the clouds. It's one sort of cloud mass. It has these openings in it where you can see the blue sky through the clouds. I said to her, this, this is gorgeous when I saw it. And she really does have the more than the beginnings of great ability in visual arts.
And so when she brought it down to me, she just was like, no, I don't think it's really that great. Oh, it's childlike. And she started making all these excuses and it brought to mind a phrase that my father told me when I was younger and has told me he's so great at coming up with these phrases and it's used them all throughout his career. My father was chief of police in Atlanta for many, for five years, I believe, five or six years. And he was a police officer in Atlanta for 33 years. And he's still very much active in the political scene there. And he has run and been a part of one of the most challenging jobs, being a police chief in a major urban area, major city. And one of the things he told me was this, excuses are tools of the incompetent. Excuses are tools or excuses are the tools of the incompetent. I understood that as best I could when I was younger and I would make excuses as to why some homework wasn't done or why didn't do this or why I didn't do that. But it really hasn't struck me until I become an adult and, and I really didn't delve into, wait a minute, what incompetent means. I thought incompetent means you just can't do something. You're just not able to do something. But when I looked at the definition of what the word incompetent means, it's this incompetent means not having or showing the necessary skills to do something successfully. Interesting. I always thought you just couldn't do something. You're incompetant. And persons incompetent, they are unable, they just can't do it. There's no way around it. But really incompetent means not having or showing the necessary skills to do something successfully. And it's easy to slough that off and say, Oh yes, it's..You can't do something. You just don't have the skills. But how that relates to what we do as artists and performers. Don't we don't we all the time, don't you recognize or can you recognize? Can you think of a time? Probably recently when we've worked really hard, we've studied, we've worked to create something, be it a performance or a piece of art, whether it's in the visual, the, the or the, the, the stage medium or, or in vocal arts or in the, the dance, the movement arts. We've worked hard and we studied to create this thing and before we even begin to show it, whether it's for our friends or our family or actual people who we want to get a job from, how many times have we made excuses before we even begin? Well, you know, this is just something that I threw together or you know, I didn't really have, a lot of time I didn't this, I didn't know. Yeah, haven't you done that? I know I have. Or just equally as damning, I guess. You know, haven't we done and or shown our piece of work and when we look to see what people's reactions are, we make a face like, Ooh, like, sorry, was that any good? I'm not sure. Oh, that felt really bad. I'm not sure. I know I have and in essence. What we are doing is we're putting ourselves down before or after.
We've, we've put out are, are, are a piece of ourselves to the world and look, I understand. Believe me, there is a severe vulnerability. There is, there's something to be said and the reason, one of the things about being an artist is that we are these open creatures who have to put our hearts, our minds, our bodies, our souls out there in a way that someone who's sitting behind a desk and bless them. Nothing wrong with that, but someone who's sitting behind a desk and he just has to do a set amount of work in a set amount of time, doesn't necessarily have to put out their heart, soul, mind, body in the way that we do. There are plenty of Joby jobs where people have to be creative and have to put themselves out there. I'm not putting that down, but when it comes to the arts, we have opportunity after opportunity after opportunity. And the people who are the most successful are the people who do put their hearts, their minds and their spirits and their souls out there for everyone to see. So I get it. I understand why we make excuses and make faces and just but think about it. Excuses are tools of the incompetent. If we believe that, if we take that into heart, that it doesn't make sense to make excuses unless we do not have or show, the necessary skills to create a successful or to do something.
Create a successful performance. And I would challenge you to say that many of us have worked very hard, studied very hard for years, sometimes decades to develop the skills we have them. And if we don't have them, we have the opportunity every single day till grow and learn and develop our skills. But there is a certain amount of skills that we have, period. So the excuses need to stop. I would challenge you to stop making excuses for yourself because really, at the end of the day, what's behind all of that? The intense fear. One of the things that's behind that, but I would say the root of it for me at least is the intense fear that here I have put my soul by heart, my mind, my everything out there and it's going to be rejected. That people aren't going to like it and then people aren't going to value it in the way that I do. And that rejection, that devaluation of my spirit, heart, mind, soul is then going to affect me in a way that lessens my own self worth. Now that may not be exactly what it is for you, but I feel like it's, it's there. That's a facet of it, at least for a lot of artists cause we're sensitive about our stuff. You know, that's part of the beauty of art. And like I said in the podcast before this, you know, there's a unique interpretation of life. Each one of us has, and like our fingerprints, they're all different. Yes we will. We, the majority of us rather have fingers and hands that's similar, right?
But that, those details, the swirls and the lines of our fingerprints are all unique. There's no one else in the world literally that has the fingerprint pattern that you do.
And the same thing applies for our art. 1,000 people can walk into an audition room give an audition performance for the same 16 bar cut and you will get a thousand different performances. Some will be similar, but none of them will be exactly the same. And so the fear of rejection, the fear of devaluation causes us to make excuses and to put ourselves down before we even put our work out there. And now imagine in any other circumstance, you know, if you go into an audition, you in essence are selling your goods to the people on the other side of the table. And that audition is a sales pitch and you want them to buy. We'll imagine you were going out to buy a car and the car salesman comes up to you and when you walk onto the lot and you're, you're looking at, you know, uh, this sports car or whatever kind of car you want to get. And the salesman walks up to you, says, hey, how are you doing today? I see you are looking at this car. Let me tell you, it's not really that great for gas mileage and you know, this paint could be a better color.
And the, you know, the Interior, oh man. You know, we really, we, we the, the manufacturers, they put it together pretty quickly. But you know what, let me tell you, you're going to love it. This is, this is a really good car. I mean, it could be better. It could be, but, but you know what? I think you should buy this car, gas mileage. It's, it's, it's okay. You know, but we worked, we worked really hard to make the gas mileage good. But then I'm not really sure about it. Would you buy that car? Most likely not. So why are you going to sell yourself the same way?
Why are you going to shape people's opinions about what it is that you're doing before you even put the work out there? That's what you're doing when you make those faces. Are you, uh, and hem and haw before you do something, you are setting people up to feel the way you feel in that moment, which is kind of crappy or less than before you even begin. And then when you do it after make those faces and like, oh that wasn't, you know, instead of giving you the praise or notes or whatever, that person has to babysit you in essence and be like, oh no, no, no. Hey, it was good it was great. No, no, no, I, yeah, and then you become their, you know, you, you, you, you become there. Someone that they have to take care of. I want to say their problem. That's not necessarily what I mean, but like your, you're diverting the energy that they could be giving you in terms of helping to either make your performance better with notes or to really just enjoy and embrace and, and just love and praise what it is that you do or have done rather. And instead they got an, Oh my God, what are they going to take care of you?
And I understand, again, look, it really stinks to be rejected. It really stinks to have our art not land and not make people feel the way we feel while we are doing it are while we are creating it and for our vision of success to not align with what happens in reality. So what I would encourage you to do is stop making excuses. Even if you want to make excuses at the beginning or at the end or in the middle, or if you make a mistake, stop. I know it's much easier said than done, but if you go back to one of the podcasts that I put out earlier that says, own every mistake, I think that's what it is. It's been a while. If you truly own every mistake, A, most people won't even notice that you're making a mistake and B, if they do notice you're making a mistake, they'll be like, oh, it's great. They might not think about it consciously, but subconsciously they'll be like, oh, that was a mistake. But you know, they're just, they just glossed right over it. Okay, no big deal. They just, they know they made the mistake with a, they moved on and it didn't affect the rest of their performance. And that gives me hope and courage to know that if they're on stage or if I booked them for this job or whatever it is, that they're not going to fall apart when they make a mistake because everybody makes mistakes all the time and begin to really think about the phrase, excuses are tools of the incompetent. Every time you want to make an excuse, every time you want to put yourself down, every time you want to do that hemming and hawing before or after you put yourself out there. Think about this phrase. Excuses are tools of the incompetent, incompetent meaning not having or showing the necessary skills to do something successfully. And guess what? There are plenty of times why i actually have been incompetent because I did not,
Learn or earn the necessary skills to do what it is that I was doing successfully or because I was afraid or lazy or whatever it was. I did not show the skills that I had learned and earned to do something successfully. So if you mess something up, if you are in fact, in the moment or in the process incompetent, it does not mean that you cannot do something. It just means that you need to gain the necessary skills or mindsets or you need to show the necessary skills or mindsets in order to do that thing successfully. My dogs here and he wants to go out, so I'm going to take him out, but that's all I got for you. Remember, excuses are the tools of the incompetent. Don't be incompetent. Stop making excuses and put yourself out there and own what it is that you do. Own every single mistake that you make, own every single success that you have.
Stop making excuses and own it because you've worked hard for it and it's like a muscle. It's like a muscle. The more you work at, the bigger it gets.