The Speech Wiz says, "Behind every excuse you give is a reason asking you to own it."

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"An excuse becomes an obstacle in your journey to success when it is made in place of your best effort or when it is used as the object of the blame."
Bo Bennett

Can you imagine walking into a meeting with a major client and instead of beginning your presentation you pause and say the following, “You may not believe this, but my dog ate my thumb drive and I will not be able to make my presentation today.”

I trust you cannot imagine yourself actually saying anything like this, but I have been in large public forums where I have heard speakers basically say something similar. I have also been in classrooms where students have offered the modern-day equivalent of “my dog ate my homework”. You know the one. It gets used a lot in business too. Can you guess it?


OK, I’ll relieve your befuddlement. Tell me if you’ve ever heard this famous excuse in place of actual performance, “My hard drive crashed.”

This leaves me wondering, why is it so easy for people to make excuses for their shortfalls and so hard instead for them to offer a reason for the outcome?

Do you know what the difference is between an Excuse and a Reason?

Read on and I’ll explain.


Things happen in life, some by intention and so many more by accident. By its very definition an accident is “an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause”. So, let’s be clear on something, there is no such thing as an intentional accident. An accident has no deliberate cause, but it does have a reason.

Because accidents happen so frequently, many people find it convenient to use an accident as an excuse. “I was late to the wedding because I accidentally burned my shirt while ironing it.” An accident is not an excuse. An accident is a reason. Inside every excuse is a reason screaming to be free. The hidden reason in this accident might sound something like this, “I was late to the wedding because I accidentally burned my shirt while ironing it because I was engrossed in the big game and forgot to look at the shirt until I smelled smoke.”

A pure accident is one that occurs to you in which you have no role other than to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Most of us call this “bad luck”.

The old adage says, “Everything happens for a reason.” It does not say, “Everything happens by excuse.” There are many things we classify as an accident and leave it at that. We either lack the resolve or the intention to prevent a repeat of this event in the future. This type of behavior meets the now classic definition of insanity, “doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results”. In truth, we might find that many accidents have very clear reasons for their happening that are simply the result of poorly focused or missing intention. However, what we can choose to extract from any accident is the way we react to it. The most important outcome we can harvest from an accident is to understand the reason of its cause and how we might play a role in preventing future occurrences.


An Excuse is “a reason put forward to conceal the real reason for an action; a pretext.” This can be stated another way, an excuse is “the explanation of an event in which the outcome is someone else’s fault”.

“My dog ate my homework” is an excuse offered as a reason to quickly absolve a person of responsibility for the outcome and neatly shift the blame to a defenseless creature.

People will even offer an excuse and frame in terms of an accident. “Dinner is late because I “accidentally” forgot to take the meat out to defrost in time to cook it.” There is no accident here, just a lame excuse that makes the giver seem helpless against the forces of nature. Forgetfulness is not an excuse. Who is at fault here, the freezer for effectively doing its job or the cook for forgetting how to do theirs?

Every excuse, real or imagined has a reason looking for someone to own it.


A Reason is, “a cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event.” Another way to put this is a reason is “the explanation of an event in which the outcome is your responsibility”.

Excuse: “My dog ate my homework.”

Reason: “My dog ate my homework because I was careless, dripped some hamburger juice on it and left it on the floor near his bowl.”

There is always a reason behind every excuse you give asking you to own it. An accident has a cause and you may have a role in it by way of intention or lack of it that will constitute the reason for its cause.

A few years back I went to a major speaking event with one of my clients so that she could study and learn what are the best and worst skills being practiced in the speaking industry. We watched and listened to a lot of speakers that day. A few were very good, some were okay, and a few were just terrible. I don’t want to go into to everything we witnessed that day, but I will highlight one of the speakers.

This speaker, a well-known real estate mogul from a popular television show, took the stage and then proceeded to fumble her way through her PowerPoint presentation. About one-third of the way through she began to offer an excuse for the problem she was having. “Oh, I’m really sorry, but I just got these new slides from my designer late yesterday and this is the first time I am seeing them.”

Ouch! How lame is that excuse. How insulted would that make you feel if she were making you a presentation on a big pricey piece of real estate?

I listened to her excuse loud and clear, but what I really heard was this reason, “I am way too over-stretched at the moment and I probably should not have even taken on this speaking engagement because I just did not have the time to prepare. But, they offered me so much money I couldn’t say no. So, I thought I would just show up and, because you all love me sooooo much, you would give me a bye if I screwed up completely.” This is what I call a poor excuse of a speaker.


Speakers and leaders can profit from offering reasons instead of excuses. When you offer an excuse, it changes nothing. It does not assure your audience or those you lead that you are making a commitment to preventing a repeat outcome of an event or actions.

As popular motivational speaker Bo Bennet says, “An excuse becomes an obstacle in your journey to success when it is made in place of your best effort or when it is used as the object of the blame."

Nothing succeeds like success, and nothing will help you succeed faster than having fully focused intentions and doing everything by reason. Success is not an accident, so stop making excuses for the things that don’t go as planned.

When you take responsibility for the outcomes of events, people will trust you, believe you and follow you with conviction and commitment. When you take responsibility for the outcomes of events you will grow, trust and believe in yourself, your goal and your future.

My reason for sharing this blog with you is to help you step off of the easy road of excuses and onto the harder, surer road of reasons. Speaking and leading with intention is never an accident and always leads to a pleasant journey followed by a delightful destination.

I deeply appreciate your support as a reader of my blog and I eagerly welcome any comments on this post or suggestions you might have for a future blog on a topic near and dear to you in the comments section below. As always, please feel free to share this post with a friend or colleague.

To Your Speaking Success,
The Speech Wiz