No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline


No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline
Author: Brian Tracy
Publisher: Carroll & Graf
Published: 5/25/2010
You don’t need to have been born under a lucky star, or with incredible wealth, or with terrific contacts and connections, or even special skills...but what you do need to succeed in any of your life goals is self-discipline. Unfortunately, most people give in to the two worst enemies of success: they take the path of least resistance (in other words, they’re lazy) and/or they want immediate gratification: they don’t consider the long-term consequences of…

Book Summary - No Excuses by Brian Tracey

What You’ll Learn

  • How excuses keep you from living your best life.

  • How to prioritize your day so that you accelerate towards your goals.

  • The best way to take control of every aspect of life.

Who Should Read This

  • Anyone afraid to pursue their dreams.

  • Those interested in better time management.

  • People who struggle to delay gratification and plan for the future.

Key Insights

In this book, Brian Tracey asks us to rethink the role of excuses in our life; maybe they’re the only thing truly holding us back. He details ways to take control and make progress towards our goals in everything from relationships to money to physical fitness. Once you reject excuses, understand your goals, and start taking responsibility you’ll find a lot more room for progress.

Key Points

Successful people know that excuses only hold you back.

Think of the most successful people in your life. Maybe they’ve accrued wealth and found happiness and renown. What are they doing with their days that’s different? How do they get around the obstacles in life that seem to keep us from thriving?

Tracey starts the book by arguing that it’s their self-discipline that sets them apart. These are the people who eat “dinner before dessert” and sacrifice short-term pleasures for long-term outcomes. By hunkering down and working hard on career and happiness goals, anyone can pull away from the pack in this way.

The excuses we make for why we aren’t successful are endless. Maybe we believe that our parents didn’t teach us the right things or that the economy is too difficult to navigate. In reality, most people face these problems, but some people manage to reach the goals they set for themselves despite everything.

The author explains that he too spent his younger life making excuses. When he was 21, he worked in construction, felt chronically lonely, lived in a tiny apartment, and barely made enough to pay his rent. One night, sitting alone in his apartment, he had a realization. He was the only person who could change his situation. This acknowledgment was the first step towards a new life.

Tracey started studying self-help books religiously. He learned that his unhappiness was coming from his tendency to blame everyone but himself for his circumstances. After accepting that he was responsible for his success, or lack thereof, he started to take control of his life.

Tracey writes that learning and practicing principles of self-discipline can help us become the kinds of people we dream of being. Disciplined people tend to have higher self-esteem since they can control their story and know they deserve everything that’s coming to them. It’s extremely empowering to have a sense that you can change any situation that’s non-ideal.

Tracey divides our goals into three categories: personal success; business, sales and finances; and personal life. He argues that these are the areas that you can transform through self-discipline.

Define precisely what success means to you and commit it on paper.

Before setting out on a journey of self-discipline, Tracey asks us to come up with clearly defined goals. Dream up an ideal life in the areas of work, family, health, and finance. Where do you see yourself? With who? What meaningful work are you performing? Be specific. For example, how much money do you want exactly?

Tracey writes that committing your goals on paper helps you understand where to focus the majority of your energy moving forward. Next to each goal, write down realistic deadlines.

Next, write down all the things you’d need to do to achieve your goal. What obstacles will be in your way? What skills or confidence will you need to overcome these obstacles?

Finally, choose which tasks seem most important and start adding them to your calendar and daily schedules. It’s important to do something every day towards your goals.

As you set out on your life-changing journey, consider people who’ve achieved exactly what you want. Read biographies and go to conferences and workshops led by these people. What specifically did they do to beat the odds? Let these stories inspire you and inform you where to spend your time.

Understand what your ideal character traits are.

Understanding your material goals is helpful, but Tracey writes that becoming self-disciplined is also about becoming the sort of person we admire. Who are the sorts of people you admire? What traits do you more respect about them?

Tracey breaks our character into three parts: the self-ideal (the person you want to be), the self-image, (how you see yourself), and self-esteem (how you regard yourself). Once your self-image aligns with your self-ideal, or in other words, your actions start to align with your values, you will have high self-esteem.

Come to terms with which character traits you want to practice every day to help bring your ideal-self closer to reality. How do these people behave? How could you be behaving differently so that you feel a sense of integrity and sincerity?

Fear of failure could be a major excuse in your way.

Tracey explains that oftentimes, the fear of failure holds us back from pursuing our dreams. Maybe we’re afraid of not making enough money or risking the money we have saved. Although fear can have a stronghold on us, it’s possible to unlearn them with a little discipline.

He recommends writing a “Disaster Report”, a four-step process for understanding our fears and putting them into perspective. Start by describing the fear clearly. Then, write down the worst-case scenario and follow that with solutions to it. So you lose all your money in the stock market? You can find a job and start again. Once we’ve confronted the worst outcome, we’ll realize that it isn’t the end of the world.

After this, brainstorm ways to prevent the worst-case scenario from happening. This way, when you start chasing your dreams, you’ll feel more confident that you’re in control of your fears.

Tracey also emphasizes that sometimes our fears creep up when we’re not getting where we want to go fast enough. He reminds us that persistence, or sticking to our goals despite fear and uncertainty, is the key to achieving real results.

When you feel yourself struggling to go on, Tracey recommends repeating to yourself phrases like “I am unstoppable!” and “I never give up!”. This way, we remind ourselves that everything takes time and the real winners end up being those that can keep going despite everything.

When we run into problems that are blocking away, Tracey offers problem-solving methods to implement. Consider, “Is this really a problem”, meaning, is this beyond my control, or can I really resolve this on my own? If yes, understand the root of the problem so that you can avoid it in the future. Write out a list of all the possible solutions and choose the one that makes the most sense at the moment. By systematizing your problem-solving this way, you can avoid feeling like you’re in a rut and the only option is to quit.

Develop your skills and manage your time to become excellent in something.

Tracey recalls the Pareto Principle which states that 20% of our work produces 80% of the outcome. He asks us to optimize our days to produce the outcomes we want.

Think of everything you spend time on as an investment. Which activities will produce the most return? Tracey recommends using the “A B C D E Method”. Make a list of all the tasks you have to do in a day and assign each a letter from A to E, ranking their relative importance. Tasks are tasks you “Must do” or tasks that will have major consequences if left uncompleted. B tasks are your “should do” tasks that have lesser consequences. C is the “nice to do” tasks that won’t have any consequences if uncompleted. D tasks should be delegated to others so you can focus on the important work and E tasks should be eliminated entirely.

During work hours, focus on your most productive tasks. This means starting with the A tasks firsts and then continuing down the list. Do your best to eliminate distractions. Being able to set priorities, work on high-value tasks, and have the discipline to finish them quickly and well is the most valuable set of qualities to employers.

In order to do this well, we have to invest in our skill sets. Tracey recommends making “personal excellence”, or our ability to complete our work with excellence, a foremost priority. Start your days a little earlier and commit this time to improve your craft. In your downtime, listen to audiobooks or podcasts about your craft. Soon enough, you’ll get a good understanding of what excellence looks like and where there’s room for improvement in your work.

At the end of every day ask yourself “what did I do right?” and “what can I do better next time?”. This way, you can make sure you’re optimizing your precious time.

To become a great business person and leader, be a lifelong learner, and confident in your mission.

If you don’t work for a company and instead own your own business, self-discipline can help you achieve your goals too. In order to succeed in business, you have to work extra hard (Tracey notes that the average hours worked for business owners are 59 hours a week). Tracey offers the “CANEI formula”, which stands for Continuous and Never-Ending Improvement, as a way to keep business owners motivated.

It can be easy for business owners to become stagnant after their business plans are written. But according to the CANEI formula, business plans should always be changing. You should revise and update your plan on a yearly basis to keep up with changing markets. Do your best to understand your target audience and what unique service you’re selling. Always strive for the highest level of customer service. Measure your performance and adapt based on what you’re learning. You’ll know you’re doing something right when people start recommending your services by word of mouth.

By knowing what your company needs to improve, you’re already on your way to becoming a self-disciplined leader. In developing as a leader, be confident in your purpose and always demand excellence. By being consistent in your thinking and actions, you set a good example for everyone working around you.

Become a financial whiz with the One Percent Formula.

Most people dream of not having to worry about money. This is likely a part of your ideal picture of your life that you wrote down on paper. Tracey offers an easy way to take disciplined steps towards this goal.

Practice self-control by delaying gratification and forcing yourself to save 1% of your income and living off the remaining 99%. Once this is possible, increase savings to 2% and live off 98% of your income. With each incoming check, you train yourself to spend less and stash more away into savings. Eventually, you can save more than you spend and begin to build a big reserve of cash.

Achieve physical fitness by sticking to long-term healthy habits.

Maintaining good health is pretty simple, writes Tracey. It doesn’t have to involve crazy nutrition plans or Olympic training. By exercising regularly (30 minutes a day), eating regular meals, and avoiding snacking and overeating, we’ve taken care of most of the most problematic behaviors affecting our health. Doing this every day, we put ourselves on the path to good long-term health.

Tracey recommends replacing the white flour in our diets with whole wheat and avoiding sugar and salt. He calls this avoiding the “three whites”. Healthy adults should also wear their seatbelt and avoid smoking and drinking in excess.

Relationships are an essential part of your well-being and you should commit to setting aside more time for them and resolving problems as they come.

Relationships are a fundamental part of well-being. You have the power to build strong and happy relationships with everyone in your life, whether it’s a partner, your children, or your friends.

Start by realizing that these relationships should be a priority over most other things; the author gives the example of a friend who cut down on golfing in his life to spend more time with his loved ones. Commit to setting aside more time to nurturing these connections and getting to know one another. At the end of the day, strong relationships will make you happier than anything else.

Tracey also says an important part of relationships is learning to forgive. Many people hold grudges against things their friends said or what their parents did in their childhood. It can be easy to use these as excuses for why your relationships can’t be stronger. It’s important to let these things go in order to reduce the strain on everyone’s life and achieve inner peace.

Tracey talks specifically about ways to improve a marriage. He writes that in a happy marriage, both partners are making an effort to listen. Focus on what your partner is saying without interrupting and think before you respond. If you don’t understand what they mean, ask them to clarify, and then confirm that you understand in your own words. By demonstrating these listening skills, your relationship can only grow stronger.

If you have children, Tracey explains that the most important thing you can do for them is loving them unconditionally. You have to set aside time to be with them and parent them; there is no way around this, and many parents regret not spending enough time. Your job is to make them feel safe and secure so they can experiment and build self-esteem. Your job is also to be a good role model for them. By taking the no-excuses approach to life, you demonstrate how to have self-control and go after your dreams.

With friends, Tracey writes that the key is to treat your friends like you’d want them to treat you. He recommends practicing the “three C’s”: courtesy, concern, and consideration. Treat them with respect and express that you like them and accept them without judgment. Make yourself into someone who is pleasant to be around; criticizers and complainers are difficult to be around.

The Main Take-away

To join the ranks of successful people stop making excuses and take control of your life. Through self-discipline, you can make progress in all the meaningful areas of life. Start by clearly defining your goals and the actionable path to achieving them. Stop blaming other people for your problems and master your craft. Manage your time so you’re only spending time on the most productive and important activities. Use regular discipline to tend your health, business, money, and relationships and you’ll find yourself in a life you never thought was possible.

About the Author

Brian Tracy is a motivational public speaker and self-development author. He is the author of over 80 books that have been translated into dozens of languages including the bestsellers Eat That Frog and The 21 Success Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires. He is the chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company that sells counseling on leadership, selling, self-esteem, goals, strategy, creativity, and success psychology.

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