I follow a lot of people on twitter, including some whose focus is on personal excellence – a “no excuses” message that can be very motivating. And I agree that we should all push ourselves to be the best we can. But I also think that, unless you have a clear sense of our circumstances, you can set yourself up to fail.

Imagine that you’re a boxer, learning your art and the business of fighting, moving your way up the ranks. You hire a new manager, and he tells you he’s setting up a fight with another boxer. The two of you will split the purse 80/20 and your manager gets his cut. Sounds like a good deal, right?

After signing on, things start to get fishy. You start to get concerned when you see that your support team is giving you bad advice (junk food from the nutritionist, yoga from the trainer) while your opponent is getting excellent guidance. The setup is dodgy, with minimal training facilities for you versus the fully equipped gym your opponent gets. The ring setup favors your opponent as well, with lights set up to shine in your eyes and no support team in your corner. And someone is feeding the other fighter’s team with information on your fighting style, strengths, and weaknesses.

Then the truth comes out: Your manager is also representing the other fighter, and he’s sabotaging your training in order to help the other guy win. You finally realize that the whole thing was rigged.

In a situation like that, you can focus on personal excellence all you want. You can train as hard as you possibly can. But regardless of your personal “no excuses” mantra, the fact is that you don’t have the conditions needed in order to succeed.

I’m all for a focus on personal excellence; just be very aware of your environment when setting your goals. In fact you may decide that your “no excuses” goal is to change the environment itself so that others can go farther.

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