“I don’t have time,” is the preferred, and default, excuse many of us rush to when requested to explain why we can’t, won’t, didn’t or don’t do what is being asked of us.
And boy, what a handy excuse it is. Except for one tiny problem – it is simply not true.
We all lead busy lives. We often feel like we’re being pulled in many different directions and there never seems to be enough time to do all things we would like to do.
But the reason for not doing these things has nothing whatsoever to do with time; rather, it has everything to do with the importance.
I was recently conducting a workshop when several people presented the, “I don’t have time” excuse to explain why they had not met certain commitments they had made the last time we met as a group.
As I listened to the excuses I was reminded of a young couple I met many years ago.
Immigrants from Vietnam, they arrived in Canada with the one suitcase of clothing between them and $250 in cash.
Within a week of their arrival they had each found a job and within a month were both working two jobs. They also found the time to attend ESL classes and spent what ever free time they had reading books in English.
Over a number of years, they were able to set aside enough money to buy a small business. They purchased a food store and went to work.
He opened the store every morning – seven days a week – at 7 AM and closed it each night at 11 PM.
He then drove home and spent three hours making jewelry.
They had three children and his wife’s mornings were taken up getting the kids ready for school. She would join him at the store at around 10 AM on weekdays and then manage the store while he visited suppliers to purchase inventory.
He would typically return to the store at around noon and she would then spend the next few hours calling on jewelry and gift stores to try and sell them the jewelry they had made the previous evening.
She would then pick up the kids at school and bring them to the store where they would do their homework before attacking their designated chores in the store.
She would leave at around 7 PM to take the children home and prepare them for bed.
On weekends the entire family opened the store together at 7 AM and worked together as a family until early evening when she would take the kids home.
Neither of them were ever without a warm, welcoming smile and over time they built a bustling business with many regular customers.
One tragic evening two drugged-out pieces of human garbage walked into the store, armed with guns. One of them pointed a shotgun at his wife and he immediately stepped in front of her to protect her.
His action did not stop one of these scumbags from pulling the trigger leaving him severely wounded.
He spent a few weeks in hospital while his wife continued to operate the store and manage the family at the same time. She would leave the store for a short while in the trusted hands of a few loyal customers who had offered to help while she visited her husband in hospital.
His wounds required several skin grafts and his recovery was lengthy and painful. Through all of this he did not let up on his schedule and his warm smile never left his face.
One day, while enjoying a cup of his fresh brewed coffee, I asked him why they worked as long and as hard as they did. He didn’t hesitate before answering. “It is important for my family, and where I grew up I learned that if something is important, you must always do it no matter what the price.”
This man understood The Habit of Making It Important and never allowed himself the luxury of making excuses.
Nor did he ever allow pain or fatigue to stand in the way of doing what he believed to be important. He shared with me that he often felt exhausted and that at times the pain from the skin grafts was so excruciating that he could barely stand straight. Whenever that happened he would think of his family and picture himself standing proudly with his wife as each of his kids graduated first from school and then from university.
The Habit of Making It Important that drove him to relentlessly pursue his dream has paid off handsomely for this wonderful couple.
They sold the business a few years ago but not before they were able to show their regular customers those precious graduation photos taken when one of their sons completed medical school and the other two, dental school.
It’s been a number of years since last I saw them, but I know in whatever endeavour they have undertaken since, they would’ve done so with the same zest and commitment because they truly understand the strength behind The Habit of Making It Important.
And they are living proof of its power.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.