“I Don’t Know How” Is Not a Valid Excuse

April 23rd, 2012 by Steve Pavlina

When you say something like this:

I wish I could write better, but my writing skills aren’t very good.

… many intelligent, self-directed people are actually hearing this:

I wish I could write better, but I’m too lazy and undisciplined to do anything about it. I also have low self-esteem, which prevents me from believing I can correct this deficiency. You should probably avoid me and spend your time with someone more worthy.

As an adult you’re responsible for your own education. If you find it deficient in some area, educate yourself into proficiency.

Many people find their early education lacking when they reach adulthood. No one really knows what knowledge and skills will be important to you later in life. So they guess and they often guess wrong.

My early education was amazing in core subjects like English, math, science, and U.S. and European history. It also did a good job of teaching service to others, self-discipline, and character building. I’m lucky to have attended 12 years of private school, where the standards and quality of instruction were significantly higher than what my public school counterparts experienced. I don’t feel so lucky about all the religious nonsense that was drummed into me, but the secular subjects were taught in top-notch fashion.

As good as it was, my formal education was seriously lacking in other areas like computer programming, psychology, interpersonal communication, public speaking, how to set and achieve goals, how to build courage, and how to build and run a successful business.

Much of the technology I use today didn’t exist when I was in school. The first time I used the Internet was when I started college, and that was in the pre-Web days. I certainly didn’t learn how to make a website or build an Internet business while I was in school.

In order to achieve my goals in life, I had to fill in many gaps in my formal education. This required a disciplined approach to self education. To this day I maintain this same discipline. I regularly identify gaps in my knowledge and skills that could hold me back from achieving my goals. Then I set educational goals to fill in those gaps, and I work step by step to achieve those goals. Usually this involves a combination of reading, connecting with experts and learning from them, and my own experimentation.

Never whine about your lack of skills or your weak education. Never use a lack of know-how as an excuse for not being able to achieve a goal. That’s low class behavior, and it surely won’t help. It’s also a great way to repel successful people from your life. One of my friends refers to such irresponsible loser types as plankton. That’s not a particularly compassionate label, but nor is “I don’t know how” a particularly good reason for failure.

You may feel deficient in some areas. That’s normal. If you feel your schooling didn’t do a very good job, that’s a shame, but it is what it is.

If you don’t know how, learn how. Use that fancy brain that learned how to walk, talk, and read. It’s still capable of further learning, is it not? Of course it is!

If you’re going to get anywhere in life, you must assume 100% responsibility for your ongoing education. Maybe your parents and the school system got you off to a good start. Maybe they didn’t. Whatever happened in that regard, the past is the past. You must now look to the future. Whatever you didn’t learn back then, you can start learning today. A few years from now, you can have the equivalent of a Ph.D in a subject you never studied before. You can master a new language. You can become an expert on a subject in which you’re merely a novice today.

Using “I don’t know how” as an excuse is truly pathetic today. In the information age where you can begin searching for such answers in seconds, this tired excuse only makes you look foolish, lazy, and unworthy of success. Even young children wouldn’t be stopped by such a phony obstacle.

The next time you feel inclined to say “I don’t know how,” say instead, “I’m learning how.” At least have the sense to Google “how to ___.” The information you need to get started is already at your fingertips.

Think about an educational deficiency you’d like to correct, and set a new educational goal right now. What exactly do you wish to learn, and how soon? Then plan out some of the steps you’ll need to take. Identify books to read, courses to take, and experts to talk to. Now get to work and start learning. Start by picking one book, buying it, and reading the first chapter. No more feeble excuses!


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Life on Purpose - A step-by-step process to discover your life purpose

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