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Melissa Shanahan

#151: Be Excuse-Less

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Many of the clients Melissa works with make amazing plans for themselves that they feel crystal clear on. They know their goals inside out, the numbers they’re shooting for, and their priorities for the quarter. There’s a lot of intentionality and purpose, but then they get into the quarter and they find themselves not honoring their plan.

The truth is it’s normal and human to drift away from the things we say are important to us. There will always be slippage as we work on our goals, and we all have that voice in our head that tries to justify quitting, or coming back to this particular task or project at another time. But when we're excuse-less, we don’t have time for any of this. We don’t entertain excuses. It’s simply not what we do.

Listen in this week to discover how to be onto yourself when you’re making excuses. Melissa is highlighting the difference between people who regularly make excuses and people who don’t, and showing you how to start doing the work of becoming excuse-less.

Show Notes:

What You’ll Discover:

The difference between people who don’t make excuses and people who do.

One of the most important things you can do to become excuse-less.

What being excuse-less means and looks like in your day-to-day.

Why quitting on yourself often doesn’t feel like you’re quitting.

How to be onto yourself when you’re making excuses.

What happens when you become excuse-less.

Featured on the Show:

Create space, mindset, and concrete plans for growth. Start here: Velocity Work Monday Map.

#136: Don’t Flake Out On Yourself

Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

75 Hard

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Full Episode Transcript:

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I'm Melissa Shanahan, and this is the Velocity Work podcast, Episode #151.

This podcast is for attorneys who are running their own firms. We explore tactics, tools, and stories related to pushing tasks and simply lawyering well and into building a successful firm. Working in your firm and working on your business are two very different things. This podcast focuses on the latter.

Hey everyone! Welcome to this week's episode. And a special welcome if you are new to the Velocity Work podcast as a listener. I noticed there are more new listeners lately than we've had in the past. I actually don't pay attention to the numbers at all; like twice a year I log in to see what's going on.

But I had to log in recently to Libsyn, which is our podcasting host, and I logged in because I had to get some credentials for someone and check a procedure, and I noticed that the numbers had bumped. And I was like oh, that's interesting. In a short amount of time, just in the last three months. So if you're new here, welcome to the show.

I'm Melissa Shanahan, I'm the founder of Velocity Work, which is a company set up to facilitate quarterly strategic planning retreats for law firm owners. Though I do work with private clients where we actually meet in person every quarter and get in a room, and I facilitate their strategic planning retreat, most of my clients are in Mastery Group. In Mastery Group, we do this work virtually.

Actually this year we have the chance to do this work in person; some people can opt in to come to headquarters, which is what's happening. Super fun. But typically, turn of every quarter, it's virtual. You get workbooks sent, it's the whole nine yards. It's really well thought out.

And the community aspect inside of that session that we lead once a quarter is remarkable. So everything is centered around that, and then in between retreats, there is accountability and support to honor the plan that you made during the strategic planning session.

So that is, in a nutshell, what we do here at Velocity Work. Law firm owners get more organized, they feel not alone anymore, they're doing this work alongside each other, really growing their businesses alongside one another, and it's a pretty special place.

So if you're interested, you can go to, and there you'll find all the information to join, and then you'll be the kind of owner that at the turn of every quarter is so organized and very clear about what needs to happen in the next quarter, and has accountability and support along the way, which inevitably means you're going to be growing more quickly in the ways that you want to grow.

Well, today, the topic of this podcast is called Be Excuse-less. There's a few reasons I'm doing this at this point, this very point. Here's a couple. Number one: When I'm working with clients and they make these amazing plans for themselves, they've gotten very clear. They know their goals, the numbers they're shooting for specifically, they have their rocks, they know the priorities for the quarter that are going to help get them to their goals. There's a lot of intentionality behind this plan that they make.

And then we get into the quarter. And this is where we build in accountability and support. There is going to be a space, it doesn't matter who you are, that you are not going to feel like honoring your plan. You are going to let your focus drift away from the things that you said was important, you're not going to keep your numbers in front of you in terms of your goals, you're not going to meet on a regular weekly basis on the rocks and the progress and where things stand.

There will be slippage towards the thing that you said you were going to do. It's very normal, it's very human. That doesn't mean something is wrong with you. In fact, it means that something is right, because your brain is working, your brain is doing what it does. All of this happens because of your brain and what your brain is telling you.

And the difference between people who do not have excuses and they follow through no matter what, and the people that don't, is that the excuse-less people know how to manage their brain. And they aren't unicorns. They aren't special. They just are awake now to what it takes to override the default messages that your brain will send in the middle of execution. Middle of execution, I mean the whole quarter you're supposed to be executing your plan. So knowing how to deal with that is important. And there's a couple things we'll talk about today before I get into that.

In terms of the nuts and bolts of being excuse-less, one of the most important things you can do is find accountability for yourself. Because if you can do that, if you can find a place where the accountability is high, and it's no joke, excuses aren't okay. So you can't just have a group you show up to and you say, “No, I didn't get this thing done,” and it's like, “Oh, better luck next time.” No. We're going to dissect the hell out of that.

Why didn't it get done? Do you like your reasons for why it didn't get done? And if you don't, okay, let's look at how can we make sure that this doesn't happen again? How do you need to prepare differently? Do you need to calendar time differently? Did you leave out something really important that took too much time before you could sink into the thing?

You have to dissect it so that you're onto yourself, and you learn about yourself, and you start to optimize so that you can meet your expectations in the future.

I did a podcast called Don't Flake Out on Yourself in January. This will go right in line with that one. So you can go back and listen to that one as well. But the truth here is you have to learn how to set yourself up to win at this game.

We are all dealing and going to face the voices in the head that when your brain tells you, “That's actually not that important.” You make a really good plan for the quarter, and halfway through the quarter it's like, “You know what? You should have picked a different rock. You know, we’ve got to focus on this thing over here. It just needs our focus right now. We'll come back to this.”

It's so easy to justify some of the things that come to your mind that pull you off track. But really, if you are excuse-less, that's a no. That is not what we do. Unless it's an emergency, which those happen but very few and far between, if it is not an emergency, you do what you said you were going to do. You act with integrity with the plans that you made because the plans that you make, you're doing that from a very high-level place.

Your brain is at a 30,000 foot view. It has vantage. It is looking down on the situation and saying, “You know what? This over here, this needs attention. This is going to get done this quarter. I am going to aim for this goal. I'm going to make this higher.”

It's making decisions from a high-level place. And then it's time to put your head down and go to work, and in the middle of the work when you aren't at that 30,000 foot view anymore, that is when your brain will start to pull you off course. It will sabotage the high-level plans that you made from a very wise place.

So you should know, and this is what we talk about a lot in Mastery Group, you do not trust that voice that happens in the middle of the quarter to throw you off track unless it's an emergency or it's urgent. Every once in a while, and you guys, I even hesitate to say this because I feel like you guys will be like, “Well, that's me.” This is very, very, very rarely the truth.

Every once in a while, on a coaching call someone will bring up, "I think I picked the wrong rock," which I hear consistently, and we'll talk through it, and most of the time they'll realize that they didn't pick the wrong rock. They just needed to kind of go back to that high-level place and realize again why they picked what they picked, and all right, let's go.

Sometimes they chose something, and when they dug into that project, so to speak, it looked very different than what they thought. It just was not going to be the outcome that they thought it was going to be. So there's lessons learned there, and so at that point I will work with them to shift the title of their rock so that it feels really good for them in that moment, and still propels them forward in the way that they thought they were going to be propelled forward. That very rarely is the case.

Most of the time, there is such an advantage to you finishing what you said you were going to do, even if it didn't turn out exactly the way you thought it was going to. It doesn't matter. Put your head down and go. Stop having excuses for quitting on things. It doesn't feel like you're quitting on things because there will be a justification there, but you have to understand your relationship to quitting. What does it look like? You have to get very familiar with that.

And the more familiar you are with your tendencies and your patterns around meeting barriers and obstacles, and sometimes that's your brain, most all the time it's just your brain, you have to identify what it is and how you deal with it and be onto yourself so that you can do what it takes to move forward anyway, despite what your brain is telling you. You have to use that higher-level brain, and you have to be onto yourself in those moments.

And having community and support around all of this with a coach, and a community that's all very committed to this work, changes the game. One thing I like to do is what I call an action audit. So you're going to audit the actions that you take in a given day. And doing this day after day, because you're kind of on your best behavior if you know you're going to be auditing your actions, you don't want to have to look at a bunch of crap, so doing this for a few days in a row is a really good way to do this.

Now, if you practice Monday Map, Friday Wrap, all of your actions are calendared, and you just reconcile against that. Did you honor your calendar or did you not? So that's still an action audit. Right? But when you do an action audit, what are you doing all day? And the question I like to ask myself is, “What do my dreams think of that? If your dream was watching you, what would it have to say?”

The most successful people have the most failures and the least quits. And by failures, I mean they do what they had they were going to do, and it falls flat. It didn't get them where they wanted to. It didn't turn out. They go again. They get up and they go again. They get up and they go again. They get up and they go again until they hit their goal.

It doesn't matter how long it takes. Maybe it took a year, and maybe it took three. It doesn't matter. They don't give up. They don't quit. So the most successful people have the most failures and the least quits.

And just so we are all on the same page and operating from the same definition of quitting, quitting is stopping before you reach your desired result. So it's almost like failing ahead of time. You didn't even give yourself the chance to fail, you just quit. You stopped. And you may have justifications for it, you may have, like, I didn't know how to do it, it was too confusing, I didn't have the patience, I didn't have the time, it's just not going to happen right now, I don't really want to go after that anymore, just willy-nilly stuff that feels like in many cases, a reasonable excuse.

But be excuse-less. Because if you are excuse-less, you will have the most amount of fails under your belt, and you will have the least amount of quits, which means you will be the most successful. And on top of that, you know what else is funny? People will say, “Well, it just wasn't going to work or whatever.”

You know the fastest way to figure out if something is a dead end? Is to go all the way there and see if it's a dead end. Stop speculating. Just do it. If you would take more action, and I'm saying you collectively, me, too, if we would take more action and just get there and meet the dead end, then we have a lot of learning under our belt, then we have a lot of experience under our belt, and we can pivot and take the next best set of actions based on all of your experiences up to that point.

If you don't go and get that dead end, then you are not going to have the most failures under your belt, and that's quitting. That's a version of quitting. It's stopping before you reached your desired result. It's switching focus instead of just doing what you said you were going to do.

And I hope you can see a pattern here, that when it's time to execute, you put your head down and you go. And thinking and execution cannot happen at the same time. That's why we do all the thinking ahead of time with the strategic planning retreat. And when it is time for you to put your head down and get to work, the only reason that doesn't happen is because you allowed your thinking to take over.

And when it is time for execution, it is not time for thinking. So separate out those two things, put your head down, and do what you said you were going to do, no matter what. That means that your relationship to quitting is very good because you're doing anyway what you said you were going to do. You don't flake out on yourself.

Last week I heard a talk given at a conference, and at the end, the guy was talking about the growth of his business and how he shows up, and how he's been able to grow and all of those things. And at the end, he said there are two people I care about their opinion. And I thought, “Well, he's probably going to say his current self and his future self.” I just thought “Oh, that's kind of clever, but I know where you're going with that.”

But no. What he said actually hit me harder, was more impactful. He said, “my 8 year old self and my 80 year old self.” I was like, oh, wow. That just struck a chord with me. I want to make my 8 year old-self proud. I want to do right for my 8 year old self, and same for my 80 year old self. And my future self, like, I think about that a lot.

If I can't figure something out, I actually just sit for a moment and think about my 80 year old self and say, okay, what am I supposed to do here? And the answer is pretty clear because it just kind of cuts through the noise of all the crap that you're dealing with in the moment and helps refrain from a sense of what really matters, but my 8 year old self I've never done that with, the child version of myself. And I loved that. I want to make my 8 year old-self proud.

Looking back to myself as a child, I had a lot that was working for me, and I had a lot that was working against me, and the goals that I am trying to achieve right now are just beyond her wildest dreams. And it makes me sick to think about me living in a land of excuses. It's just like, “What are we doing here? Is this just what it was supposed to mount up to? Living a life of excuses when you have dreams?” I wouldn't want that for her. So why am I doing that to myself?

And when you think about your future self, the voice tends to be something like, “Figure your priorities out and honor those priorities. Make sure that you're doing and spending the time doing the things that line up with your priorities. Make plans to honor those most important things. Your relationships that are the most important in your life. Your health. If you don't have your health, what do you got? And what you're building. Your firm.”

Line yourself up and take the right kind of action to really honor those things that are the most important to you. And can you be excuse-less around those things? There was a question posed to me recently, and said basically, did you know that you can just make a decision to be excuse-less? You can just make a decision. Just be done with your excuses. And I thought, “Huh.”

I sat on that for a minute. Is it really that clear and simple? I mean, it can be. I know that it could be, I'm just trying to navigate that. It makes me think of David Goggins. If you don't know who David Goggins is, he wrote a book called Can't Hurt Me. And that dude, there isn't an excuse in his bones. And he's motivating and inspiring.

I also don't aspire to live a life just like his, but when I need a dose of that, I'll turn on David Goggins. But yeah, you can just decide to be excuse-less. And I've been playing around with this lately. Like, where do I still have excuses in my world? Where can I clean that up? And I am at this place where I want to flex that muscle a little bit more. Like what's my next version of really strengthening the muscle of doing what I said I was going to do, no matter how hard?

So I am going to be doing 75 Hard, and more for that reason, that mental strength that I want to just kind of bump to the next level. It is going to be hard. I am nervous. I have butterflies. It makes me not want to do it. It makes me want to puke to think about doing it, which is the very reason I'm going to do it. I'm going to go for it. All right, well, I'll keep you posted as I dig into that. I hope you all have such an amazing week. Let's be excuse-less.

Hey, you may not know this, but there's a free guide for a process that I teach called Monday Map, Friday Wrap. If you go to, it's all yours. It's about how to plan your time and honor your plans, so that week over week, more work that moves the needle is getting done in less time. Go to to get your free copy.

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