Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Patria-Kaye Aarons | No more excuses

Published:Tuesday | April 11, 2017 | 4:00 AM

In 2014, I covered the Riverton fires for CVM. While waiting in the smouldering embers one Wednesday morning at 7 o'clock, I met a young woman near the entrance to the dump. She was a scavenger. Her primary daily routine was rummaging there through the refuse of Kingston city looking for discarded plastic and glass bottles to sell.

She stuck out because she was impeccably dressed in black slacks and a polka dot blouse with a big bow tied at the neck that wouldn't look misplaced on a corporate secretary. And she had on a full face of make-up.

After I gave my television report, I engaged her in conversation off-air and she confessed that she arrived at 'work' by 7 a.m. sharp every day. Her attitude was as bright as her eyeshadow and she genuinely looked happy to be there to dig through the rubbish.

That encounter was one of those life-altering experiences that gave me clarity. The lesson I learnt: If she can show up and be cheerful, so can I! It never felt like motivation, but more like an obligation to put my best face forward and really apply myself. I felt real gratitude for my every blessing, big and small, and I felt compelled to work. Ever since then, a can-do attitude was planted deep within me.

Tomorrow's my birthday, and according to popular belief, half my life is gone. I'm 35. With the arrival of this new milestone, I'm renewing my commitment to execution excellence, focusing on reasons versus excuses. You may see the two words and think, "but aren't they the same thing?" Thirty-five years of life have taught me that they aren't. I've come to the conclusion that, in fact, they may be very clever polar opposites.

 

REMEMBER THE REASONS

 

A reason fuels a positive outcome in my mind. The well-dressed scavenger's reason was her income, however meagre. My reason is my family. In my call centre days, we had a board in the hall, and we all put pictures of our reasons on it. Some put pictures of a house, a child, some a dream car, others a cruise ship. When days got monotonous, or customers annoyed, we'd walk past the notice board, remind ourselves of our reasons and press on.

An excuse explains away why something didn't happen. We make excuses for not keeping New Year's resolutions, for missed deadlines, for being late. I remember in my corporate life having one particularly horrible boss. I did learn one thing from him, though; it's much better to hit your targets and gloat about the reasons why you did, than to not hit them and have to furnish excuses why you didn't.

There was a time I had got really good at self-soothing deflection. I sugar-coated excuses and posited them as reasons. And I fooled myself for a bit. "It's not my fault." "Maybe it just wasn't meant to be." "It's because I'm really not a morning person." The comfort of those excuses was always short-lived.

The longer I would make excuses, the longer the problem would persist.

That lady at Riverton could have come up with so many excuses. "I don't want to get my clothes dirty." "So much work for two little shilling?" "My workplace is on fire, I may as well stay home." But she didn't.

Whoever came up with the Nike tag line deserves a Nobel Prize. It channels the spirit of the lady from Riverton. It's fuelled by reasons. For the next chapter of my life, my personal slogan will be 'just do it'. Whatever 'it' is. No excuses.

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@yahoo.com, or tweet @findpatria.