It is inevitable that we all make excuses. The biggest problem with excuses is that we use them to pass the blame to anyone but ourselves.
"It wasn't me."
"I didn't see the stop sign."
"I didn't grow up with a father."
On and on and on.
The differences between people who succeed and those who fail is that losers look for excuses and winners look for reasons. I know some are wondering what the difference is.
Seeking the reasons for your failure means you look at how something went wrong and, most important, what you yourself did wrong. You then learn from that mistake and try not to repeat it the next time.
Then you project that idea out to others. What are the unsuccessful people doing over and over that I can avoid? What are the prosperous people doing that I can emulate?
It seems so simple, but over and over again I hear excuses coming from many in the black community.
"I can't succeed because of a legacy of slavery and Jim Crow."
"The system is keeping me down."
"Selling drugs is the only way I can pay for my family."
On and on and on.
I am a critic of our president, mainly because we differ greatly on political ideology, but I must give him all due respect for the recent commencement speech he gave at Morehouse College. He laid it bare and told the students of the historically black all-male school that there are no more excuses.
Though some of the graduates come from affluent backgrounds, many also came from broken homes, neighborhoods and communities. They had every deck stacked against them and every excuse to fall into a cycle of crime, prison and absentee fatherhood; yet they did not.
They made a choice to work harder, to be their best self. They were determined to become winners.
And standing before them was a perfect example of why we have no real reason we cannot succeed — President Obama himself. A man who those embracing victimhood said could never exist: a black president.
Simply put, Mr. Obama represents the end of excuses and the victimization culture.
I thought the following passage of the president's speech last month was telling.
"We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. And I have to say, growing up, I made quite a few myself. Sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. I had a tendency sometimes to make excuses for me not doing the right thing. But one of the things that all of you have learned over the last four years is there's no longer any room for excuses."
He noted that in today's global marketplace, Americans are competing against millions of people in China and India with even more deprived backgrounds, who faced greater odds and who scrambled harder for fewer opportunities than anyone born in the U.S. They overcame, as did previous generations of black Americans.
The president also quoted the following fraternal creed, "Excuses are tools of the incompetent used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness."
I cannot say it any better. But I can offer my own advice for forging ahead.
Even if you live in a broken neighborhood, that is no reason to sell drugs or commit other crimes. Black men are more likely to get caught trafficking narcotics, beginning the cycle of incarceration from which 70 percent do not escape. There are plenty of legal methods to earn money. Just because they are not as quick or easy does not make them less worthwhile. They will teach you patience, endurance and the self-reliance — all necessary values to make it in the world. Most important, they will keep you free.
There will always be others out there trying to make excuses for you and pardon your bad behavior. Do not let them, especially when they try absolving you of something by citing your race or "the system." Rebuke them, take responsibility, and learn from your mistakes.
Never let where you are from, nor where you are currently, hold you back. An absent parent or role model does not mean you cannot work hard in school, get a good job or be a good father or mother to your children.
If you are at the bottom of a pit, refusing to climb out is on you. You can ask for help from others in the pit, you can cry out to those already out, but only you can initiate the action to free yourself. And when you climb out, be sure to reach back and help those who helped you or are crawling out themselves.
And last but not least, always endeavor to be your best self. Be a better neighbor, husband, mother, friend. Always keep striving to be positive, learn new things and grow as a person. If you practice being your best self, you will succeed in life. You might not be the richest, or most athletic, or best looking, but you can be proud of your life and the example you have set for your family, friends and community.
There will be setbacks, hardships and discrimination, but we can choose to give up or to push ahead. A life without excuses can lead to only one conclusion: satisfaction that you not only did your best, but that you left the world just a bit better than when you came into it.
• Armstrong Williams is the author of the new book "Reawakening Virtues." Join him from 4 to 5 a.m. and 6 to 7 p.m. daily on Sirius/XM Power 128. Become a fan on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.