When Meriwether Lewis was faced with the daunting challenge of crossing the vast Western wilderness to reach the Pacific Ocean, he had a series of problems that needed to be addressed prior to embarking on his travels.  One of those problems was the perplexing task of how to transport the gunpowder necessary to provide sustenance through hunting game on a journey that required the exploring party to travel almost entirely by river.  Some lesser men would have tempted fate by transporting the powder in standard wooden kegs, others may have given up entirely.  However, Lewis was able to engineer an ingenious solution to his problem, “securing the powder by means of the lead having the latter formed into canesters (canisters) which were filled with the necessary proportion of poder (powder) to discharge the lead when used, and those canesters (canisters) well secured with corks and wax.”[1][2]  

Two lead cylinders about 1 foot tall and a bowl of black powder

Where many would have seen an insurmountable challenge making a nearly impossible journey more difficult, Lewis invented a solution through clearly assessing the things around him, brainstorming a solution, and making it a reality.  The canisters of lead filled with powder proved indispensable during the historic journey to the Pacific, helping the Expedition survive while passing the ultimate test of life on (and in!) the Missouri River.  Meriwether Lewis is remembered for the journey, not for the timely invention that made it possible.  In the same way, when we are faced with difficult roadblocks to our personal progress we must find a way, not an excuse. 

Like Lewis confronting the journey to the Pacific, we all have dreams that we would like to achieve.  Also like Lewis, there are often roadblocks that stand between us and the success we desire.  We should find inspiration in the spirit of invention and intuitiveness that allowed Lewis to creatively solve his problem in a way that enabled him to succeed.  Often times in life we are faced with difficult circumstances that could derail us from finding out path to success.  In those situations we must take personal responsibility for finding the solution necessary if we truly desire our dreams.  At the crucial juncture where our desires meet overwhelming obstacles to success, many people simply sit back and start making excuses.

Excuses directly lead to failure.  The moment that you start to accept that a road block is insurmountable through resignation, you have ultimately doomed yourself to failing to reach your destination.  Excuses build one upon another to lead a person to give up, providing the circumstantial evidence that can convince you to convict your dreams to failure unjustly.  Although some road blocks are truly insurmountable, often times we are too quick to accept that we will be unable to reach our potential.  Excuses help to disguise the true weaknesses that make a road block seem like the end of the road.  Laziness, lack of confidence, and other traits are often poorly hidden by excuses.  In life there can be real reasons for failure, it is just important to make sure that the artificial excuses you make don’t turn into real reasons for failure.

An example from my personal life can easily be found when I first met my wife.  We met working for our college newspaper and she found herself working under my direction as section editor.  However, my reputation had proceeded me, and a previous relationship with one of her friends negatively colored her perception of me.  When I decided I was interested in pursuing a relationship with her, I knew I was in for an uphill battle.  The situation had provided me with the opportunity to run through thoughts including ‘she isn’t interested because of her friend,’ ‘she knows I haven’t been great in past relationships,’ and even ‘she hates my stinking guts.’  I spent the first few weeks we knew each other working to convince her that I wasn’t a horrible person.  Once I had moved out of that stage, I was able to start to get her to see me in a positive light.  From there, it has all been history.  When I could have easily talked myself out of the best decision I ever made through excuses, I found a way.  

When challenges emerge to your dreams, you must find a way.  Excuses are easy to make, but nearly impossible to live with.  If you are willing to make excuses for giving up on the things you desire, you also must be prepared to face the regret that will accompany that decision.  When confronted by a difficult challenge to your goals, be the type of person that finds a way, not an excuse.


[1] Gary E. Moulton, ed., The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, 13 volumes (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983-2001), Vo. V, p. 53.

[2] I stumbled upon this concept through the interpretive program presented by Jeff Carlson at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn, ND.  Go check it out if you ever have the chance!

Photo credit: http://lewisandclarktoday.net/2/1.html