It could be the shift in our thinking these days or maybe it was always like this. Taking responsibility seems to be less and less of an American trait among adults and, therefore, it will be a less likely trait of our children. As ashamed as I am to admit this, it took me over 30 years to begin to accept responsibility for my actions and for the situations I was at in life. When I did, EVERYTHING CHANGED.
When the switch got flipped for me, I was reading a book a friend suggested: The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness by Jeff Olson. A week before I began the book, I had just encountered what felt like a devastating blow to my business. My earnings dropped over $3,000 in just two weeks. Things were not going as I had planned. I fell far shy of the goals I had set for myself. All the time and effort I had poured into my business looked as if it had not paid off and I felt like I lost control of where I was going. So I did what most people would do… I blamed everyone except for myself. I starting pointing the finger and saying, “this person didn’t do what they were supposed to do and this person didn’t do that, etc.” To me, there were a bunch of people at fault and none were the person in the mirror.
You know when you lie about something long enough, you start to believe it? Well, it works the same way when you’re blaming others long enough. The more you blame others, the easier it becomes and the more you believe it yourself. You will actually start believing it’s their fault. The problem with that is, it takes the focus off of the one person that can change the circumstances… YOU. The only person you can control is you. You can’t control other people’s actions.
I prayed for things to get back on track. I expected God to just make it easy for me and reward me for the work I had already done. Well, He answered my prayers in a very clever way. He decided to answer them by forcing me to grow personally. He used the book I mentioned above. I received many great messages from that book, but if I read the book and only got this one thing out of it, it was worth the entire read. The one thing was a quote by John Burroughs that changed my life and it came right when I needed it. It read, “A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.” I posted it at the beginning of this post and now I’ll post it again below. It’s that important.
That quote hit my like a ton of bricks in the face. The entire week before reading that quote I had blamed everyone else for what was happening with MY business. In fact, my entire life before reading that quote I had blamed others for my circumstances. I blamed student loan companies for requiring such high payments. I blamed my law school for raising prices after I had already been attending. I did the same with my undergraduate college. I blamed my job for not paying me enough and putting me in a tough situation financially. No one had been given a raise in over 5 years because my employer was near broke and didn’t know how to manage money and because of that, I paid for it… literally.
My entire life was a huge blame game until I read that quote. It changed everything for me. It’s so simple that most people won’t even see the power in its truth. Here’s the simple breakdown: I have failed many times… MANY times. You learn through failure. It’s a part of life. You show me someone who has never failed and I will show you someone who has never been successful. You reach success through failing. Although I have failed many times, I am NOT a failure. I will never be one and, therefore, I will never blame somebody else for my circumstances.
I look at blaming as a form of whining now. Whenever I see someone post on social media or hear them complain about their jobs, how much debt their in, their horrible co-workers, their family, etc. I only see how much they are whining and that their focus is on everything except what it needs to be on to change things… themselves.
HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS
No matter where you come from, no matter what situation you are in, no matter how bad of a hand you feel that life has dealt you, only you can do something about it. The first time I heard a friend say that, the quote above popped in my head. He’s was right. You have too much debt? You hate your job? You don’t like hanging around co-workers? Instead of complaining about it… recognize that IT IS YOUR FAULT. The good news? Well, YOU can do something about it. That’s right… YOU can and only you can. It’s a decision. That’s what it boils down to; a simple decision. You either are or you’re not going to take responsibility for your circumstances.
I realized that no one forced me to take out over $200,000 of student loans. I made that choice. I realize that no one forced me to take my current job. I chose to take the job. I realized that no one was forcing me to interact with co-workers and friends/acquaintances that I’m not too fond of. I was choosing to do so.
Here’s what happened to me when I took full responsibility for my circumstances. I bounced back. Not only did my business get back to where it was, but it far surpassed it. Soon I was earning in two weeks what I was previously earning in one month. Not only that, I was helping other people do the same. I eliminated over $100,000 of student loan and credit card debt in under two years. My wife and I paid for our wedding in cash. We more than replaced my salary in under a year’s time and we have given ourselves the opportunity for complete time freedom for the rest of our lives. It was as simple as making a decision to turn the finger around and point it at myself. It was as simple as that.
There’s a glaring truth in the book and I’ve posted it below. We are on one of two paths in life. Which one are you on?
“If you want to measure where you are, if you want to know whether you’re on the success curve or on the failure curve, or if you want to assess anyone else and determine which curve they’re on, here’s how. There is one attitude, one state of mind, which overwhelmingly predominates either side of the curve. The predominant state of mind displayed by those people on the failure curve is blame. The predominant state of mind displayed by those people on the success curve is responsibility.” – The Slight Edge
Here are two pages from the book that address these life paths. I suggest reading the ENTIRE pages (no need to pay attention to the highlighting).