“The price of greatness is responsibility” ~ Winston Churchill
For my money, leadership is personified by someone’s willingness and ability to take complete responsibility for everything that happens in their life, be it good or bad.
And by complete responsibility I mean 100% of every single circumstance, situation and problem they encounter, including those totally unpredictable things that come out of left field, or worse: Those horrible, annoying, rage-inducing situations brought on by the other people in our lives.
We all know the circumstances, situations and problems I’m talking about – Does any of this ring a bell for you as well? I’m pretty sure it does.
I mean who hasn’t felt the perfunctory sudden thump in their gut whenever life unexpectedly throws a steaming, crap-filled curveball their way, you know, just to see if (a) they’re awake, (b) paying attention or (c) feeling a little too much like a Disney hero or heroine? I’m sure we’ve all been there, and done that. I know I have.
And clearly any circumstances, situations and problems brought on by others are made a thousand times worse when they’re resulting form revenge, ignorance, or just plain stupidity. If this is still ringing a bell, it probably sounds like a five alarm fire one by now.
The good news is that not all challenges are huge; sometimes they’re small and annoying, you know like losing our keys or when our car won’t start in the driveway. I mean sure, while these are inconvenient and annoying they can be overcome easily.
But then other times challenges are huge, terrifying and life changing; like the time you packed up the car and moved clear across the country to take a job in small town, and once you arrived, you found it to be populated with extras from Deliverance. Ouch.
Or that other time the doctor said, “The test results are back and your son has Muscular Dystrophy” and your mind went blank because you couldn’t believe or understand what you just heard and had no idea what you were supposed to do or where you were supposed to start or whom you were supposed to call for help because you honestly have absolutely no clue what the hell just happened… Huh?
Yeah, I’m talking about THOSE huge things; and while these two experiences from my life, I know for a fact that each and everyone of us have our own versions of them.
But regardless of what any of our challenges look like, or whether they are our fault or someone else’s, or regard less of the size of them, the bottom line is always this:
Whenever we are faced with difficult circumstances, situations and problems it’s 100% our responsibility to deal with them. Here’s why:
Not taking personal responsibility for the situations that affect our lives – no matter how daunting they may seem at the time – can have grave, adverse and often negative effects not just for us, but often for our friends, families and loved ones.
And while it may be tempting to throw up our hands in frustration and anger and play the “Life isn’t fair” card or point the finger of blame, the bottom line is that deflecting responsibility doesn’t serve us, or our cause one bit. It causes us to give up control, and put our fate in somebody else’s hands… and how could this ever be a good thing?
Spoiler Alert: It can’t. Just ask anyone who has allowed the auto insurance claim adjuster who said “we’ll handle it for you” take care of things.
On the flipside, taking 100% responsibility for all our situations keeps us squarely in the driver seat, right where we need to be. It gives us control, and allows us to make decisions that are in the best interests of us and our friends and families, rather than those interests as defined by someone else. And seriously, isn’t being in control of our own lives a better way to live? Of course!
You know who are absolute masters at taking responsibility for their challenges? Ants! Think about it: Whenever an ant encounters an immoveable obstacle they don’t freak out, point fingers or make excuses, oh no! Ants do whatever they need to push through the obstacles in their way, then get back on track to complete their goal.
If you don’t believe me, go find some ants and disrupt their path with rocks and sticks and watch what happens. They don’t blame the other ants or say they are too tired to keep going! No, these little titans of power will go through, over, under or around any obstacle put in their way. Humans can learn a lot from our ant friends.
Dealing with situations both in and out of our control is one thing, but what about dealing with difficult people? What about those times we have a bully for a boss, or a friend we can’t count on to show up when they said they would to help us move?
What do we do when our roommate eats all our Fudge Ripple ice cream? Is it our responsibility to deal with these people and their idiosyncratic or negative actions?
Yes and no. Dealing with people is delicate because of the personalities involved, but the rule of taking personal responsibility still stands. When it comes little things like a friend not showing up or roommates eating our ice cream, I’d either stop counting on them or quit bringing home ice cream or get a better roommate. These are fairly small bits of responsibility to take on to solve the issue.
However, when it comes to having bullies for bosses the stakes are obviously much higher. And trust me, I know what I’m talking about here.
One time I’d been offered a director’s position in a small hotel where the pay was shit but I was promised the flexibility I needed to take care of my son. I took the job believing it was a worthwhile trade off; however once hired, things changed.
A few weeks in my new boss – an insecure, cowardly bully – began making unreasonable demands of me that flew in the face of everything we agreed upon hiring.
Unfortunately I’d convinced myself this was the only job that would allow me the freedom I needed so I shut up, took his crap and did what I was told.
Each time I silently gave in to this asshole’s unreasonable demands, the less responsibility I took for my situation and me. The more this happened, the more the bullying intensified. But while he was a card-carrying asshole, this was actually MY problem, and therefore MY responsibility to take 100% control of it. Otherwise I had no reason to complain.
After fifteen months I’d finally had enough and decided to take back responsibility for my situation, which I did by quitting. The second I sent that resignation email it felt like a couple of gorillas had been ripped from my back. I’d used my personal responsibility to gain back my power. And it felt incredible!
I learned that day that by being 100% responsible means I don’t have to put up with other peoples crap, or bad decisions or bullying or anything. But remember! For this to happen, I must be willing to take 100% of the responsibility for my situations. Boom!
Let’s face it: Life is made up of all kinds of people; some good, some bad. But as long as we take responsibility for how they affect us, we can be in control of our lives. In other words while we can never control the wind, we can always control the sails.
Taking 100% responsibility means stepping up to the plate and doing whatever we have to do to stay on track with our goals, dreams and ambitions – whatever they look like. Because even though it might be a hard road to take at times, it’s what allows us to call our own shots in life; something that’s critical for success, don’t you think?
I agree. Now go silence that bloody fire alarm, once and for all.
PLAN OF ACTION:
- Always take complete responsibility for every situation that is in your life; never, ever give up your power
- When life throws crap-filled curveballs, tackle them head on
- Remember if we don’t cause a problem it’s always our responsibility to take care of how it affects our lives