I Am Responsible For My Success and Failures And For Continuing To Learn From Them

January 6, 2010 14 Comments

The next meditation on how to become a courageous follower from Ira Chaleff’s book “The Courageous Follower” is: I am responsible for my success and failures and for continuing to learn from them.

You can’t lead a truly empowered life until you grasp this principle and struggle with the difficult work of trying to apply it in ever aspect of your work and life.  As I have written here before, no organization can empower us, only we can empower ourselves.  Unless and until you assume full responsibility for yourself, you force someone else to assume responsibility for you, and by doing so YOU make yourself a dependent rather than an empowered individual.

Our natural inclination to see ourselves as responsible for what happens to us is dependent on both our locus of control and our learned style of making attributions.  If you have a somewhat external locus of control – as MOST people do – you need to be mindful of it and be determined to learn new and more effective ways to explain to yourself the reasons why you behave the way that you do.

Whether we have a success or a failure, we need to become more skilled at seeing how the process or system we are working in influences our behavior. Especially when we realize the system has had a strong influence on our failure, we need to assume responsibility for helping to fix whatever it was about the system that is not working the way it should be. We don’t dump on our leaders (this sucks and so do you – YOU need to fix it!); instead, we partner with them to improve our systems by suggesting things that WE would be willing to do to help make things better.

Failure is an especially valuable opportunity to learn. We need to grow to appreciate that fact as a followers; otherwise, when we become leaders we will tend to punish people for their failures instead of encouraging them to learn from them. That’s just stupid and an abdication of real leadership.

Even if we work for an idiot that punishes people when they fail, that does NOT relieve us of the responsibility for learning from our failure. And we should not overlook confronting the critical need to learn why we accepted a job where we willingly work for idiots that don’t encourage people to learn from failure.

There is no one to blame.

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Comments (14)

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  1. John Spence says:

    Superb video — beautiful background – excllent ideas — a wonderful way to start off the day! Thanks so much Bret

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    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, John! I appreciate the kind words and hope you found the video helpful. Thanks for the comment! Bret

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  2. Bret,

    This is a great post and particularly instrumental at this time of the year when people are more open to self-reflection and desirous to change the course they’ve been taking. Like you, I’m a firm believer that we all should take responsibility for our actions, as there’s nothing more liberating that knowing that the power to effect real change in our outlook and behaviour lies squarely in yourself.

    Thanks for sharing a very inspiring message to kick-start the year.

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    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Well said Tanveer, real change can only be found within. Thanks for sharing! Bret

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  3. Great post on responsibility and its ties to success and failures. You are also right about the effect of video as it makes your blog more interactive.

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    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Jace! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Bret

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  4. Adrian Nunez says:

    Great post! I completely agree. I think I’m going to have to read this book now.

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    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Adrian! His book is very unique. I recommend it very highly. Thanks for the comment! Bret

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  5. Tom Simpkins says:

    We live in an era full of blame-game experts. Individuals and society as a whole have become accustomed to pointing the finger and placing blame for our failures on others rather than understanding our situation is a direct result of our decision making. With such behavior, we are only setting ourselves up to fail again in the future. However, if we take the introspective approach you write about we can be sure improve upon our mistakes and emphasize the decisions that made us successful. Thanks for the post Bret.

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    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Tom! Very well said. I concur that the blame game is a bad cycle. We have to learn to break that bad habit. Thanks for sharing! Bret

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  6. Alex Kugel says:

    Excellent! This has been and will continue to be my personal mantra.

    Thanks Bret.

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    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Then you will continue to grow and trive as a person and continue to add value to your organization. Thanks, Alex! Bret

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  7. Shane Gorman says:

    Bret…the principle of accepting responsibility for our failures really is the necessary first step to improvement. This week I had a difficult flight training session with a student and initially blamed her for the problems. Once I turned it around and asked myself about my own performance as the instructor it became clear to me that I could improve my performance significantly. That perspective turned a negative feeling about the poor student into a postitive view of how to improve my performance. It felt much better to me to be able to do something positive rather than blaming someone else and taking no positive actions to fix the problem.

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    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Excellent example, Shane! We should always look at ourselves and the systems we control before blaming others. Thanks for sharing!! Bret

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