My grand­pa used to say to me: “You have more ex­cus­es than Wrigley has chew­ing gum”. He grew up dur­ing the Great Depression, fought in World War II, sup­port­ed 4 kids and a wife run­ning a postal route, was a city coun­cil­man, et cetera, et cetera.

I can’t think of one time that I ever heard him com­plain or of­fer an ex­cuse or fail to take re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for some­thing that was brought to his at­ten­tion — whether or not if it was his prob­lem to be­gin with.

My life has been ex­trav­a­gant­ly deca­dent com­pared to his, but when I’ve been faced with ad­ver­si­ty or failed at some­thing I’ve al­ways kept that say­ing of his in mind, and his ex­am­ple.

  • If you’re held re­spon­si­ble for some­thing that isn’t your fault; there’s no point whin­ing about it — you’re al­ready blamed. Clarify the sit­u­a­tion and help solve it. Take steps to en­sure it doesn’t hap­pen again.
  • If you’re in any po­si­tion of lead­er­ship, the fail­ures of any part of your team are your fail­ures. The in­stant you shift blame, you’re a whin­er, not a leader. Spreading blame is worse than a waste of time, it is counter-pro­duc­tive. Are you here to find a scape-goat or get some work done?
  • Don’t com­plain that re­al­i­ty gets in the way of your goals. Don’t in­vent re­al­i­ties that jus­ti­fy your fail­ures. Be hum­ble, be hon­est, work hard, and know your ca­pa­bil­i­ties.
  • Admit your mis­takes but don’t give up; have an­oth­er idea ready at hand. Ask for help, guid­ance, or feed­back.
  • It’s okay to ex­press frus­tra­tion, but it should be done in pri­vate; and the next step af­ter that is called “get­ting back to work.”
  • The dif­fer­ence be­tween an ex­cuse and an ex­pla­na­tion boils down to re­spon­si­bil­i­ty. An ex­cuse avoids it, an ex­pla­na­tion owns it.

When I have in­ter­ac­tions with peo­ple who do not seem ca­pa­ble be­hav­ing in the man­ners de­scribed above, I feel pret­ty safe in as­sum­ing that they’ve nev­er tru­ly been held ac­count­able to oth­ers & prob­a­bly won’t be able to hack it when they fi­nal­ly are.