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.
“A rational anarchist believes that concepts such as ‘state’ and ‘society’ and ‘government’ have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame… as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else. But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world…aware that his effort will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge of self-failure.”
“My point is that one person is responsible. Always. […] In terms of morals there is no such thing as ‘state.’ Just men. Individuals. Each responsible for his own acts.”
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein pp 84–85
I’m struck at how very existentialist that quote is. Just as I’m struck at how very apropos the following quote is to the #occupy movement.
“A managed democracy is a wonderful thing […] for the managers…and its greatest strength is a ‘free press’ when ‘free’ is defined as ‘responsible’ and the managers define what is ‘irresponsible.’”
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein pg 256
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream — and not make dreams your master;
If you can think — and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings — nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And — which is more — you’ll be a Man my son!
My mom gave me a framed version of this poem on my 16th birthday. I wasn’t a man then, so I didn’t really understand it. Later, when I thought I understood it, I disagreed with it on all points. It sat in the closet in my old room until I turned 30, at which time my mom gave it to me again. I flipped it over and on the back was the note she’d written my for my 16th birthday, the note she’d written for my 30th, and the handwritten poem my Grandma wrote for me on my 16th. Reading “If” at 30 is yet again a different experience. Now I feel like I understand it; now I strive for these listed virtues.
Now it hangs in my son’s room, and I hope as he grows that he will feel the same ways I’ve felt about it over the years.