Excuses

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.

Quotes from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

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