Personal responsibility is popular in self help books; it isn’t very popular in practice.
For some reason we all look for scapegoats. From the government, to parents, to exes, to the economy. Everyone else gets blamed.
“The economy is bad, I don’t have a job”
“My dad left when I was a kid, so I don’t know how to properly treat a woman”
“My parents couldn’t afford it, that is why I couldn’t go to college”
None of those situations are ideal. But c’mon.
At some point, the past has to become the past.
The most important question is not: What happened last year? Or 15 years ago.
The most important question is: what is true in this moment?
According to Lewis Schiff in Business Brilliant, about 9 in 10 self-made millionaires say “it’s important in negotiations to exploit weaknesses in others”. Among the middle class, just over 2 in 10 agreed.
Side Note: I super-duper recommend this book. You should read it.
This isn’t to point out that the wealthy are selfish. It is to show that they conduct business like business people, not desperate high school seniors looking for a prom date.
And to let you know that it is ok to negotiate a ‘win’ for yourself.
The other person isn’t looking out for you. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, no one is. This isn’t cold, it is reality.
A few years ago I was talking with a friend about the housing market’s decline. At the time, I lived in Washington DC, where real estate is quite expensive. Before the “bubble” burst, prices were outrageous. There were a lot of people with interest only, ARM loans, because that was all they could afford to pay for their homes.
My friend and I were discussing who was to blame. I said everyone. From the fiscal policy to the person that took the loan.
Every individual was responsible for the papers they signed, even the person making $30,000 a year, living in a $700,000 home.
I continued – there might have been a small soapbox. I might have jumped on it. It happens to the best of us.
I said something like “it is our job as consumers to understand that a mortgage broker is a salesperson, just trying to make money. It is their job to get you to take a loan. Whether or not that is good for you is completely up to you”.
My friend didn’t buy it. She thought I was crazy.
Here is the thing: Your personal well being is not someone else’s responsibility. From the government to corporations to your spouse.
A business’s purpose is to make money for its shareholders.
This is not a popular idea (as my friend demonstrated with her reaction that I was crazy)
This doesn’t mean that a company should be unethical or not provide great service.The opposite is true.
Amazing companies like Apple put their customers before their shareholders. Apple knows it’s value depends on people buying their goods.
It’s a very successful way to do business. For Apple shareholders, it has worked out well.
That doesn’t relieve you of being responsible for yourself.
We get it a little twisted and think we are ‘owed’ a job or we deserve such and such benefits from the government. All of that is not true – and a dangerous crutch that takes away our control of ourselves and gives it to someone else.
Side Note: I’m not going as far as thinking what Monsanto said (see below) is correct. (saying safety wasn’t their concern). I’m not a Monsanto fan. And I think they will (and should) go the way of the Dodo bird.
“Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.” — Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications, quoted in the New York Times, October 25, 1998
I do think a company should show that their product is safe. And if it isn’t, consumers should stop giving that company money. We vote with our dollars. The FDA is a topic I won’t get into today :).
Even in the case of Monsanto, the food you eat is your responsibility. You are the one that lives with the consequences.
In every case, you are in charge of your best interest. And you should behave that way.
I believe that it is in my best interest to be ethical and moral in business. But I can’t assume that the person I’m dealing with has the same values.
This mindset shift is the most important one. It is what separates the middle class from the wealthy.
Your life is up to you. Failure or success. As long as you blame others or even give others the credit, the ‘others’ have control over you.
Failure or success. It is all up to you.
The most wondrous thing comes with personal responsibility: freedom.
PS. When I write about items like this, I’m not preaching from my mountain of awesomeness. Though I would love to visit a mountain of awesomeness. I learned this lesson, and most others, the hard way. I have been successful and I have been very not successful. And every time I have been ‘not successful,’ I wasn’t taking responsibility.