Not your fault – but are you responsible?

February 26, 2010

Where are the responsible people when we need them? Could you be one? More of us need to ask this question of ourselves more often, “What am I responsible for?”

This question is not about laying blame. It is a question about accepting ownership of your thoughts and action. You control your thoughts and that determines your actions.

None of us can change what happened yesterday. We only control how we think now and how that might influence our future. We can’t control the future. We can only influence it. Even billionaire Jim Ballsillie can’t control what happens to his dream of a hockey franchise. However he can control how he reacts to the obstacles thrown in his path. The bigger the obstacles the more responsibility he seems to accept.

I believe that successful people are successful because they accept more responsibility than others. Successful people don’t waste time and effort blaming others. In a weak moment they might lament about a particular hardship – but they don’t stay there long. We are all human and subject to human frailties. The challenge and reward is to face and accept our own responsibilities.

You don’t need to be rich to take responsibility for your thoughts. Both Gandhi and Mother Teresa demonstrated this principle and they certainly were successful.

Too much of our society is positioned around blame. Unions blame management. Management blames unions. Executives blame the economy. Voters blame the politicians. Politicians blame bureaucrats and other politicians. Bureaucrats blame the politicians and the public. Have you noticed that our elections seem be more about blame than about responsibility. It seems that no one rushes to accept responsibility.

Why are so many people screaming, “It’s not my fault.”?

Three youths trashed several cars at a north Hamilton service centre. Two of the youths could not be charged because they were under age – not their fault. One of the parents asked police to “lock my kid up” – not my fault. The other parents seemed to be silent on their obligation – not my fault.

That business owner can easily argue that he was the damaged party. And yes he was. But I read that the youths entered the compound through a hole in the fence. And that the keys to all the cars were in the cars. My questions are: How long did they ignore the hole in the fence? And what have they done to prevent this incident from happening again? Why didn’t they do that sooner? What will they do to prevent this from happening again?

The issue of accepting responsibility is not about accepting or laying blame It is about considering the possibilities and what you can do to work that in your favour. Sometimes the responsible thing is simply to learn the lesson from the hardship.

The restaurant hostess led us to a table that had obliviously just been wiped. She placed our menus on the wet table, then stated, “The table is wet.” as if it wasn’t her fault or responsibility. I picked up a napkin and started to wipe the table. Following my example she did the same and wiped half of the table. After she walked away, I wiped the rest of the table dry. Not her fault and clearly not her responsibility.

The parties in Caledonia seem to blame their actions on others. They claim that it’s not their fault. Someone else did something 15 minutes or 100 years ago.

Life for all of us isn’t fair. Stuff happens. It’s your choice. Where do you want to live – in the past with blame or in the now with responsibility and future with success?

Stop blaming. Start taking more responsibility for how you think and what you do. It can be a scary concept and a big step to a more successful future for you.

George Torok is a motivational business speaker. He has hosted the local radio show, Business in Motion on 93.3 CFMU for the past 14 years. Visit his website at