“I just don’t have the time.”
“I’m too tired.”
“I don’t feel like it.”
“I have other things I need to be doing (inevitably not getting done).”
“Not my job.”
“It’s not my responsibility.”
Do any of these sound familiar? Are there other statements you could add to the list? Have you ever said something like these before? I have found that the more we should do something, the better we are at making excuses for why we don’t do it. I have also found that people would rather make excuses for something rather than take ownership of it. If you have read any of my previous posts, you will notice there is a theme: 1) Leadership is service; 2) Take ownership of everything.
The other night I had a major epiphany. (Now, I am going to get really vulnerable on this one, and you can go ahead and laugh at me or tell me how ridiculous I was, because I already know and I would laugh too.) I was sitting on the couch reading a book when my wife poked her head around the corner and said, “Why didn’t you tell me you were out of your coffee creamer?” This was my response…”How is it my responsibility to tell you when my coffee creamer is out when you are the one that does the shopping list? Why don’t you look in the fridge and see if I need more?” My response was defensive, finger pointing, and down right idiotic, but I wouldn’t come to figure this out until later.
This response led to my wife stating, rather aggressively, that she doesn’t use my coffee creamer, and that she wouldn’t know that it was low because of that. I continued with my “solid” position that it was her responsibility to check cause she did the grocery list (I know, this sounds ridiculous, right?). It was at this point that I became even more obstinate and told her that I wasn’t going to have this stupid conversation because she wasn’t taking ownership of the problem………………………you got that right? I was quitting a conversation because SHE wasn’t taking responsibility……Anyone else see the issue here? I didn’t until MUCH later that evening.
We spent the remainder of late afternoon and evening not talking. It wasn’t until after the kids went to bed, and my wife tried to have a different conversation, that it all came back full circle. Let me pause here and explain what was going on in my head the entire time my wife and I were not talking….When I “ended” the conversation, I was frustrated and irritated that my wife wouldn’t take responsibility for this situation. However, I am the kind of person that is always reflecting and thinking about conversations and situations after they happen. There was a much deeper issue here, and I didn’t want to admit it. It was so much easier to blame my wife and tell her to take ownership. But right there lies the issue. I was refusing to take ownership. I was refusing to do the one thing I was telling her to do (and this is where all of you go, “well, duh!”).
My reaction for being an idiot was to be rude and uncaring toward my wife. She was 100% in the right, and I was ALL kinds of wrong. During our later conversation, I admitted to her that I was absolutely wrong in everything I said, and that I was sorry for not taking ownership of the situation. I told her what I was thinking about, what I was struggling with, and I told her I reacted the way I did because I knew I was wrong. I knew it was me who needed to take ownership, and I failed miserably. In the end, I took ownership and said, “You got it, Love. I will tell you when I need coffee creamer.”
It’s here that I get to dote on my wife a little. She is absolutely my better half. I learn so much from her, and she has so much patience with me. She is forgiving, caring, and compassionate. In other words, she puts me to shame really well. I absolutely love my wife, and thank God everyday for blessing me with a woman that I absolutely don’t deserve. She helps me be a better man, husband, and leader. I hope you have someone in your life just as awesome as my wife.
Okay, back to the point of this post. It is easy to make excuses and blame things on anything or anyone else. However, it shows a lack of ownership, and, most of all, a lack of character. I was angry with myself on how I treated my wife, my lack of character, and my own hypocrisy. And I have to tell you, if you don’t get angry and frustrated with yourself when you do stupid things like I did, you need a character check. As leaders, we need to be constantly reflecting and taking ownership of everything.
Jocko Willink and Leif Babin do a phenomenal job explaining the power, purpose, and reason to take ownership in their book Extreme Ownership (If you haven’t read this, you need to!). Excuses are for those with a weak character and a lack of discipline. Ownership is for those of us who want to be better and lead with purpose and passion. Excuses make for a poor leader. Ownership makes for a humble leader. My stupidity was hard to swallow, but it was the best learning opportunity. It showed my weakness and the cracks in my character that need mending. So stop making excuses or blaming everything and everyone for your lack of ownership. Trust me, it’s so much more liberating when you finally decide to take ownership and stop making excuses.
- Just because you think you’re right doesn’t mean you are. I thought I was justified and right. I thought I was the one being disrespected. But the truth was that I was failing. I was making the choice to not take ownership. I still have work to do, and it is only through reflection and purposeful change that I will become better,
- Excuses come from those who are weak in character. People make excuses all of the time instead of owning their actions and choices. This is a direct reflection of their character. If you struggle with this, I want to encourage you to do everything in your power to overcome your excuses and take ownership of your life.
- Humility is what makes a good leader. Please don’t think I am trying to toot my own horn here, because that is the last thing I want to do. I failed, and I failed miserably. However, I had two options, live with the lie inside, or own my failure. It is always better to own it, admit it, and learn from it.
- You have a choice to either lead with passion and purpose or to lead with excuses. Everything is a choice. How we act, react, respond, what we say…everything is a choice. As leaders, we can choose to act in a way that serves others by taking ownership as a leader, or we can choose to blame and make excuses creating rifts and damaging relationships. Choose wisely what road you walk.
Stop making excuses, own your faults, failures, and mistakes, reflect and learn from them, and, ultimately, choose to become better.