I Spell Responsibility: FAIL

Self-Discipline and Responsibility. Just by looking at the title of Chapter 3, you can infer that both are positively correlated, obviously. The more disciplined you are, the more responsible — on the reverse, the more responsibilities you have, the more discipline you need to ensure they’re completed. Makes complete sense. (Funny that I’m writing this close to 9:00 pm because I got a bomb massage today and shirked all my remaining responsibilities for the day).

The gist I took from this chapter was, “Wow, I shirk responsibility!”. I assign excuse (or blame) to circumstances or other people as a reason as to why I can’t get the things I know I need to do done. Brian Tracy makes no bones about calling most of society out on this too: we blame upbringing, we blame jobs, we blame friends, strangers, etc. The interesting thing about this book, so far, is that it’s written so simply, that I get what the man is trying to say. I don’t agree on everything (more on that in a minute), but overall, I can get behind the simplified lessons he’s teaching/preaching.

What Tracy called, “The Fatal Fallacy” is something that I can identify with, enormously. He explained how oftentimes people see others as better than themselves, which inevitably makes the individual feel worse than the others their being compared to. I do this all the time! I fall into the line of assuming that others are better than me as it relates to job, or finances; their ability to complete projects, or even get a regular check-up! It’s easy to observe and compare where we are in our respective lives. Not truly realizing it, though, this creates a dialogue of being worth less than the other person — as Tracy put it — and thus feeling worthless. Tell me I’m not the only one who climbs into that dark hole of self-pity. From there, it’s easy to say, “Well they have it figured out and I never will because I’m worthless, so who cares if I get a better job?” (Totally said that to myself this year, a few times).

The worthlessness dialogue is only one example Brian gives us though about how we avoid taking responsibility. As children, he says, our parents take ownership of our actions, but eventually there comes a time when we have to stop “blaming” them for why certain things in our lives aren’t lining up. Eventually, you have to say to yourself, “I am who I am because of and in spite of who my parents were/are”. Using one of his many anecdotal points of evidence, he mentions a time in which he was sitting in his dumpy apartment, upset at how tired he was working in manual labor because that was the only job he could get without a high school degree, when he realized, “this is my life”. I’ve had that conversation with myself a few times, unfortunately, I can’t say that realizing that allowed me to fix all the issues — I still rank pretty high at cutting corners, hence why I’m reading this book…

In the end, the sense of control of your life comes, Brian says, once you accept responsibility for your life, actions, circumstances, all of it. (I’d argue it’s really not as simple as a declaration, if it was I would have declared it online a long time ago…like most things it’s work, but you get it). The key to “accepting” it though, he says, is that you have to remove emotion and blaming. When you’re angry, you feed into the cycle of blaming outside forces rather than taking ownership, when you continue down that path, you can never truly be responsible. Crude summary, but I think you get what Brian was getting at. In that regard I agree. There is, however, a giant festering blemish in this chapter that I have a GIANT bone to pick with…

So Brian blocks up his chapters with sections that usually have some carryover from one to the next. Sometimes, they are completely different trains of thought that have little do with each other but something to do with the overall chapter. One section this time around, though, was titled, “An Attitude of Irresponsibility”. I thought to myself, “Oh boy, here’s he’s gonna go and blame technology the self-esteem movement, and french fries from irresponsibility today”. Instead, he starts by saying:

Our courts today are clogged with thousands of people demanding redress and payment for something that went wrong in their lives. Backed up by ambitious plaintiff lawyers, people go to court demanding compensation, even if they are completely at fault for what happened — especially if they are at fault.

He then goes on to list, without citation, a series of familiar personal injury court cases like the McDonald’s coffee case, or a case in which a drunk driver sues the car manufacturer for making a lemon. The entire section could have been cut out of this chapter and the lesson would be the same — take responsibility for your actions. What the shortsightedness of listing these types of cases signifies to me is that here’s a wealthy man who may have been on the losing end of a personal injury suit, or he knows so little about American civil law that he acts like most people today and opines as if it were fact. I hope that the drunk driver example he gave was fake, because then he’d seem as idiotic as the section read, but as for the McDonald’s case, that’s been rehashed dozens of times. Aside from the facts of the case, corporate lawyers on Mickey D’s dime spun the story to label the plaintiff as a reckless woman hell-bent on earning money, thus de-legitimizing personal injury law, which is a fundamental safeguard of the individual against the actions of corporations.

For Brian Tracy to say that people are misusing the legal system to redress wrongs committed by companies that have historically not acted in the best interest of the consumer, just so they don’t have to “take responsibility” chips deeply into his credibility for me. And of course, people misuse the legal system, but who misuses it more? The old lady who suffered third degree burns on her crotch because a fast food joint heated far beyond safe levels? Or the company that paid billions on lawyers to bury that old lady in litigation and then ran a smear campaign? …hmmm.

Overall, I enjoyed the chapter, because it held a big old mirror to my face and forced me to look at my actions. It makes sense, minus the giant oversight I mentioned, and it’s true that in order for anyone to move forward, they have to take responsibility for the big and small occurrences of their lives. (I can learn from that for sure!). It’s scary how easy it is to see where you fall into these “bad” categories. I will get angry still, I’m human, so I don’t agree 100% that you can’t take responsibility if you get angry, but I will be more aware of my part in situations. The best take away I can offer is this: “The only real antidote for anger or worry is purposeful action in the direction of your goals…”.

The exercise questions at the end of this chapter were incredibly about situation responsibility as it related to family, bad relationships, longheld anger at someone, finances, etc. Rather than get into the details of how I could have taken responsibility in each fashion, I will share the first and last exercises with you because I think it’ll end this piece on a positive, which is where I ended:

Resolve today to accept 100% responsibility for everything you are and for everything you become. Never complain, never explain.

I’m so frickin’ resolved!

Accept 100% responsibility for your health. Resolve today to do or stop doing whatever is necessary for you to attain excellent all-around health.

As Dame Helen Miren said while playing Elizabeth I on HBO, we are resolved! So it’s bye-bye cheetos, and bacon, sweets, late night snacks, and more than four cocktails in a night. We’ll see how the remainder of this book gets me thinking, I’ll obvi be sure to share!

I picked up Brian Tracy’s No Excuses, and have decided to learn something about self-discipline. This page is going to keep me honest (mostly) as I tackle this book over the next 21 days! This is Day 3 of 21.