“People are always blaming circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want and if they can’t find them, make them.” – George Bernard Shaw
Ever met one of those people who blame all of their misfortunes on others? Who are quick to point a finger toward their workload demands? Or difficult customers? Or a challenging economy? Or perhaps a management team whose decisions have challenging consequences? Maybe it’s fact that these individuals don’t have the tools they need to succeed. “It’s not my fault,” they often say or “What do you expect since I don’t have what I need to be successful?”
To be fair, it’s easy to fall in to this trap. In today’s world – and certainly in the business environment – we are often asked to do the impossible if not the improbable. Whether it’s bigger workloads or increased production quotas, additional management responsibilities or a budget that feels unrealistic, or even the customer that demands you deliver more for less, there are plenty of reasons to contribute challenge to current circumstances. I have been guilty of throwing my arms up a time or two myself.
And then there are those who view these challenges and obstacles as opportunities. When others can’t see past the struggles at hand, they look around corners for answers. They dig under the surface, find root causes, and then systematically address them. They double their efforts and sharpen their focus. In other words, they own the situation – embrace it – and make it work for them.
I’ve never been one for making excuses. Everything I have ever achieved – every new job, every promotion, every success, every small victory – has only come after considerable investment of time and energy; and sometimes with a bit of luck. But most times, these accomplishments have come about by making the most of a situation, by working diligently to overcome obstacles, by anticipating challenges and planning for contingencies.
That isn’t to say I’ve always seen good fortune. Trust me, I’ve had my share of bad luck and negative outcomes. Missed budgets. Lost customers. Resignations from key talent. Poor decisions with adverse impacts. Misjudgments. When these happen – when circumstance turns on me – I raise my hand and own the situation. I look at what’s happened and how I contributed to it. I evaluate from an honest perspective, call myself out where I’ve been at fault, and make the changes necessary to succeed the next time.
I’ll close with a story about a good friend I am helping to mentor. This individual owns a small staffing firm and in his own right should be wildly successful. Yet for the last several years his company has drifted sideways and backwards, missing its full potential. Recently, we were speaking about his struggles around growing the business and I challenged him to look in the mirror. To rethink his commitment to the effort. To stop excusing past struggles as symptomatic of running a small company. And instead, to own the situation and shape it to work to his advantage. I am proud to say he has done so and is now on the path to success even as we speak. He did it through honest examination and effort.
So, what’s it going to be? Are you going to continue to make excuses for circumstances outside of your control? Or are you going to own the situation and reshape those same circumstances so they contribute to your own success? Only you can make that shift!