I recognise a whole list of excuses I love using when people – friends, peers, colleagues, or strangers ask me about my profession, my finances, my family… about the life I’m living, for that matter:

  1. My father was a teacher, not a businessman. He tried hard but had one failure after another. He could never teach me… It’s his fault…
  2. He (my poor father again) was a pen pusher – I never learned from him the skill of building things with my hands… not my fault…
  3. I was one of nine kids; we didn’t have much… my parents’ fault.
  4. I am the creative type – not a project manager… God’s fault.
  5. My ex-wife had an affair… her fault.
  6. The economy… the government’s fault
  7. The restructuring… the board.
  8. My dad died… God.
  9. My manager…

Feeling the pressure to perform, to have other people’s approval; we blame, factors or circumstances that prevented us from doing as well as we feel we should have done. “It wasn’t my fault!!” If I have something or someone to blame, I’m off the hook. The pressure and the consequences of making mistakes, leading to loss, pain, or being the laughingstock of your peers or the world.  I had the opportunity to teach a life lesson to my youngest son, just yesterday. He is only 12 years old and plays fly-half for his school’s under-13 rugby team. There are 3 kickers in the team, and a strong South-easter made kicking for goal very difficult. His responsibility was to take all the kicks around the middle whilst the other two boys kicked from far left, or right. I saw him avoiding his captain with every kick that came close to being his responsibility, which resulted in them kicking. Between the two games, I challenged him on this. His response was:” Dad the wind is strong! When they miss, they can always blame the wind, but everyone would expect me to be successful in front of the poles. What if I let them down!?” The lesson was simple. These are the opportunities to accept responsibility for a challenging situation. When we fail, we learn, we grow, and we become stronger. That is the difference between those that make it to the top and the rest.

In his book Letting Go, Richard R Hawkins says the following about blame: “Blame is the world’s greatest excuse. It enables us to remain limited and small without feeling guilty.” But he says; there is a cost—the loss of our freedom. A victim with a self-perception of weakness, vulnerability, and helplessness…  the major components of apathy and depression.

When we are brave enough to admit to ourselves that we are looking for excuses, and are sabotaging our own freedom and development, we embrace difficult challenges and projects; and experience breakthroughs, catapulting us onto higher heights. According to Hawkins, life crises, confront us with polar opposites. Do we hate or forgive? Shall we learn from an experience and grow, or resent it and become bitter? Do we choose to overlook the other person’s shortcomings and our own, or instead do we resent and mentally attack them? Shall we withdraw from a similar situation in the future with greater fear, or shall we transcend this crisis and master it once and for all? Do we choose hope or discouragement? Can we use the experience as an opportunity to learn how to share, or shall we withdraw into a shell of fear and bitterness? Every emotional experience is an opportunity to go up or down.

These will never be easy choices, and choosing to make an excuse i.e., blame a situation or a person will always be the easier option. Giving in to the urge to blame, leads to playing the victim, and buying into our ‘smallness’, according to Hawkins, and resisting the part of ourselves that is loving, courageous, and great.

As leaders, we shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes and create a culture where team members are willing to make mistakes, and prepared to take responsibility for the consequences when it doesn’t work out as we hoped.

In the last game, my boy was called up to make his first kick. As he was addressing the ball, I said a quiet prayer that he succeeds. I saw his concentration as he ran up, and knocked the ball between the two posts for the points… Three successful kicks followed before they came off with a huge win over their competitors. I sighed a big relief, and he thanked me that I pushed him. Yes, he could have missed and came down blaming me, but the truth remains… If he wasn’t brave enough to try, he wouldn’t have scored the points.

Love and respect
Stefan Lessing

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