It IS Your Fault — The Success Secret They Don’t Want You to Know

Successful people share an interesting trait — they do not blame anyone for their failures.

They take full responsibility for everything, even the things seemingly out of their control. There is an important reason for this.

I’m reading a great book from the famous oil man, J. Paul Getty, who was named “The richest man in the world.” I picked up the book because it’s the only book listed in Amazon above mine with the many similarly titled books—How to be Rich.

His book was first published by Playboy Magazine in 1965. What caught my attention was even back then people were using the same excuses as today.

It has long been fashionable—if not downright mandatory—to bemoan lack of opportunity and the stifling of free-enterprise capitalism. ‘Confiscatory taxation,’ ‘excessive labor costs,’ ‘unfair foreign competition’ and ‘creeping socialism’ are the ‘causes’ most often cited for what doom-mongers would have us believe is the imminent disintegration of the American Free Enterprise System.”

What’s so intriguing about Getty’s observation is that people were using these excuses in 1965, before they were nearly as justifiable as they are today. Yet people were prospering in 1965, even with those challenges, just as they are today.

When you place blame is you relinquish control, but when you accept responsibility, you have the power to find a solution.

There will be challenges. You should expect obstacles beyond your control, but you decide how you will react to them. When presented with roadblocks, you have two choices.

  1. Make excuses and give up
  2. Accept responsibility and find a way around, over, or through them

It’s perfectly normal to be frustrated and spend time wallowing and venting, but get back on track, take responsibility, and press forward.

It’s your choice how you react to life. Whether you reach success or failure—it’s 100% your fault.


11 Replies to “It IS Your Fault — The Success Secret They Don’t Want You to Know”

  1. WOW!! It is incredible how your message in this post applies to all aspects of life.

    I recently met an extraordinary woman in Santiago. She has been working as an occupational therapist in one of the prisons for the past 25 years. During my interview with her, she pointed out something that she found to be one of most frustrating in her experience. 

    The people who work in trying to rehabilitate the prisoners to get back in society will try many different techniques and activities with them. If the prisoner does not respond in a “positive” way, the fault is always on the prisoner. “He does not want to change…” or ” I am so disappointed in him, I believed in him…” No one will ever take a step back and admit that the method THEY used was wrong.

    Example: One of them tried to get a prisoner to trust him by showing him that he trusted the prisoner. So, after a conversation together, he left his wallet and cellphone on the table alone with the prisoner. Well, the prisoner’s first instinct was to take both…This man’s reaction was, “he is not ready, I am so disappointed in him, I wanted to show him I could trust him.” 

    This woman was furious with him! Her thought? He is the one who made the mistake, he does not want to take responsibility for it. he set up that prisoner for “failure”. He is the one who failed, not the prisoner. 

    This was not the right method! You can not just expect that someone will act the way you want them to without first getting them there. How could we expect anyone to do act or learn something without first giving them the tools!

    She was right!

    Your post confirms it! Thanks Chuck

    1. That was such an interesting example Antonia. I read it a few times because it was so thought provoking. You bring up a great example of my point in this article and it also made me think about how disappointed we are when people do not think the way we do, or want them to.

      In your example, the prisoner lives in a different society and there are different necessities for survival. The person with the wallet was disappointed the prisoner doesn’t think as he does, but he doesn’t live the prisoner’s life and couldn’t possibly understand their mindset. 

      VERY interesting example.

  2. Just stumbled upon your site from Tim Ferriss’s blog. I must say I agree 100%. However, if only this could extend to the corporate space. Little backstory, I run a blog on Business Process Management which essentially is supposed to iron out inefficiencies and make people take charge for processes. However, this doesn’t happen because no one accepts blame in alot of the companies. And putting a person wants to take responsibility.

    Great site I look forward to more!

    Best Regards

    1. You’re right about few taking responsibility in the corporate world. It’s no different in government. Those with the entrepreneurial mindset have to leave the corporate or government work space otherwise they will always hate their jobs and never reach their full potential. Thanks for visiting.

  3. Hey Chuck, awesome content as usual. I recently had a commenter on my grant writing blog post this:

    again, who in their right mind would spend thousands of dollars to play a rigged game whereby the chances are ~1/20 for funding? how can one live, or support a family modestly? is this an american thing of dog eat dog? Who will pay for the futile grant game? In the end, those that “get” grants think it’s fine/dandy, and those that do not get funded (>95%) think it is a waste of time/effort b/c in the end, croenyism, and bias run the show.

    Not to be deterred by my responses, she persisted in debating with me and defending her blaming, cynical approach, until I gave up and told her:

    Why don’t you go get a job at Walmart then. I am sure that will be better than your cushy academic job where you get paid a great salary to pursue the ideas of your choosing.”

    It is so bizarre how people simply won’t take responsibility for their own lives. And the more that we make it easy on people (e.g. tenured jobs), the more of this blaming attitude seems to grow… it’s a bit like leaving crumbs on the floor to help breed more cockroaches.

    Keep up the good work!

  4. A person’s efforts don’t happen in a vacuum. If success is getting over a series of walls, the culture, society, and economy you live in has a lot to do with how high those walls are. If the first wall is three feet high, lots of people can get over and thrive at that level (middle class). If the next wall is six feet, some people will get over it (professionals), and some will try but be unable to scale it. If the last wall is twelve feet of smooth granite, very few are going to figure out how to get over that (and in this example, being wealthy is like having a fourteen-foot ladder). 

    Conservative policy has knocked down the three-foot wall and is now attacking the six-foot wall. They will point to the few exceptional people who have found a way over the twelve-foot wall and say “See, anyone can do that. If you can’t, there must be something wrong with you that you need to fix. You must need personal development. You don’t believe hard enough. You need faith. The fact that the challenge is harder is just an excuse. Everyone could do it if they persevered.” 

    First problem: That’s just not true. There are a lot of people who could spend their lives trying and never get over that twelve-foot wall. 

    Second problem: Why has the twelve-foot wall become the only measure of success? It doesn’t have to be. Someone chose to make it that way despite knowing the damage that would result.

    Sure, successful people are more likely to own their failed attempts because it lets them own their success. They may say “I did it” or “I built it” or something similar (and statistically, men are more likely than women to take sole credit for their success). 

    There are a very few remarkable people who start with nothing and get over that twelve-foot wall with no help. I know one person who fits that description, and I would not trade places with him. 

    The rest of us use the infrastructure around us to help us over the walls. Yes, those are just tools for us to use, and our skill determines how well we use them. But while we are improving ourselves, why wouldn’t we also want better tools?

      1. Tools are all around us:
        Education is a tool. When I started college, it was around $100 a semester–obviously easier to use than it is now. Educational loans and grants are also tools, as are specialized programs at the high school level–drama, music, bio labs, debate, a wide range of language instruction, etc.

        Mentors are tools. People are generally happy to help other people, especially younger people with the same interests they have. But I believe we have the longest workweek in the developed world–never mind the people working multiple jobs because one doesn’t cover the bills. So if people who would be mentors are just working and sleeping, that makes it harder to get mentors.

        Jobs are tools. If a person can support himself on one low-skill job, he can take classes to develop higher skills. If the jobs are not there, or if they don’t pay the basic bills, that takes away that option.

        My parents both had secure middle class jobs that allowed them to send me to state college without financial aid. Creating a secure middle class and low-cost college were deliberate policy choices that gave more people opportunities and that don’t exist now.

        When more people have opportunities and jobs, there is more money flowing through the economy, making new businesses a little easier to start and sustain. The economy is a more forgiving, and beginners’ mistakes need not be fatal. Today, even well managed restaurants are failing because entire target markets no longer have discretionary income for restaurants–businesspeople have to fight the economy to succeed instead of using the economy to help them.

  5. So I guess this blaming others is not a current issue. Good to know. The one personality trait I want to instill in kids today, whether my own girls or girl scouts or nieces and nephews, is that you MUST be responsible for your actions and decisions. I even tell my staff. …you are going to screw things up at some point. It happens. You must accept that you made a bad choice or decision and learn from it. If you blame others you have not learned anything. Thanks for your words of wisdom and a look into success 50 years ago.

    1. It’s cool what you tell your staff Lori. It often seems that our culture expects zero mistakes, yet as you say, how can you learn without screwing up.

      Thanks for reading and chiming in.

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