Cowardice asks, “Is it safe?”
Expediency asks, “Is it politic?”
Vanity asks, “Is it popular?”
But conscience asks, “Is it right?”
Long before the days of computers and long before such programs as PhotoShop, people would, “The camera never lies.” And people would tend to believe that “What you see is what you get.”
Well, some rather nasty characters took advantage of that belief to make themselves look more responsible than they really were. And no one engaged in more of that deceitfulness than Josef Stalin. He did everything he could to alter history and exaggerate his importance.
You see, Stalin was ruthless. Anyone considered a traitor disappeared in the middle of the night, was sent to a hard labor camp, or was executed. That made him extremely unpopular inside his own country as well as around the world … so much so that he lived his life in fear of being overthrown.
The strange things is … Stalin didn’t change his irresponsible policies. Instead, he did everything he could to make himself “look” like the rightful, responsible leader of the Soviet Union. He added himself to photos of events at which he wasn’t present. He forged photographs of himself standing alongside his revered predecessor, the God-like Lenin, while he removed pictures of his rivals or made them look bad. Stalin was even vain enough to make himself look taller … and hopefully more powerful in the fake pictures.
So it’s no wonder history has labeled Stalin as a very sick and highly immoral individual. Instead of taking responsibility for all the crimes he perpetrated, he simply pretended to be a leader with a lot of responsibility. As the old rock-and-roll song used to say, he was “The Great Pretender.”
Well that’s NOT what I’m talking about when I talk about taking responsibility. I’m talking about the things real champions do to ensure their success on and off the job. And last week I outlined 3 of those things. Let’s look at the other 6 things that characterize responsible people.
=> 4. Responsible people keep their focus.
They keep their eye on the ball. They know that without focus, it is difficult to hit a bulls-eye, make a touchdown, take a good picture, or avoid an accident on the highway. They know focus is an essential ingredient in the formula for success.
Responsible people are always asking themselves one critical question. They ask themselves if their present action will take them closer and closer to their goal. If so, they do it. If not, they skip it.
By contrast, irresponsible people are easily distracted. Unexpected events take them off course, and before they know it, the kids are gone or a career opportunity has slipped away. They spend too much of their time chasing the “urgent” things in life rather than the “important” things.
=> 5. Responsible people practice self-discipline.
Responsible people know that responsibility is a CHOICE that only they can make. They know that their response-ability is the ability to CHOOSE a correct response in any situation they face. And as a result, they tend to be very successful. But just in case they aren’t, they don’t blame others. They take responsibility for their actions and attitudes.
Max Steingart wrote about the connection between responsibility, choices, and self-discipline. All of us would be wise to heed his words. He writes:
YOU MAKE YOUR OWN OPPORTUNITIES
“Your destiny isn’t a matter of chance, it’s a matter of the choices you’ll make in the coming year. Success isn’t something you wait for, it’s something you must pursue in the months ahead. Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities to be successful. Seize common occasions and turn them into great ones. 0pportunities sometimes come disguised in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat. Start where you are. You’re at this moment, standing right in the middle of opportunity. If you act on your dreams you can live them in the New Year. You have a lot to look forward to.”
To follow Steingart’s advice requires a great deal of self-discipline. Every time you stop yourself from doing what you shouldn’t (such as turning in a report that is less than professional or eating that extra sweet) and start doing what you should (such as turning in a polished professional report or eating a carrot instead), you become a more responsible person overall.
By contrast, irresponsible people play the blame game. Instead of being self-disciplined and making their own opportunities, they make excuses for their lack of success. The boss was being unreasonable; the customers expected too much; their kids wouldn’t listen to them, and on and on and on.
=> 6. Responsible people take care of the small stuff.
They know that the little things count, and they make sure they do the small things … such as getting a card for an upcoming birthday or anniversary, attending their child’s game, picking up the dry cleaning, straightening up the conference room after a meeting, or showing up at a company picnic.
Irresponsible people tend to dismiss the small things. After all, they got busy, simply forgot, or didn’t think those small things — that were big things to other people — were really that important. All they offer is more of the same … more excuses for their lack of responsibility.
=> 7. Responsible people start what they finish.
Responsible people follow through. What they start … they finish. In fact, they’re often known by others as having this observable, admirable quality.
If this characteristic is a tough one for you, if you’ve got a tendency to quit before you finish, give yourself some relatively small goals that require to stretch just a little. Start in some areas you care deeply about. And then with a few wins under your belt, start tackling some other more challenging areas. Nothing breeds success like success.
=> 8. Responsible people give back what was given to them.
They know that everything they have … whether it be possessions, knowledge, or talent … is to be shared with others rather than stored and hoarded.
One such person was Elie Wiesel who spent a considerable amount of time in the Nazi concentration camps. He realized he was “given” an experience that “gave” him wisdom that he needed to share. So he traveled extensively after his release, talking to young people. He often asked young people, “How will you cope with the privileges and obligations society will feel entitled to place on you?”
As he tried to guide them he shared his sense of responsibility. He would say, “What I receive I must pass on to others. The knowledge that I have must not remain imprisoned in my brain. I owe it to many men and women to do something with it. I feel the need to pay back what was given to me.”
That’s exactly what Jeanne Joyce did, a teacher from the school system in the State of Nevada. She attended my “Journey to the Extraordinary” experience and found it so profound, so powerful, and so effective that she began teaching the skills and concepts to her students.
When a few of her fellow teachers saw the transformation taking place in Jeanne’s students, they wanted to learn what she was doing, so Jeanne took on the responsibility of giving back what was given to her. She began teaching them.
But that was just the beginning. Then Jeanne brought a whole team of teachers to my next “Journey to the Extraordinary” experience, and they went back to Nevada to teach more teachers the techniques they learned from me. And now the program is being taught and shared throughout the entire state. That’s what responsible people do. They give back what was given to them.
=> 9. Responsible people accept ultimate responsibility.
It’s one of the constant, irrefutable characteristics of all successful people. They accept ultimate responsibility … like General Eisenhower.
He was given responsibility for planning the D-Day invasion. Giving the okay was a painful decision, one he knew would lead to many deaths. Yet if it was a success, it would guarantee victory over the Nazis. In the hours prior to the assault Eisenhower wrote a press release that he would use in the event of the invasion’s failure. It read: “Our landings have failed … and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and this place was based on the best information available. The troops, the Air Force and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to this attempt, it is mine alone.”
How refreshing, leader-like, and how uncommon. You seldom if ever hear today’s “so-called” leaders take responsibility and say such things as, “It was my vote that is responsible for our current economic crisis … or … It was my legislation that lead to the crash in housing … or … It was my willingness to overlook the proper safety procedures that lead to our current disaster.”
To wrap it up, responsible people are response-able. With that skill you’ll reap more rewards than blame-gamers or excuse-givers ever will.