An Ode to Personal Responsibility

Attitudes are a major determinant in achieving success or failure in any endeavor, and attitudes about responsibility for what happens to you are among the most important. Take this short quiz to assess yours.

Whose fault is it if:

  1. Your commingling broker loses your money?
  2. Your spouse takes all of your money and runs?
  3. You do a good job but get fired anyway?
  4. Your family irritates the hell out of you?
  5. You are hiking in the wilds of Alaska and a refrigerator falls from the sky and hits you?

I have no idea what the epistemological answer is to those questions, but the best answer is that it’s in some way your fault in every case. Not because it’s 100% true, or 100% your fault, or even something over which you could ever hope to have control; but because acting as though it could have been your fault will more often lead to success than assuming it couldn’t have been.

If you assume nothing is your fault, you forego any chance of improvement. Things you can control will be overlooked and your life will be a rudderless ship. On the other hand, if you assume you are responsible for everything that happens to you, no opportunities to improve your lot in life will be missed. It doesn’t mean you’ll be able to take advantage of them all, but you’ll always have the chance to try.

All discovery is made by trying to answer something that can’t currently be answered, so in analyzing what is in reality uncontrollable, there is always the possibility of discovering something new. Something which could have been controlled, or that may apply in another situation. Acting as though you have control will also make you feel better, since even the illusion of control has been shown to lower stress levels. [1]

It’s all about considering the possibilities. Is having a heart attack your fault? It might be entirely in your genes, but it’s a question worth considering as you polish off that double bacon cheeseburger before having sex with your mistress. [2]


[1] Control Your Life, Help Your Heart

Rats Develop ‘Illusion Of Control’: Experience Sculpts Brain Circuitry To Build Resiliency To Stress

[2]  Men who cheat on their wives more likely to die of a heart attack


2 thoughts on “An Ode to Personal Responsibility

  1. Pingback: Active management and personal responsibility | Abnormal Returns

  2. Pingback: Pseudo Random News and Comment | Mortality Sucks

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