In the last three months, three prominent businesses have failed in the city in which I live. These businesses collectively have been around for nearly 90 years. In their farewell media stories, all three owners blamed the economy. Seems like a pretty reasonable assessment of the situation…except that there are thousands of jewelers, PR firms, and homebuilders that are having their best year ever. The economy isn’t the problem. In fact, it’s never the problem.
Before we dance much longer, it’s important for you to know that I’m not speaking to or about the Occupy movement with my following words. Please don’t read into it that way. This isn’t a political post. This is a post about personal responsibility. Here’s what I mean: as the owner of four businesses, if any of them fail, it’s my fault. It’s not your fault or her fault or his fault or the economy’s fault. The economy hasn’t shutdown a single business. My business failure would be my fault. And my fault alone.
Do you have $150,000 in student loan debt that pisses you off to no end? Are you angry at your college, your parents, or Sallie Mae? If so, stop wasting your energy. Is your house worth less than you paid for it? So what, so is mine. We are the dummies that bought at the wrong time. It’s not the real estate market’s fault. It’s our fault. Do you have a gigantic car payment that is choking you because you lost your job? Don’t blame the company that laid you off. You signed the loan papers.
I made a promise to myself years and years ago to never blame anyone for anything that happened to me. Was I being a martyr? Nope. I was giving myself power. The second you blame someone or something you relinquish power to that entity. Why would you do that? By taking 100% responsibility for what happens to me, I have made better decisions and calculated risks more carefully. Have I run into some roadblocks? Absolutely. But I never waste any time trying to blame anyone because I already know that I am to blame. I simply start working on a solution. If you find yourself short on answers to your life’s financial problems, then I challenge you to “own the problem.” Take the power back from those people or places that you blame. You will need this power and energy to fix your problems.
Let’s briefly discuss the concept of blaming yourself. Here’s what it’s not: sitting in a dark room, drinking, and listening to Coldplay. Here’s what blaming yourself is: gathering your wits, moving on, and forming a plan. A few years ago, my buddy Jason got laid-off from a manufacturing gig, along with several of his coworkers. While his former coworkers sat around and blamed the economy, the industry, and the company, Jason blamed himself. “I chose the wrong profession,” he once told me. So he did his research, went back to school, and is now working a very stable and lucrative job as a registered nurse. On the flip side, I had a client blame his employer for his layoff for 2 years. He did nothing in the meantime…except ruin his marriage. “If XYZ corporation ruined my life, then XYZ needs to fix it,” was his mantra. If you were to ask him what he does for a living he would tell you that he is a laid-off XYZ worker. Seriously. His wife got sick of his bullshiz and hit the road. She blamed herself.
Here’s what I would like you to do. Choose the worst financial things that have ever happened to you (e.g. job loss, debt, home value drop, lack of savings), and exonerate all the people and the things that you have blamed for these problems. Choose a problem, clear your mind, and simply say “it’s my fault.” The next thought in your head will inevitably be something like “how can I prevent this from happening ever again” or “how can I fix this.”
Do you think this post is full of crap? I’ll take the blame for that. It’s not. I must have just done a poor job relaying one of the great secrets of success. My bad.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.