Before I begin, let me give you a Rant Alert.
When I’m done you may feel like I’ve been ranting a bit. I’m not going to apologize for it, I feel strongly about the point I am about to make. I’ve decided after thinking about this post for two days, that perhaps a rant is the best way to make this point.
A few days ago I received an email from SmallerIndiana (a great Indiana networking site) which posed a question: Can Government Programs Solve Obesity in America?
I readily admit that at that moment, I didn’t click through to read more about what was being said (here is the link to the full forum post and all of the conversation it has spawned). Why? Because the question at the root appalled me. Obesity may have many factors, but in the end, except for people with specific medical conditions, it is about calories in and calories out. And it doesn’t matter what program you have, it all comes down to how much people eat, and how much people exercise.
After reading the forum post I do have a broader understanding of what the point of the question was, but it doesn’t change my fundamental point. When we look externally to solve our problem, we absolve ourselves of responsibility. (In fact, inside the forum post there is some ideas that point to my point as well – taking personal responsibility.) From this “Government programs” question it isn’t too far of a reach to points like…. “I’ll get skinny when there is a government program to help me” , or “It’s the government’s fault we have an obesity problem.”
To which I say; calories in and calories out, fundamentally (except in some unique situations) is a personal responsibility and is 100% in my control.
I also received an update email from the Wall Street Journal with the subject line: Georgian “Olympic Committee Blames the Track, Not the Athlete, in Fatal Luge Crash”. The short report reads in full:
from The Wall Street Journal
In its strongest condemnation yet of the horrific accident that killed 21-year-old Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili hours before the opening of the Winter Olympics, the Georgian Olympic Committee on Thursday blamed the track, not the athlete.
“I exclude the possibility that Nodar was not experienced enough,” committee chief Giorgi Natsvlishlili said in televised comments. “From my point of view the track was at fault.” (italics mine)
Mr. Kumaritashvili died in a training accident when he lost control of his luge on the final turn of the track at the Whistler Sliding Center, the world’s fastest, and hit a steel support at 145 kilometers per hour.
I was saddened by the death of Mr. Kumaritashvili and it is indeed a tragedy, and what I am about to say is not about him, but about the epidemic of blaming others. Here is what I learned in my research after reading that email:
- Not counting practice runs, there were 264 singles luge runs during competition this week (men and women).
- There was a World Cup event on this course recently (the deceased didn’t participate) and I do not know how many runs there were, but I believe it to be more than 264 runs in competition.
- There were training runs in November (Mr. Kumaritashvili had 9 runs). I have no way of knowing the total number of runs made here.
- The course is super fast – considered the fastest in the world.
- The course for men was shortened to the women’s starting point after the accident (but this wasn’t the case for the practice runs, the World Cup event or the training runs in November).
Here is my point: If many others over many runs haven’t had the results of Mr. Kumaritashvili, how can it be the track’s fault? And even if Mr. Kumaritashvili was experienced enough, does that exclude him from making a mistake?
Notice I am not saying it isn’t a fast track or perhaps a dangerous track (I am clearly not expert in this area). What I am saying is that Mr. Kumaritashvili has some responsibility for the result – if not most all the responsibility). To place blame others/The Olympic Committee, the track, etc. is to deflect us from the truth of our personal responsibility.
This post may have offended you, if so, so be it.
In neither situation am I saying that outside influences can’t help, perhaps they can. Are there things other can do to support people with their weight issues? Of course. Are there things that could be done at the luge track? Yes, and it appears they were done.
None of this changes the ultimate responsibility for our actions – and taking responsibility for what we can control.
If I weight more than I want to (7 pounds, thank you), it is no one’s fault but mine. If someone is afraid the track is to dangerous, don’t get on the sled (I know, but it is the Olympics — but I wanted that piece of pie too!)
The lesson for us as individuals and leaders is clear (to me at least). If we want to help others be responsible and accountable, we must be that for ourselves first. And perhaps the first step in that personal journey is to stop buying into the blame and shifting accountability we hear from others; and I have shared but two quick examples – they are everywhere.
Here is your leadership activity for today.
Look at something that isn’t working for you. Determine what part of that outcome is 100% within your control. And make the necessary change that you can make to change the outcome. Right now.
You will get there one step at a time. And each step you take will put you one step closer to successfully helping others take responsibility and accountability.
It may not mean life or death, but it has everything to do with your ultimate success.