Are You Placing the Blame Internally or Externally?

Are You Placing the Blame Internally or Externally?

2017, Feb 15    

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I was less sympathetic when I wrote this in 2012 than I am now, but I stand by the overall message here. Placing blame for your problems on external sources is a bad habit, no matter how many of those external sources really are working against you.

What I didn’t say when I first published this, but now realize is that my perception is undoubtedly skewed. I’ve had it easy being a college-educated white male, so I don’t know what it would be like to have the demographic deck stacked against me. That said, the most successful people I’ve known of any race, gender, or culture didn’t sit around and accept that things were bad for them. They got out and took responsibility for making them better.


I’ve started to realize that there are two kinds of people in the world:

  1. Those who take responsibility when they make mistakes
  2. Those who place blame on others when they make mistakes

Sure, there are those rare few who cross over from one to the other side, but generally, most of us get established and don’t ever change. So, what’s the big deal? Who cares where you place your blame anyway?

You should care and here’s why: people who cannot accept responsibility for their life are doomed to be a victim of their circumstances. You know the excuses you hear people make (and maybe make yourself):

  • It’s not my fault I am the way I am.
  • Life is unfair! There is no sense in trying to take control of my life.
  • God has asked too much of me this time. There is no way I’ll ever be able to handle this.
  • My parents made me what I am today!
  • My family influenced who I am and what I will be; I can’t change that.
  • Racism, bigotry, prejudice, sexism, ageism and closed-mindedness all stand in the way.
  • No matter how hard I work, I will never get ahead.
  • You have to accept the luck of the draw.

I can tell you now that every one of those excuses is bull shit. If you believe that others are holding you down, they they always will, but if you believe you are more powerful than your circumstances, they you will be in control.

Accepting responsibility means taking the good with the bad

The reason that people don’t want to accept full responsibility for their actions is that they don’t want to take the blame for their mistakes. Sure, everyone wants to take some credit for being a part of a successful team, venture, or decision, but taking the blame for failure is what makes a truly great person different.

How does this relate to business?

Well, if you’re an entrepreneur, you are your business. Therefore, if you’re the type of person who blames others for your failures, your business will never accept responsibility for its failures. You won’t admit you were wrong to your customers; you won’t admit that you missed that deadline for your taxes; you won’t examine your own bad decisions when your business comes crashing down around you.

Passing on external blame is deadly for entrepreneurs. So, next time you think that the things going wrong in your life are someone else’s fault, stop. Take a minute to look internally, and ask yourself, “how could I have made this situation different?” Nobody’s perfect; making mistakes is natural. Success is determined by how you handle the mistakes you have made.