Who’s to Blame for Your Success?

success-and-failure-signEveryone wants to be successful.

But how many people do you know would elect to be unsuccessful?

People Want to Succeed

Most of us will jump through hoops to be successful.

With success comes pride and appreciation and a sense of accomplishment. Success also brings recognition and sometimes even money and material rewards.

Given an option, chances are, you’d choose success over failure. That’s true for you. And it’s just as true for my friend Clemetin, who has spent his whole life in and out of prison.

So What Causes People to Fail?

If people never set out to fail… if they’ll do almost anything to succeed, then why then do they fail?

It’s easy to point your finger at the person who failed. That’s the obvious place to cast blame.

You might think someone who fails isn’t smart enough. Or has poor judgement. Or bad work habits. Or is undisciplined. Or worse… lazy or stupid.

You fail. It’s your fault. Right?


The Primary Cause of Failure is NOT the Person Who Fails

Again and again throughout history, we learn that surrounding conditions are far more important in shaping how someone behaves than the characteristics of that individual.

People want to succeed! And only a small part of their failure (or success) is properly attributed to them.

When someone fails, they do so because they are unable to succeed.

The situation or culture simply doesn’t support their success.

Perhaps the goals weren’t reasonable or the instructions unclear. Maybe the task didn’t fit that person’s skillset.

Context Contributes to Your Success (and Your Failure)

If you want to assign blame for failure, a likely culprit is the situation in which you’ve been has placed.

The next time you find yourself blaming someone for something that went awry, remember… the person who failed wanted to succeed.

They just couldn’t.

My friend Clemetin doesn’t want to get in trouble. He’s not looking for it. He lives in a culture in which it’s impossible for him to succeed. (Click here to learn more about Clemetin and his remarkable life.)

When people you know are not successful, rather than blaming them, help them get into a situation in which they’ll be more likely to succeed.

That’s far more constructive. You’ll feel better. And they’ll be more successful.

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List the Conditions that Create Your Success

Make a a list of the things in your environment that contribute to your success. Push yourself to think of everything from your skin color to your eduction to the values of your family of origin to your ability to speak grammatically. List the people who have helped you and the role models you’ve had.

Success is just the flip side of failure. You are no more solely responsible for your success than you are for your failure.

What and who do you blame for your success? Please share in the comments.

  • Top of my list is my great education. Thanks, Mom and Dad! And your column reminds me of another extraordinary post: “20 Things the Poor REALLY Do Every Day”: http://benirwin.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/20-things-the-poor-do-every-day/

    • Andrea Kihlstedt

      Not sure how I missed your wonderful comment and the eye opening post you’ve linked to. Many thanks, Jezra. I so appreciate your comments and your support.

      • Back at’cha! This is a wonderful post.

  • Kathleen Kennedy

    The high expectations of some really great teachers and my parents have definitely been a key factor in my success. They challenged me and weren’t afraid to correct me if they thought it would improve my skills. For instance, I’ve had some great teachers who edited my writing pretty harshly and pushed me to be a better writer. This post also made me think about how I’m raising my kids and how they seem to learn best, improve their skills, etc. when I set them up for success. It takes a lot of thought and conscious thinking about their strengths and weaknesses and what motivates them to help them grow and become kind, respectful, and thoughtful people!

    P.S. You’ve got me hooked about Clemetin – can’t wait to learn more about his story!

    • Andrea Kihlstedt

      Thanks Kathleen for the lovely comment. Yours are lucky children indeed, being raised in an environment that supports their success. It makes all the difference in the world.

      Thx for the nudge to write more about Clemetin. Soon, I promise. There are always lots of eye-opening stories to share about him. Some happy and some not.