Don’t Point the Finger!

Don’t Point the Finger!

Connor M (Year 12)

When the world is burning around you, who is responsible for dousing the flames? 

When your life seems to crumble, who will rebuild it back together? 

When you appear trapped or stuck in the mess that is life, who will set you free? 


You might want to point the finger at a parent, a teacher, a friend or some other important figure in your life. I mean, it seems clear as to what their responsibility should be: parents are meant to raise you in good values and teach you how to survive on your own, teachers are paid to educate you in a field of study or a lesson in life worth learning, and friends – REAL friends – are unshakeably loyal and support you in what will help you to grow, just as you would help them. 

Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but you can’t blame the government for how you manage your money. You can’t blame your parents for any faults you may have. You can’t blame others for your problems in life. 

These people may be at fault. But – at the end of the day – the only person responsible for your life is YOU. 

That’s right. I said YOU. You are ultimately responsible for what happens when the going gets tough. You are responsible for the path you forge ahead for yourself, and others will be affected either positively or negatively in the wake of your influence. You may not recognise it, but everyone – shy or bold – has control over the life they live. Even when your freedoms may be taken away or someone has you unfairly placed in a prison, like in North Korea, you are responsible for what happens next. Now I recognise there are things in our life that are out of our control; if we cannot control something, it is best not to worry – only focus on what we can change and influence. 

Now, you may be asking: “what is the difference between being at fault and being responsible?”  Well, put it this way. You have a teacher that you want to review a draft essay you wrote. It comes to a week before your assessment date, and you still haven’t received any feedback. They regret that they forgot to mark your draft and now you’re stuck with what you do now without their feedback. Here’s the kicker: They may be at fault for saying they will do something, but you are responsible for how you react and what you do moving forward. Do you get frustrated and sulk in a group chat about how bad your teacher is? Or do you recognise that, unfortunately, these things happen and ask another teacher (or more) to review your draft while there is still time? One of two results will happen: you either get feedback or you don’t. What is the difference? You were responsible for either outcome. 

One of my favourite role models is a battle-hardened man named Jocko Willink. An ex-navy SEAL, he and a partner of his (also a former SEAL) formed a company named Echelon Front which assists growing business leaders become effective leaders in their team and field of work. One of the books he wrote, Extreme Ownership, details how the best leaders and most successful people in life never (and I mean NEVER) jump straight to excuses or participate in the blame game. Rather, they take ownership over everything that goes wrong, learn from the experience and take active steps to improve. Real leadership and success take 20, 70, and possibly hundreds of failures. But each failure is a lesson that refines you to becoming a warrior in life. 

I encourage you to think about how you respond to life when things feel like rubbish. Are you willing to take extreme ownership of everything you control and be responsible for how you react and what you do next? Or will you be stuck in backward thinking and continue doing the same thing with no hope of getting anywhere?