Responsibility: Your Map to Character and Success




I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty.  ~John D. Rockefeller, Jr.


Responsibility, a word dreaded and feared by so many of our generation.  It’s a tough word, a hard word, leaving little room for doubt and asking so much from us.  It is a word that many avoid for as long as possible, we run from it, we shirk it, and we decry the unfair nature of such a terrible idea.  We have forgotten the other half of freedom and it is crippling us.


If there is ever a topic that deserves a “come to Jesus” speech, it is responsibility. 


Growing up, I feared responsibility.  It meant getting old and forgoing fun, it meant turning into some browbeaten old man.  Only in the past few years have I realized the true nature and importance of responsibility.  It is not a thing to be feared, but it is a mountain to climb.  It doesn’t mean the end of your youth or your dreams, but it does mean you will have to fight for them.  Responsibility gives us the map to follow to success; in fact, without responsibility we are dead in the water, a failure to launch.


This fear of responsibility has lead to a generation and a nation of whiners and complainers, to a culture of avoidance and immaturity.  Most people, quite a few of my generation, run from anything resembling responsibility, instead happy to dull their senses with video games, reality TV, and unrealistic relationships.  Take a look around, how many people do you know that play over four hours of video games a day or watch over five hours of TV or engage in adolescent relationships on facebook a la “Catfish”?  What about the number of friends who are underemployed with no hope of advancement?


I bet you can think of a few, hell, you might even be looking at yourself right now, but the important thing is to realize that responsibility gives you the ability to change all that.  In fact, responsibility is the impetus of change.


There are two sides to the idea of responsibility that are equally important and work in tandem.  The first is Personal and the second is Social.  To become a well rounded man (or woman) of character, you must build each side and follow their leading.


Personal Responsibility: Taking charge of yourself


The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own.  You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president.  You realize that you control your own destiny.  ~Albert Ellis


Personal responsibility is by far the most ignored side of responsibility in our culture.  I don’t mean this in some political, you are lazy and worthless kind of way, though without some personal responsibility you can quickly become a burden on society.  Personal responsibility has more to do with looking at yourself in the mirror and taking ownership for your life and actions.


The first step:  Quit blaming things on other people and outside forces.


To take responsibility for yourself, you have to realize that you are where you are in life, because of the choices you have made.  Not what your parents did, or your third grade teacher, or congress, or your pastor, but YOU.  Are you working a dead end job you hate?  The decisions you made landed you there.  Are you overweight and hate the way you look?  Your choice to sit on the couch eating cheetos and playing video games instead of working out and eating sane foods brought you here.  There is no one else to blame, but you.


You may say, “I came from a poor family”, or “I’m not that smart”, or “I am just too tired from having to work,” but know that those things are excuses and that it is still possible to achieve your goals, you just have to be willing to sacrifice a little for them.  It is not impossible to overcome whatever odds were stacked against you; no one said this would be easy.  You have to take a stand and realize that only you are standing in your way to success.


Step two: No more whining and no more excuses.


Have you ever solved a problem by bitching about it?  Have you ever achieved a goal by making up an excuse?  The answer is no.


It’s true that things will stand in your way, that a resistance will rise up to every effort for success, but whining will not overcome any obstacle.  Life is tough, like it or not, it’s the truth.  If you aren’t willing to fight for what you want, then you better be content to sit on the sidelines.


No obstacle or scenario in your life is totally unique to you; someone else has been through it and conquered it.  Once you realize that you will know that you have nothing to complain about and no excuse good enough to make up for your lack of action.


Step three: Do Something.


That’s it, do something.  It’s the cure to what is ailing our culture and holding you back.  Decide what you want to achieve, who you want to be, then make a plan, and do it.  Turn off the TV, get off the computer, and just do it.


If you want to lose weight, then you have to take a step.  Start with one step and build upon it, don’t let your current condition keep you down, start where you are and you will shock yourself with where you end up.  You want more money and a better job, figure out what it takes to get there and start working towards it, take classes, work smarter, assume new responsibilities at work, now.  You have to start somewhere and it is imperative that you just Start.


This is where responsibility becomes your map to the life you want.  By taking a step back and realizing that nothing stands in your way, but yourself; you can decide what you want and what it takes to get there.  Thus responsibility goes from some smothering force to the guide to achievement and happiness.  Taking responsibility for yourself opens all doors that you are willing to strive for.  It doesn’t mean that you will breeze into success, but it shows you the path up the Everest of your life.


Social Responsibility: Every freedom has its duty


 We need to restore the full meaning of that old word, duty.  It is the other side of rights.  ~Pearl Buck


The other side of responsibility revolves around our relation to those around us and the universe at large.  This isn’t just the hippie “love the world” environmental responsibility, though that does have a bit to do with it, this is how you function as a member of society.


Social responsibility is the duty that keeps our social freedoms afloat and the good of mankind ever progressing.  When we are born we are given certain freedoms and with those freedoms come expectations; without assuming some responsibility for your place in the world then your freedom crumbles.


Look around you, you are not alone.  No matter how lonely you feel, there are other people’s lives that are influenced by you.  This is a great affirmation and responsibility, that your actions can actually change the lives of anyone around you.


The choices you make, where you shop, what you eat, and how you behave, all have a bearing on your neighbors and the Earth as a whole.  I will not go fully into the chain of events that leads to the cheeseburger in your hand or the t shirt on your back, but know that people’s lives were affected to bring that to you and more will be affected after you have moved on from it.  This global web of life means that we must think about the effects of our actions.


For those of you with a spouse or kids, realize that you are responsible for them and for their happiness.  This doesn’t mean they get to blame you for their short comings, but it does mean that you have a very real stake in their lives.  Your decision to blow a ton of money in Vegas has a direct effect on the opportunities that you could have provided for your family. 


I am not saying you can’t fun and live your life, but you still have to realize the effect your actions have on the people you care about.


Social responsibility means that we look outside of ourselves and make decisions that positively affect everyone around us.  Just take a minute to examine your choices and decide whether it is worth purchasing or doing something that could, or did, hurt someone to make it possible.  It may mean paying a bit more or avoiding certain things, but in the end it means that others have had a chance to thrive.


As well as examining our choices, we must make a conscious effort to actively do good in the world.  Volunteer your time, say nice things to people, hold doors, plant a garden, or whatever, but just do something to leave the world a little bit better than when you found it.  This is your responsibility to society and you’ll be surprised by how freeing it is to think of others, instead of yourself, even if only for a bit.


A man, as a general rule, owes very little to what he is born with – a man is what he makes of himself.


I have to admit that this is the hardest virtue for me.  I am prone to over analyzing and to second guessing myself into inaction.  I do it over and over again.  Instead of taking action and going to the gym, I sit on the couch watching TV wishing myself thin.  I am just too tired to make myself go work out and I’ve got bad genes that keep me from losing weight, so why bother.


This is a lie.


I am responsible for myself and for my success.  No more excuses and no more whining, I will make a decision and follow it through.  It’s tough, there are so many mountains to climb and the enemy is surrounding me, but I will fight to accomplish my dreams. 


To do this will take courage and self discipline (which we will be getting to very soon), not to mention community.  To embrace responsibility we must embrace accountability.  Find a group of guys or gals to encourage you and to be accountable to.  Responsibility leads us down too many tough roads to go it alone.  We all need help from time to time.  I encourage you to seek out some friends to join you in the foxhole; you will need someone to watch your back.


If you take one thing from this post, let it be the call to action, to go ahead and do it.  Don’t wait, you can’t afford to wait, take that first step.  You don’t have to know exactly where you are going or how to get there, but you do have to start the journey.  Seize the moment and follow the path of responsibility to your success.


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