Where we are in life is directly caused by the decisions and actions of our past. Each decision, large and small, creates our current reality. We can easily blame others by not owning our decisions. However, blaming others does not help us. Blame becomes the excuse, and we are stuck. Freedom from blame is the most powerful reality in life. We are liberated by the choices we make for the future. The choice to change is a gift that most people overlook. As long as there is breath in our body and thoughts in our brain, you are capable of changing what comes next in life. Your last breath is not nearly as important as the next breath you take.
Blaming others is a crippling choice we make. It focuses on the past with no perspective for the future. Are you stuck in a bad job? Are you unhappy with your physical condition? Looking backwards will not solve your problem. The only way to improve is taking ownership of your current reality and move forward. Opportunities are in the windshield not the rearview mirror. Everyone feels the guilt and shame of the past. It is easier to blame others than own our present. Focus on your future.
Following is a speech from Gene Kranz after the catastrophic Apollo 1 fire that killed three astronauts on January 27th, 1967. Gene Kranz was NASA flight director during the tragedy and is better known for the Ed Harris portrayal of him in the movie Apollo 13.
[Spaceflight will never tolerate carelessness, incapacity, and neglect. Somewhere, somehow, we screwed up. It could have been in design, build, or test. Whatever it was, we should have caught it. We were too gung ho about the schedule and we locked out all of the problems we saw each day in our work.
Every element of the program was in trouble and so were we. The simulators were not working, Mission Control was behind in virtually every area, and the flight and test procedures changed daily. Nothing we did had any shelf life. Not one of us stood up and said, ‘Dammit, stop!’ I don’t know what Thompson’s committee will find as the cause, but I know what I find. We are the cause! We were not ready! We did not do our job. We were rolling the dice, hoping that things would come together by launch day, when in our hearts we knew it would take a miracle. We were pushing the schedule and betting that the Cape would slip before we did.
From this day forward, Flight Control will be known by two words: ‘Tough’ and ‘Competent.’ Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do or what we fail to do. We will never again compromise our responsibilities. Every time we walk into Mission Control we will know what we stand for. Competent means we will never take anything for granted. We will never be found short in our knowledge and in our skills. Mission Control will be perfect.
When you leave this meeting today you will go to your office and the first thing you will do there is to write ‘Tough and Competent’ on your blackboards. It will never be erased. Each day when you enter the room these words will remind you of the price paid by Grissom, White, and Chaffee. These words are the price of admission to the ranks of Mission Control.]
Make these powerful words echo in your hearts and minds as you look ahead. Write this on your own boards. Make these words the standard by which you operate your life. Tough is owning life as your own. Tough is accountable without the need to be perfect. It is taking action to improve. Tough can be changing the people who surround you. Or, changing how you approach life. Suck it up buttercup and get tough.
Competent means working on your next version of life. Become a passionate learner. Develop new and scary skills. Live outside your comfort zone. Accept criticism and judgment as indicators you are moving in the right direction. When you choose change, you will be criticized. People will judge you for making a difference. Make the fear of the past your fuel for the future. Refuse to stay the same. Be the hardest worker in the room. You cannot control your genetics or natural gifts. But you can always control your effort. Be tough, be competent and refuse to blame others.