By Jim Clemmer
"Every day all of us make hundreds of choices, most of them so menial and habitual that they are almost as automatic as breathing. Those who live in unhappy failure have never exercised their options for the better things of life because they have never been aware that they had any choices." — Og Mandino, The Choice
After heated meetings and many warnings to clean up the community group's problems, the director was finally fired. While cleaning out his office, he met his eager new successor. "There are three sealed and numbered letters in the top drawer of this desk," he told the new director. "I left them there as my parting advice to you. Open them in order when you're really in trouble."
Within a few weeks the new director was in deep trouble, so he opened letter number one. It said simply: "Blame me." The director did and the heat was deflected. Before long he was in even deeper trouble. He opened the second letter. It advised: "Blame the economy." He did and this bought him some sympathy and time. But a few months later, the discouraged director was in major trouble. He opened the third letter. It said: "Time to write three letters."
Accepting responsibility for our choices is not only tough, in today's society it can even be considered weird. It's much easier to blame somebody or something else. But the happiest and most successful people who get things done and get on with their lives — leaders — know that life is an endless series of choices. They may be victimized, but refuse to be a victim. They may visit Pity City occasionally, but don't make it their permanent home. Leaders control their own destiny so fate and others don't. Leaders act on the belief that choice more than chance determines our circumstance. Leaders also take responsibility for their actions in response to circumstances for which they're not responsible. Leaders realize that life accumulates and the withdrawals and deposits in our choice accounts build a wealth of success and happiness or debt of despair and discouragement. Leaders choose their future by choosing their thoughts.
Think about someone you know well and really admire who gets things done. Someone you'd call a real leader. He or she could be a parent, grandparent, local community leader, activist, teacher, entrepreneur, manager, or coach. How often does he or she passively accept things as they are and meekly goes along with whatever life hands him or her? I'll bet rarely, if ever. Leaders don't wait for something to happen, they make it happen.