Stephen Woolston
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We need to cut blame, shame and judgement out of our narratives about success

“Don’t blame your lack of success on the world,” they said.

They were right, in the sense there’s no point blaming the world, other people or the weather for why things aren’t working out for us. The problem is, the obvious turnaround is that we should blame ourselves instead. There’s no point doing that either.

Look, if things aren’t working out, the only thing we can do more powerful than hope is change what we’re doing now. It is down to us.

The thing is, though, there’s a truth to success a lot of old school coaches don’t want to admit: you can do everything right and still fail.

You see, unless we’re talking about a simple goal like building a wall, which requires no cooperation from anyone or anything, there’s going to be factors outside your control.

Take getting a job.

You can have your goal, you can have a plan, you can write your CV, you can register on the job listing sites and you can religiously apply for every job you find, every day; and present yourself well at every interview.

There are at least three factors in that project that are just not up to you. One is what jobs come up. One is who else you are competing with and how good they are. The third and most crucial thing that’s not up to you is the hiring manager’s biases and decisions.

Let’s be clear. You absolutely influence the decision. You are a definite role player. You can definitely take responsibility for how well you play your role. In the end, though, you simply don’t make that final decision.

There is a point you have to surrender and let what is out of your hands take you over the line or not.

“The smarter you work, the luckier you get.”

Yes! But there are still factors that are simply not up to you and you can still do everything right and fail.

What’s worse, but it’s real so get over it, is you can still do everything right and fail, then look over your shoulder and see someone doing everything wrong and succeed. You can persevere dilgently for years and see someone else score first time.

Sometimes the other guy gets the job even though you know you’re better. When that happens, what’s the point of blame and shame? Seriously.

If there’s a new play in town looking for someone to play the lead part and twenty actors audition, nineteen are not going to get selected no matter how good they are.

If ten tins of beans sit proudly on the shop shelf, they’re already doing as much as they can to be selected. If only nine people are shopping for beans that day, one tin isn’t going to get selected and it means absolutely nothing about how good that tin is. It might not get picked the next day either and it still means nothing.

You’re going to get lots of rejection and it means absolutely nothing about you, your goals or your worth in the world.

The problem with blame and shame is they both lack love.

Blame and shame don’t make us more successful, they just make failure more painful and they make us needy and desperate, two states that pretty much always work against us.

In fact, let’s also kick out the word ‘failure’ because we’ve only truly failed in any venture when we give up or die.

Look, sometimes we screw up and we can see that’s why we didn’t win that time. Okay, so look at it, learn and do something differently, but don’t insist on beating yourself first.

For as long as you’re doing the best you know and are willing to keep learning, quit it with the narratives about blame and shame. Stop looking at the next person and comparing. Stop judging yourself.

Walk in peace and compassion.

Wishing you health and happiness,

Steve.