“The best way to predict your future is to create it.” — Abraham Lincoln.
Let’s try an experiment. As you wake up today, tell yourself the following out loud: “Everything that will happen to me today will be my responsibility. No one else’s, regardless of where such event may be coming from”
Now, get ready and leave home to do whatever you normally do. Feeling it yet? Real ownership is one of the most empowering feelings available to a human being. And today I will tell you why and how you can put this superpower to work in your daily life.
The science behind Radical Ownership
The internal vs. external locus of control is a theory developed in 1954 by Julian Rotter, elaborating on this approach to ownership.
It differentiates between those who believe to have the power to affect the outcome of a situation in their lives as opposed to those who believe to be a victim of external forces for everything that happens to them. For example, when being fired, an individual with an internal locus of control will blame himself for such event, while a person with an external locus of control will blame external factors, such as the economy, his boss or luck.
We spend an enormous amount of energy and time every day defusing responsibility. We tend to hedge ourselves, defend our position and hide from blame, doing whatever necessary to stay out of that picture. But the truth is, great achievers do not hide from problems. They seek problems. They know that tackling those problems will bring other problems, likely to be bigger and more challenging. That is how you get great things done.
In the words of Peter Drucker, successful people are not problem-minded, they are opportunity-minded.
The power of true proactivity
Back to our little experiment.
You have now dropped your defensive approach and you are tackling your day assuming that it is all down to you, like everything depends on you.
“But wait” — you could argue. “The other day you said we should spend all our energy in trying to control only those things we can control, and stop spending a single minute at those things that we cannot change. Are you turning back on this?”
Not at all, I am expanding on this. This is where the concept of radical ownership comes into play. This is your superpower, if you are ready to pay the price to use it.
If you tackle your life with a radical ownership mindset, something amazing will happen. Yes, you will focus — as always — on those things that you can control. But you will do something else. As you now believe that everything is down to you, you will also start to think of proactive ways to affect those aspects of your life you cannot — in principle — control directly. You will start designing indirect action.
Maybe this means that you over-communicate with your team regularly to avoid a misunderstanding down the chain of command. Maybe you spend some time thinking of a plan B in case that the consensus and highly likely (last famous words…) default scenario does not work out. Maybe you take the time to confirm the agreed terms in writing with your supplier or your client to make sure that there is full alignment with what was discussed at that meeting.
The key question here is: what can you do, even when it seems there is nothing you can do about something?
If you think hard enough, I am sure you will recall events in which you could have done that little more that could have made a difference in the outcome.
Apply a “pre-emptive post mortem” analysis
The blame game is a destructive one. We have all been in what I call “post-mortem” analysis, where people quickly point fingers while others rush to be on the safe side of blame.
You want to stop this dynamic from happening to you? You then have to apply a “pre-emptive post-mortem” approach to your life.
Think at the onset of all the things that could actually go wrong with a particular situation in which you are part of. Drop the sitting duck approach and instead embrace the full ownership of the result.
Make a list of all potential problems you may encounter down the road for a particular situation or event, even problems that seem highly unlikely to happen at the present moment. Go bold, like “What could take me out of business in 12 months?”, or “Why could I be fired from my job today?”Those are the things you need to work on. Simple yet incredibly insightful and powerful on the long run. Try it, you will be surprised.
Truth is, sometimes there is not much one can do to affect the outcome. But if you apply real proactivity, you will see how your circle of influence starts expanding. Over time you will be able to affect outcomes that you once thought were out of your control. This is your superpower. We all have it, but you have to pay the price. And, as human nature goes, not everyone is ready to put the effort so you can use this to your advantage. Hard work and awareness make for the winning combination.