Personal Accountability 

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Sequence 45

33-Personal Accountability

Great companies operate with high cultures of accountability. Those accountability metrics help us determine whether we are succeeding. Accountability systems let us know when we must correct course and pursue new strategies.

—Steve Ballmer

Sometimes we feel like we’re trying to accomplish a task that we deem essential to our preparation for success. The system may not allow us to progress, bogging us down with all types of red tape or bureaucratic procedures. From our perspective, the reasons don’t make sense. 

People can get in our way, obstructing or discouraging us. Authority figures may vehemently argue that we won’t ever be able to succeed in the ways we want due to our past decisions.

When preparing for success after prison, we must stay on the path, holding ourselves accountable daily, even though we encounter obstacles. Going through the challenges or responding responsibly to them is another step in our preparation.

If we’re determined to succeed, we can learn a great day from the mindset of the Stoics. They teach us the importance of personal accountability. 

Either we blame ourselves for not achieving our goals, or we don’t blame anyone at all. If we look for excuses, we’re not going to lead a very productive life. Although we may face challenging circumstances that limit our progress, we always have the power to choose how we respond.

Rather than allowing other people’s decisions to anger us, we can focus on our deficiencies and push ourselves to do better. If other people refuse permission that we may need, ideally, we’ve invested enough time and energy to develop the art and skills of persuasion. If rules are stopping us, consider the ways that those rules could potentially work in our favor. We must be tolerant of other people’s mistakes or bad decisions.

Remember that each of us has made plenty of mistakes and bad decisions in the past.

We may live in an environment that makes us feel like everyone is conspiring or plotting our demise. Yet, we grow stronger when we hold ourselves accountable, accepting that we have the power to focus on what matters. 

Leaders, or masterminds, taught me this lesson on personal accountability: 

Our attitude, decisions, and actions determine whether we succeed—not the decisions of others. 

Accountability metrics aren’t new. Whether we’re fathers, mothers, sons, or daughters, we’ve relied upon accountability tools to track progress. For example, parents expect school-age children to bring home report cards. What purpose do report cards serve? They help us assess progress, showing what students are doing well and where they can improve. The report cards hold students accountable. 

Sports enthusiasts, either coaches or fans, use accountability logs to assess how well players or teams are doing. They help us measure performance. We count wins, losses, batting averages, passing, or rushing yards. Depending on the sport, we count runs or points. Each metric gives us an idea of future performance. 

Investors rely upon accountability logs to assess how stocks perform in different time frames. They measure whether the pace of sales will meet growth targets. Financial reports let us know whether a company is poised to lead the market. 

An investor or business leader may rely upon accountability metrics to ask Socratic questions. 

For example, in what ways would merging with a supplier or a competitor increase efficiencies? 

Those types of questions give investors an idea of the company’s health. Investors hold themselves accountable by assessing all sorts of metrics. Similarly, accountability metrics can help us determine whether we’re on the right track, personally. By creating accountability metrics, we can examine our choices and performance. 

Aristotle, another teacher from ancient Greece, wrote that we should always examine performance. Many scholars of the Hellenic period credit Aristotle with saying:

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

If people of wisdom use accountability metrics to examine their past decisions and project future performance, shouldn’t we do the same?


What takeaways on personal accountability do you get from the leaders around you?

In what ways have you examined your choices? 

How have the choices you’ve made in the past influenced who you are today? 

What choices can you make today to influence the success you want to achieve tomorrow?

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