It’s time to flip the switch.
Some things we want to take, and some things we want to give away. Some make sense, and some don’t. Usually, we should be doing the opposite — keeping the things we want to give away, and giving away that which we want to keep. But how will we know?
Hear me out on this one.
There’s this family video I love that I can’t get out of my head. It’s a family classic. Picture this…
Six-month old me is sitting inside a battery-powered toy truck, looking tiny and pretty much helpless. Without being able to move around much, the truck is sitting in the middle of the driveway, idle and bored. My big brother (a full-fledged toddler at the time) runs over and starts pushing the truck around with me in it, making vroom-vroom noises as we go. Suddenly, he veers off to the side and pushes the toy truck smack into a big bush of flowers — and little old Marcella is lost in the greenery without any chance of getting out.
What does he do? Pull the truck back out into the driveway? Check if I’m okay?
More like, he turns around and yells, “Daaad! Look what Marcella did!”
Not cool, dude.
Need for blame = Need to escape responsibility.
By screaming his lungs out and claiming the six-month-old version of me had succeeded in driving myself into a bush all by myself, my toddler brother was trying to offload his responsibility — and his guilt.
From the time we’re little, we indulge in something a bit evil, a bit wrong — it’s called placing blame. If I recall childhood correctly enough, a child’s favorite line is “It wasn’t me!”
The problem is we carry this indulgence forward for much of our lives. Whether it’s on your little immobile little sister or a colleague at work, placing the blame on others becomes the go-to escape from feeling any kind of responsibility.
What worries me most about how quickly we learn to place blame instead of taking the blame ourselves is the implications it has on our ability to grow and succeed later on in life. It’s probably one of the biggest impediments we face — we just don’t even know it.
Is placing the blame on others truly an escape from responsibility? Probably not. We might think we can point the finger and be scott free, but it’s the expectations of others (our friends, our family, our boss) that set our level of responsibility. Pointing the finger probably has not bearing on this whatsoever.
Need to take credit = need to feel important.
Ah, blame’s golden brother — credit. See, the problem with credit is similar to the problem with blame — you can take it or give it.
Making the choice between taking credit and giving says a lot about a person’s character, but also their need to feel important.
As I mentioned in opening this post, the very times when we want to take credit is probably when we should most be giving it to others, no?
A person who tries to take the credit for that which they are not responsible is trying to inflate their ego and calm their fears and insecurities. A person who freely gives credit to others is helping build up others instead of building themselves. They are being generous and giving in boosting confidences of others, not just themselves.
Imagine letting go of the need to feel important… Imagine that need floating away… Imagine being enough just as you are right now…
How would that change things — in both your personal and professional life? (You feel that calm and zen? Exactly.)
What if we dared to do the opposite?
We’ve all been in situations with horrible bosses and mean friends. We’ve also probably been in situations where somehow some kind of amazing success is handed to us, credit given to us without rhyme or reason. It can be a depressing low or an incredible high, but we have no control over that.
What we do have control over is how we take this information and apply it to the people in our lives. We take this information and apply it to the situations we face every morning, every afternoon, and every night.
Check out my theory:
The Skull: This person credits themselves, but blames others — why the hell would you do that? This person is the worst combination to have. Whether it’s your boss or your friend, you should probably let anyone that displays this kind of behavior know that you are onto them — and that it isn’t very healthy. Taking credit for the work of others but blaming them when things go wrong… Flee, pronto!
The Slippery Slope: This person credits themselves and blames themselves, too. Sounds like a hotbed of insecurity to me! Not only do they seek validation in giving themselves credit, but they are also insecure enough to blame themselves when things go wrong. I imagine this person as trying to springboard themselves to the next level but still insecure in their own capabilities and weaknesses. Watch out for this type of person because they’re a slippery slope away from becoming a Skull.
The Land Mine: This person credits others and blames others, too. I call this person the Land Mine because you never really know when things could go badly. Sure, they’re generous with credit, but this person is also generous with blame — and how will you really know whether you’re getting the positive or the negative stash? Careful with this dynamic persona. It could get ugly!
The Cheerleader: This person credits others, but blames themselves. This person is gold. If you’ve found one of these as a boss, friend, lover, or mentor — hold on tight and never let go. This person will give you credit when it’s due (and maybe when it’s not due) and will blame themselves when things go wrong. They understand the value in a good team, and they understand that there is no “offloading” responsibility and guilt. I repeat, this kind of person is gold.
I’ve been lucky enough in my life to find lots of cheerleaders on my path — but I’ve also been blessed with the guidance to steer clear of the Skulls and Land Mines along the way.
Amazing, right? Taking and giving both blame and credit is such a complex and delicate issue — but we haven’t even really stopped to notice! Humans default to giving blame away and taking credit, but it’s really the opposite we should be doing.
I wonder what life would be like if we dared to do the opposite of all I have described above. Trust me, it’d be harder — but would life be better?
This is a cross-post of my article on Under30CEO.com.