A popular topic with managers who want me to speak at their company is “Take Ownership of Your Life / Career”.  In my research on how people navigate the gap between potential and performance, talking ownership (the good and the bad) of their own actions is a proven key to success. While there is no single thing that creates peak performance, being realistic about your own results makes a huge impact.

Not everyone does this in their daily life. There is a lot of finger pointing and blaming that happens in the workplace. Along with eye rolling and second guessing of coworkers, placing fault on others is a popular game. Sometimes the blaming is done via official channels, sometimes it is back room gossip. But pushing off the responsibility of failures to others never helps anyone (rarely do people push off the successful credit).

Most successful people admit that they own their success and their mistakes. Many share with me that it seems rare to find this quality, as they think others in our society try to deflect anything that could be seen negative.  But failure is not negative, it is how we learn.  The old analogy of a baby learning to walk comes to mind.  If a toddler takes a step and falls, nobody says “FAILURE”.  They cheer.  This is how we should be on most behaviors.

In my keynote and interactive workshop, “the Paradox of Potential”, I explore with groups how people can navigate the gap between potential and performance. One of the things is to identify your actions that have worked out and those that fell short. There is not to be any judgement. We learn from “doing” and when you are willing to “Try New Things”, some of those will flop.  Its cool. It is part of the journey..

The idea of taking ownership of your life is actually frightening from some people. In conversations about this inside companies I see a split in perception between manager and employee. Managers tell me they want their people to attempt things and to grow. They understand that means there will be some failures. While they do not want people to make dumb mistakes that were not thought out, if they use judgement, they support their efforts.  However, employees (in the same organizations) say they do not feel supported to do anything that could fail.

What have you done that was at one level a failure, but lead to something that was a huge success?  Throughout my life I have screwed up many times, but many of those dead ends lead to amazing opportunity. I believe this is true for almost everyone.

Start today.  Take ownership of your life / career.


Thom Singer is keynote speaker and professional EmCee / master of ceremonies.  He is the host of two podcasts and the author of 12 books.