Provision #234: Take Responsibility

Laser Provision


If the “B” in BRAVE stands for being Bold, the “R” stands for taking Responsibility. Being Bold without taking Responsibility is full of arrogance and often leads to failure. But with the right planning, preparations, and provisions • as well as the integrity to acknowledge and learn from our mistakes • life becomes much more fun and fruitful.

LifeTrek Provision

There is a story that comes from the era of America’s Great Depression in the 1930s. For most of the decade a high school football team had developed a losing reputation. It went on long enough, that no one expected this team to win. Ever. Not even the coach and players let alone the fans in the community.

As you can imagine, this expectation impacted everything about the team’s preparation and planning for their games, from week to week and season to season. Why bother when you’re just going to lose anyway? Why take responsibility for hard workouts and a carefully designed game plan, when failure is virtually assured?

Frustrated with the situation, a wealthy businessman in the community decided to take matters into his own hands. In the weeks prior to the annual game against their archrivals, the man met with the team in the locker room. “Beat these fellows,” he promised, “and I will buy a new car for every coach and player on this team.”

Well, you can imagine the stir that created. The team left that locker room as fired up and motivated as they had ever been. They were ready to boldly go where no football team had gone before. Coaches and players alike could just picture themselves driving around town in a gorgeous new car, to the cheers of adoring fans, the envy of one and all. As game day approached, the intensity level reached a feverish pitch. They were going to do it this time! This was going to be a day to remember!

The outcome, as you might imagine, was yet another devastating loss. 34-0. A week of enthusiasm and zeal could not make up for years of unmotivated and unfocused training. Their failure to take responsibility for the hard work that goes into building a winning program could not be overcome by even the most generous of incentives. And, of course, there were plenty of excuses to go around after the game. It was the same old story, made all the more poignant by the enormity of the carrot on the stick.

So it goes with most things in life. People fail to take responsibility for their words and actions, and then blame others for their failures. It happens all the time in business, where CYA has become the norm in many organizational cultures. No one wants to take responsibility for negative results, fearing that they will lose either their position or become the organizational scapegoat.

In their book “How We Talk Can Change The Way We Work,” Kegan and Lahey call this a BMW culture • “Bitching, Moaning, and Whining.” And don’t we all give into this temptation sometimes? Life is difficult. Complaining provides a measure of relief while blaming others provides a measure of self-respect.

But BMW is never more than a pressure relief valve. It doesn’t fix anything, regardless of how good it feels to let loose. That’s why the “R” in BRAVE stands for taking Responsibility. It’s not enough to be Bold, which is where we started in the acronym for BRAVE. Boldness without Responsibility is nothing but arrogance and bravado. As that football team found out so long ago, it rarely gets the job done. Boldness with Responsibility is confidence, execution, and integrity. Although there’s still plenty that can stand in the way of success, this combination will often produce both success and fulfillment.

Here’s another example. This Provision is being sent out on Monday, instead of Sunday, because yesterday I ran the Raleigh, North Carolina marathon. To Boldly go out and run a marathon without taking Responsibility for proper planning, preparation, and provisions is to risk not only failure but injury. We see this all the time with our pace teams. People will decide to run a marathon at the last minute, and then ask, “So what pace do you think I should run?”

How should we know? It’s not Bold to do something stupid. It’s just stupid. It’s Bold to take Responsibility for something large enough that we can find our legacy and ourselves in the process. What kind of mark are we leaving in the world? What are the limits of our body, mind, and spirit? What can we show for ourselves?

That’s why people run marathons, ultramarathons, and all manner of endurance events. That’s why people exercise leadership and initiate change in organizations and society. The good ones want to take Responsibility for themselves and their world. BMW is not, typically, part of their vocabulary. They plan, prepare, provide, and execute. When things don’t go right, they take Responsibility for that too, learning from their mistakes and the mistakes of others along the way. Life is not a blame game. It’s a mobility responsibility.

Do we move through life with full Responsibility for our role in making things happen, or not, as the case may be? Brave, successful people do just that. My goal and plan yesterday was to run under 3 hours, 45 minutes. I finished in 3:44:45. It might not have turned out that way. There are things • like course and weather conditions as well as injury • that you can neither predict nor control. But when preparation meets opportunity, success is more often than not the result.

I invite you to join me on that journey. Take Responsibility for the plans, preparations, and provisions that make for success in your chosen fields of endeavor. Take Responsibility, too, for your mistakes and management of every new opportunity. Have the integrity to do so both publicly and privately. A lifetime of intentional trial and correction is a fun and fruitful way to live.

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Reader’s Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. These selections do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. They do reflect the diversity of those who read Provisions each week for support and strength on the trek of life. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


The way I heard it, the average abused partner leaves the home temporarily 7 times before making a permanent change. In any case the statistic really surprised me.


I did not receive my Provisions from last night. Was it not sent out or was it not received? I missed my weekly, Sunday evening message! Ed. Note: It was gratifying to receive several such inquiries. This Provision is coming out on Monday evening thanks to the Raleigh, North Carolina marathon. Enjoy!


May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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