“Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
William Shakespeare’s words in Julius Caesarspeak of personal accountability. We are where we are in life because of decisions we have made in the past. And we can make a better life tomorrow by making better choices today. Personal accountability – I love it.
When I think of people like Helen Keller, I have to try hard to think of any reason why a person cannot overcome adversity and become whatever he or she wants to become.
Blind, deaf and dumb, Helen Keller had no way of communicating with the outside world. Inside her head worked a fine brain, with no way of articulating its thoughts. All that changed on 3 March 1887 when Helen met a teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy. With patience, love and, always, strict discipline, Anne Macy worked with Helen Keller, teaching her to communicate, thus enabling Helen to unlock the huge potential stored within. Helen Keller later called March 3 her “Soul’s birthday.”
When you read the story of Helen Keller and the relationship with her teacher, you cannot help but be moved by the struggle that both teacher and pupil had to endure.
Helen went on to become an author and role model to not only the visually impaired, but also people with no disabilities. For Helen Keller, her setbacks began at birth and continued for much of her life. Helen is famous today, not for her setbacks, but for her triumph over adversity.
As Shakespeare said to Brutus, we are masters of our fate, and if we are “underlings” then the fault is ours. Once we understand this truth, accept responsibility for the fact that we are the manufacturers of our own circumstances, and resolve to improve our circumstances, life ceases to become a struggle and instead becomes a journey of discovery.
I hear people paint life as hard and as a battle. I don’t like this picture. Life gets tough at times, but it’s our attitude toward life’s setbacks that determines whether life is tough or not. I believe that even life’s ‘toughness’ is a matter of personal choice. Winners’ lives are not without problems. It’s how they handle their problems that sets the winner apart.
Problems, call them challenges, setbacks, or failure if you like, are not the end of the line, but are stepping stones to success. Some people say that true success is impossible without a large amount of failure along the way.
Whether you agree with this or not, one thing is certain: most successes are not the result of one fabulous correct decision, but instead are an evolutionary process of trial, error and correction.
How do you handle your problems? Do you become immobilised by them, or do you view them as stepping stones and a necessary part of the process that is to make you a success?
The price of success is to be paid in advance. As Earl Nightingale says, “You cannot say to the fire, ‘First give me heat then I’ll give you fuel’.” If you want to succeed, you must be prepared to learn, practise, fail, get up and have another go. You must be prepared to keep going and to never give up. And yes, it is often a high price.
But the price is not as high as the price of quitting. Mediocrity demands no up-front payment. It can be paid ‘on the drip’, but it’s the highest price of all. It is the price of Regret. “If Only.”
The thought of looking back at the end of my life and saying, “If only I’d done such and such…” chills me to the bone. By then it’s all too late.
We are what we have made ourselves to be. It’s our responsibility. Yes, life can be tough, but a life well-lived is a joy, not only to the liver, but also to others.
It’s all a matter of personal accountability.