One of the great modern day philosophers is Eric Taylor, the fictional football coach of the Dillon Panthers on the TV series, Friday Night Lights. In one episode, he is counseling his star quarterback who is struggling under the weight of high expectations – from the community, as well as his own self-imposed standards. They are both unrealistically high. As the camera zooms in on the coach and his furrowed brow, he says this:
“I said you need to strive to be better than everyone else. I didn’t say you needed to be better than everyone else. But you gotta try. That’s what character is: it’s in the trying.”
By the way, for my millennial readers, I’m not talking about 140 characters and tweets. I’m talking about heart.
In the World According to Michael Marcon (or WAM as it is affectionately referred to in the firm that I lead), we have a guiding principle that we use as a reminder to keep us focused forward, one that I learned early from my liberal arts studies at Ursinus College.
“There are no excuses. There are only consequences.”
That is the fundamental belief that shapes my worldview on personal responsibility. It does not matter what the extenuating circumstances are. We are all still left to deal with the consequences. What you did is done. It is what you do next that defines who you are. When faced with those situations (in which I seem to find myself on a regular basis), I have developed a very simple process – I look in my mirror first. I look out my window second. The assumption is that most issues are self-inflicted. Most of the time, I am not the victim. I am the “perpetrator”.
It takes many people a long time to realize that life is both sides of the coin. Accepting the consequences of your actions and recognizing that you are the author of your own narrative is not as scary as it seems. While it is true that you have to deal with the negative outcomes of your decisions/actions, you also get to bask in the satisfaction of when the outcome is positive. For most people, the satisfaction will far outweigh the negative over the course of their lives. “Victims” do not get that choice. By definition, they have ceded the outcome – positive and negative – to some force beyond their control.
We are taught in church (St. Anthony of Padua, 115th & Prairie Sts on the south side of Chicago for me) that life is not fair and we are not victims. With this in mind, one of the defining values of my life is the “Parable of the Talents” (Matthew 25: 14-30). We are taught that the “master” gives each “servant” a specific number of talents to invest while he is “away”. Most preachers focus on the concept of “making the most with what you are given” when they talk to their congregations. I have focused on the fact that each servant was given a different number of talents! God knows life is not fair. God knows you got less than the next person. He wants to know what you are going to do about it. Are you going to look in the mirror or look out the window?
Keeping with the biblical examples – Peter denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed. He then went on to be the first Pope of the Catholic Church and the “rock” upon which the church was built. Or, as I said above – What you did is done. It is what you do next that defines who you are.
What should you do next?
It’s in the trying.
Michael C. Marcon is the founder of Equity Risk Partners and former chairman of the Ursinus College board of trustees. He tweets from @mcm7464. Tweet him any of your questions about business, leadership or life.