I Am Responsible

It’s a watershed moment in a person’s life when they stand tall, gaze off into the future, and say ‘I am responsible for everything that will happen in my life’. It’s a beautiful thing, and I remember the exact instant, place and circumstances when I came to that very personal realization.  

I was in my thirties, recently divorced, and had put everything I owned and more on the line to participate in a leveraged buy-out / turnaround. The covenants imposed by the lending institution included ratios that were heavily dependent on reducing the debt:equity ratio in accordance with an aggressive, short timeline; a timeline I obviously believed to be achievable at that point. 

To make a long story short, within 12 months interest rates had risen and the Canadian dollar had risen steadily vs that of the US. That strong dollar made it increasingly difficult to secure the export orders that were needed to not only improve our top line, but to reduce the large inventory position of finished equipment and raw materials that had contributed to the company’s difficulties in the first place. Our order book was shrinking and the distinct possibility of defaulting on our debt:equity covenants was looming large. Our executive team met to discuss the situation. 

Every person in that room knew we were in trouble and that our personal investments in the company were at risk. I wasn’t sure about the others, but my investment exceeded my ability to cover. I was facing ruin and we were deeply engaged in parsing the cause and effects of the strong dollar, particularly how long this could last and how high could it go. It suddenly hit me, I believe it hit me first, that although we had absolutely no control over the rise in the Canadian dollar what we did have, individually and collectively, was control over how we chose to react. It hit the others, too, and we shifted gears toward listing all of the things we could control and then choosing those that had an impact on our ratios.  

Individually and as a team we left that meeting not paralyzed by what was beyond our control, but focused on what was within our control. That moment, and the success that followed, hit me personally like a bolt of lightning and seared a mindset deep into my psyche that has been with me ever since. 

The only things I can change are those for which I am responsible. The more ways I can internalize my responsibility for events around me, the more effectively I can set about changing them. 

It’s a turning point in many people’s lives, and I encourage you to take that on. Don’t just say it, bask in it.  

I am responsible. 

It’s the first step in Pursuing the Art of Living. 


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