My new client, Tony, had some "issues." (Don’t we all?) A superb thinker and analytical problem-solver who astounded his co-workers with his intellect, he also got periodically derailed. When his boss (the CEO) criticized his work, Tony would "shut down" for prolonged periods of time. Additionally, when his boss interceded on projects Tony managed or sponsored, which didn't happen very often, Tony would interpret the intervention as a lack of trust.

During our first session together (the intake session in coaching lingo), I asked fairly standard questions, including the following:

  • If we were to meet in two years and you were to look back, what will have happened in your life to make you satisfied with your progress? (Thanks to Dan Sullivan for this question!)
  • What personal strengths will have propelled your success?
  • What are the obstacles you overcame to achieve what you wanted to achieve?

The last question made him grimace. "Stop," he said. "I'm not sure I can overcome the biggest obstacle in my life! My boss is a complete jerk!"

Tony then continued with a diatribe that lambasted his boss for being hyper-critical, disempowering (a word?), snide, insensitive, and self-centered. He then added that there was no way he could be successful as long as this guy remained in his job.

Once Tony regained his composure, I put the materials I had brought with me, including my notes, back in my briefcase. Then, I stood up and extended my hand in order to shake his as he quizzically looked at me.

"Where are you going?" he asked. "Are we done?"

"Well," I responded. "It seems to me that I've been asked to work with the wrong person. Perhaps I should be working with your boss, but I certainly shouldn't be working with you!"

"Huh?" he responded.

"You've just spent 15 minutes telling me that you cannot be successful until your boss is gone. If that's true, I should come back at that time because in the short run, it'll be a waste of your firm's money for us to work together!" I then spent the next hour explaining to Tony that he regarded himself as a victim, and that as long as that continued to be the case, he would be unable to achieve what he had said he wanted to achieve in his career and his life.

From my friend and mentor, Jack Canfield: "One of the most pervasive myths in American culture today is that we are entitled to a great life – that somehow, somewhere, someone (certainly not us) is responsible for filling our lives with continual happiness, exciting career options, nurturing family time, and blissful personal relationships simply because we exist.

"But the real truth is that there is only one person responsible for the quality of the life you live.

"That person is you!

"If you want to be successful, you have to take 100% responsibility for everything you want to experience in your life. That includes the level of your achievements, the results you produce, the quality of your relationships, the state of your health and physical fitness, your income, your debts, your feelings – everything!"

A collateral message from my book, Consensus is not Kumbaya – Lessons in Tough-Minded Leadership: "Some people, I'd say many people, marinate in a cauldron of psychic dysfunction. They whine about the world and complain about how put-upon others make them feel. They continually, boringly and irritatingly, place the blame for their circumstances on everyone but themselves. And at some level, they like it! Here's a sampling of what they say: "'My boss is a jerk, so I can't get promoted; my parents didn't love me, so naturally I have no self-esteem; if the bartender hadn't served me that tenth drink, I wouldn't have hit that school bus; if the burger joint would only cut out the trans fats, I wouldn't weigh four hundred pounds; my business wouldn't have gone bankrupt if it hadn't been for (pick one) regulation, competition, legislation, prices, Bangalore, third-world slave shops, recessions, expansions, sinus headaches, the full-moon, or male pattern baldness.'"

My point isn't that external circumstances don't cause misery. My point IS that the only thing you can control and change is YOU! The first step in that process is accepting 100% control for your life, even while understanding that you never have total control because the only thing you can ultimately change is YOU!

You're thinking: "Of course!! Tell me something I don't know!!" My response: Although most of us are aware that my assertions are true, we generally notice their manifestation in others but rarely in ourselves.

Listen to your own thoughts! How often do you blame, justify or make excuses for circumstances in your life? When you do those things, you are being a victim, and victimhood is a prison from which you can only escape with a key held by others!! That, my friend, is a dead-end way to live your life!

When you feel yourself lapsing into blame, justifying, and excuse-making, ask yourself the following questions:

  • To what degree – and in what SPECIFIC ways – am I conspiring in my own defeat?
  • What precise actions could I have taken, in retrospect, that would have resulted in a better outcome?
  • What must I do to assure that next time, the outcome will be better?

Remember this: Whatever you think, believe, feel, and act will come to be. In baseball parlance, it's a "four-bagger." If you dwell on the inherent unfairness of the universe and the bad deals in your life, success and happiness will always elude you. If, however, you take the reigns and assume that your manifest destiny is positive, your outcomes will be likewise.

I guarantee it!

Copyright 2013 Rand Golletz. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Rand Golletz is the managing partner of Rand Golletz Performance Systems, a leadership development, executive coaching and consulting firm that works with senior corporate leaders and business owners on a wide range of issues, including interpersonal effectiveness, brand-building, sales management, strategy creation and implementation. For more information and to sign up for Rand's free newsletter, The Real Deal, visit