Last week, I was listening to one of our pop culture icons/movie stars being interviewed on a talk show. The questioner reviewed the star’s laundry list of very successful films, paused and added, “and then there was __________ (the star’s only bomb).” The star winced a bit, agreed that it was a box-office flop but then added, kind of tongue-in-cheek, that the movie was “critically acclaimed.”

I got to thinking. Here’s a question worth pondering:

How many times in your business or personal life have you employed the “critically acclaimed” excuse? Some examples and (afterwards) my responses:

• Well, we didn’t make our sales plan this year. We are operating in a rough economy, but we gave it a great effort.

• I know I promised my daughter that I’d make it to her softball game, but I got tied up at the office. She’ll understand. I really tried to make it.

• Our expense projections were a bit optimistic. We believed that it would take $20 million to launch product X, but it really required $25 million. The project team did really great work, however.

• I realize that a low percent of my students passed their high school proficiency exams, but I worked really hard to teach them, and I’m really good at what I do.

My answers, in order:

• You get paid to make your sales plan in tough economies as well as great economies. I’d love to see your planning assumptions. You’re employing the following equation: Not making a plan + a good excuse = making a plan.

• Commitments are sacrosanct. If you can’t keep ‘em, don’t make ‘em. That isn’t to imply that each of us doesn’t occasionally fail. What it does mean is this: In order to change behavior when we blow it, each of us has to first accept culpability rather than make excuses that enable our dysfunctional behavior.

• See my response to the first issue.

• As a teacher, your responsibility is to teach, but that’s just the input. Your accountability is to make sure learning is happening – that’s the result. Stop whining about measurements. Yes, you grew up in an environment in which you got paid for tenure and credentials. It wasn’t valid then; it’s not valid now. Get over it!

Here’s the REAL DEAL:

If you want to be successful — not “doin’ better than the next guy” successful, but REALLY “off the hook” successful — you have to accept the following proposition (circle this, underline it or highlight it in yellow and read it EVERY DAY): You get paid to create value in the marketplace and achieve results. This is absolutely true whether you are a school teacher or the CEO of a publicly-traded company (read my March 2005 issue for more). You don’t get paid to work hard; you don’t get paid for how much you know; you don’t get paid for intentions.

Here’s how to do that.

In order to create value, you must be personally valuable. There are a ton of arenas in which you can be valuable. For the sake of this article, I’m focusing on business, not on your value as a parent or a community member or the myriad of other places or ways you can be valuable. Those are important, but they’re not my focus here.

To be personally valuable, you must develop relevant knowledge, skills, and personal attributes:

Knowledge is the level of learning of concepts and facts, from the most basic (curiosity) to the most mature (perspective). Knowledge is what I call “necessary, but insufficient.” Many people know a lot and actually do very little. If the most capable people were the smartest, a high percentage of our business leaders would be Mensa members; they’re not.

Knowledge does, however, give you a foundation. Read books, go to seminars, become culturally well-rounded. Read business publications. Read the great works of fiction. Read the Bible and the Koran. Learn about music and art. Be interested.

Skills are strengths at performing specific tasks. You get good at doing by doing. The road to mastery is named practice. The road to perfection is named perfect practice.

You cannot become a great surgeon by reading about surgery. You cannot become a great leader simply by reading about leadership. Dive in and keep diving in. Dive into deep water and then dive into deeper water. Use the lessons of failure to develop wisdom and to increase proficiency.

• Your personal attributes are your characteristics of morality, character and personality that are initiated genetically and developed in childhood. Courage, resilience, persistence, industry, self-control, humility, generosity, confidence and responsibility are the lynchpins of personal success. You can be the smartest and most skilled person in your workplace, but without a strong foundation of character, sustainable success will be elusive. If you are not prone to self-examination and rigorous, brutal self-honesty, dealing with character flaws in adulthood is impossible.

Here’s my one absolute requirement for becoming valuable and successful: Accept total responsibility for your life. No blame, no victim-hood, no excuses. To paraphrase the great Jim Rohn, for life to get better, you have to get better. It’s really as simple as that.

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