One of my most lasting memories from my wedding in 2010 was when a good family friend pulled me aside and said, “Don’t thank me for anything, you make your own breaks in this life.” That line has stuck with me ever since… “You make your breaks”.
The context behind the comment was that I was thanking him for helping me prep my college applications back in 1999. Without his help I wouldn’t have attended the University of Notre Dame and therefore wouldn’t have met my wife (we met the first day on campus). Being the humble man that he is, he was graciously telling me not to thank him anymore and trying to tell me that it wasn’t his help or luck that set me up in marrying my amazing wife (even though it obviously was some good fortunate and his help). Though he is humble, I suspect he was trying to teach me something with that response like he had done many times in high school. And probably to his surprise… his lesson stuck and the phrase “You make your breaks” has become a guiding philosophy in my life.
By believing I make my own breaks in this life, I feel beyond encouraged when things go right and more importantly, I feel extremely motivated to make changes when things go wrong. This philosophy makes me feel “in control” for most things in life and that’s an awesome feeling. One of the main benefits is that it forces the “blame me” first attitude. When I’m not performing at my best or my team isn’t working well together, it’s on me. When I’m lying on back with back spasms because I’m not in shape, it’s on me.
Ultimately, this is the simple concept of taking personal responsibility. It’s really easy to take responsibility when things go right but I see many people struggle to do the same when breaks don’t fall their way. For example, I hear many younger folks complain about the “economy” while at the same time my company has two good job openings and 99% of the applicants don’t follow directions, don’t complete assignments, etc. And I have this funny feeling those 99% are the ones complaining they can’t find a good job.
My suggested takeaway is this, if you’re not happy or if you’re not in the situation you want to be in, take responsibility and make a change. Think about the decisions that led up to your current situation and try to reverse them (however difficult they may seem). And if you are where you want to be, then congratulate yourself and keep working hard to keep progressing. There is no sitting back and patting yourself on the back because though you have more control in this life than you probably think, there are those nasty misfortunates that can be thrown your way at any time.
DISCLAIMER: I’m very conscious about that fact that I need to have a major disclaimer in this post and here it is: I have been extremely fortunate to have a great family, great education, and many other fortunate situations in life that many in the world do not have. But like a majority of people who are reading this post, at the base level we were born in this great country (which doesn’t need to be great again, just greater) and had many of the base necessities of life pretty much available at our fingertips. I know this doesn’t hold true for every American which is a tremendous problem and subject for another post.