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Revisiting the Responsibility Paradox

The core of what I teach my clients is that if you want to grow, you have to get used to living with the discomfort of examining how you cause your own problems.

It’s easy to find any number of excuses for things that are going wrong in our lives. But once you embrace the reality that you made the choices that got you there, you can begin to notice the choices, examine them, and fix the underlying, unconscious mechanisms behind them.

That’s where you grow and change.

That’s personal responsibility.

That’s where you start to become a truly great leader.

This week, we’re going to take a look back at an “oldie but goodie” from the archives: The Responsibility Paradox. Read on, and I promise you’ll learn something that has the power to change your life—if you let it.

A Responsible Person

Do you think of yourself as being a “responsible person?”


Truly, there’s no such thing. Instead, think of responsibility as a process, not an attainment. It’s not helpful to consider yourself responsible or irresponsible as a person. Our level of responsibility can and does change moment to moment and by circumstance.

Success comes from competence. That’s easy to see. But competence is always based in responsibility: the ability to be responsive—to customers, to market trends, to employees, etc. It’s the ability to show up and see things clearly.

Becoming More Competent

Competence means you have the ability to affect change. Responsibility is the ability to see how you’re in the way of that change. You become more competent by looking at where you’re incompetent.

Successful and competent people, you’ll inevitably find, are hungry to discover where they’re not yet responsible. They want to learn more about themselves and their own blind spots. Conversely, when you assume you already are a responsible person, you unconsciously avoid the discomfort of looking at how you are in your own way.

The Responsibility Paradox

Responsibility means investigating where you’re not yet responsible.

You may be a highly responsible person 99% of the time, but where you get into trouble is the other 1%. Assume that whatever problem you haven’t yet solved is a result of some lack of responsibility, and you’ll be hot on the trail to finally solving that problem. If it feels really uncomfortable, you’re getting closer!

If you’re looking for help in uncovering your blind spots, the Clear and Open Dojo is a great place to start. Members of the Dojo work together towards becoming more responsible, competent, effective leaders. You’ll get access to every course I’ve created, weekly group coaching calls, and unlimited Slack and email access for anything you want to work on with me. You can get a FREE 30-day trial. So what’s stopping you? 

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