BRENT STOLLER

Writer. Advice giver. Peanut butter and chocolate enthusiast.

3 Rules for Owning Your Destiny

A dirt path illuminated by rays of sunlight

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unappreciated stepparent after 30 years. do I cross boundaries? Why do grown kids not accept personal responsibility but blame me?
–Unloved and Unwanted; Boca Raton, FL

The first thing I do with this column each week is edit the chosen question to ensure it’s easy to read.

I didn’t do that this week.

The question above is the question that was submitted in its original form.

What does it mean? What is this person asking?

I’m not exactly sure.

But as I tried to make sense of the 20 words they sent in, I couldn’t escape the magnitude of two of them:

Personal responsibility.

Personal responsibility seems to be a hot-button topic these days, in both the political and societal spectrums.

Maybe that’s always been the case (I’ve just recently expanded my reading beyond “Sports Illustrated”). But apparently, your stance on it determines whether you’re young or old, cold or compassionate, morally superior or morally bankrupt.

But that’s not why I want to talk about it.

I want to talk about it on a more, well, personal level. Because to me, it’s such an empowering concept, no matter your generation or side of the aisle.

Why is your life the way that it is? How did you get to this point and place today? And what can you do to build a better tomorrow?

These are questions I’ve been asking myself. And though I don’t yet have the answers, I have been playing with principles I believe are shifting my fate back into my hands.

Here are three of them. Feel free to share your own in the comments section…

1) Take ownership

For many, when things aren’t the way they want them to be, the tendency is to blame everyone but themselves, at least initially.

Lord knows it’s mine.

That instinct doesn’t make you a bad person. It just makes you human. It’s part of our self-preservation DNA.

But it’s a habit that can be, and needs to be, broken — a process that starts with owning even the most innocent of mistakes.

As I’ve written about before, I spent the 2013 high season caddying at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon.

The first entry on a caddie’s job description is to take care of his player’s equipment.

But with one guest, I failed to do so.

This guest had an awkwardly sized towel — too small to drape across his golf bag, too big to tuck in my pocket. I knew it was trouble the moment I stepped on the first tee.

By the time we walked off the sixth green, I noticed the towel was gone. And I freaked.

And over the ensuing 12 holes, I was consumed with doing everything but the right thing.

Inside my swirling mind, I blamed the 20-mph winds, and the guest for putting me in a position to fail, and I concocted lies to tell him about what happened when the round was over.

After making it through No. 18 undetected, I handed the bag back back to him and braced for impact. He paid me my tip, we discussed the next morning’s tee time and…

Nothing.

He said nothing about the towel. I guess he didn’t bother checking for it, because he trusted me. And that trust was now giving me a way out.

And I’m ashamed to admit I took it.

Predictably, I didn’t sleep much that night.

What was wrong with me? How had I become this person? How had I become an SEC football coach explaining away calls to an escort service from my school-issued phone?

This wasn’t who I wanted to be.

So the second I saw the guest the following day, I came clean.

I told him I’d lost the towel, that I was an idiot and that I was sorry. And before heading onto the course, I presented him with a peace offering to make amends for my sins, both as a caddie and person:

A new towel I’d bought in the pro shop.

2) Control what you can control

From good breaks to bad timing to the ugly actions/intentions of others, there are endless outside forces that affect us, despite the fact we have no say over them.

So why do we worry about them? They’re going to occur no matter what.

Wouldn’t it be smarter to focus on the one entity — ourselves — over which we have the most influence?

As I see it, this internal work should target our three A’s:

Attitude, Aptitude and Allocation (of Time and Energy)

Attitude

A natural upper.

When you have a good attitude, you have arguably the most important ingredient for success and satisfaction, because perspective is everything.

You see opportunity instead of opposition.

An early wake-up call isn’t sabotaging your sleep, it’s creating more time for productivity.

Failure isn’t the absence of accomplishment, it’s the impetus for growth.

The Kardashians aren’t everything that’s wrong with America, they’re proof of the evolving American dream.

Wouldn’t it be nice to view those no-talent hacks like that?

Aptitude

Forget everybody and everything else. Your life is in your hands, meaning your life is what you make of it.

What can you do to get better?

There will be times when you don’t get the job or promotion. How can you enhance/expand your skillset to become indispensable?

There will be times when your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend gets upset at you or even leaves you. How can you become a stronger communicator and more supportive partner?

There will be times when you fall down or fall behind. How can you create an environment that fosters the best version of yourself?

Stick with this inward-facing mindset, and when the time is right, and the right opportunity comes along, there’s nothing that will hold you back.

Allocation (of Time and Energy)

Energy is fleeting. Time is finite. Make the best of each while you still have both.

3) Stop playing the victim

“Life is happening for us, not to us.”
–Tony Robbins

If you haven’t seen Netflix’s “Tony Robbins: I am Not Your Guru,” add it to your to-do list. It’s one of the most inspiring things I’ve come across.

And in a movie full of wisdom, that quote above is one that stuck with me.

Because not only does it prevent you from seeing yourself as a victim, it prevents you from ever being one.

In the documentary, Robbins discusses how difficult his childhood was due to his difficult relationship with his mother.

You hear his story, and you think of the quintessential victim — an innocent boy suffering, a casualty of the fact you don’t get to choose your parents.

But Robbins doesn’t view it that way. He views his upbringing as an essential building block, the catalyst for who he grew up to be.

As I’ve heard said before, the pain you feel today is the strength you feel tomorrow.

There are horrible, inexplicable things that happen to undeserving people. Maybe you’re one of them. Maybe you’ve suffered an unfathomable tragedy, or maybe you’ve simply been down on your luck.

While I would never intentionally diminish anyone’s pain, if after processing your feelings, you can reframe your struggles as a necessary precursor, as a setback that begets success, you’ll stop thinking of the universe as this oppressive force conspiring against you.

And you’ll start to realize that you’re no longer a victim the second you decide you aren’t.

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This originally appeared on the Good Men Project.

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