In this time of Olympic competition, I wonder about these sorts of questions.
Evan Lysacek beats Yevgeny Plushenko by playing the scoring system to its fullest, and he wins. Then Plushenko plays the victim. In my opinion, he lost – end of story.
Maybe Plushenko is more daring. Maybe he is the better physical skater. Maybe the scoring system should reward the quad more highly than it does. Maybe the system should be changed to better reward risk and daring.
These issues are far beyond my knowledge of skating. I don't know how to address the systemic issues. I do know that Lysacek understood the rules of the game he was playing better than Plushenko. Lysacek applied the rules to his program, and he was the victor.
Now Plushenko plays the victim and cries foul. Well, he's a poor sport as far as I'm concerned. Plushenko blames, criticizes, and ridicules Lysacek. Is it Lysacek's fault that Plushenko didn't know how to play the game? I don't think so.
It's not Lysacek's fault that Plushenko didn't plan his program to take full advantage of his athletic ability to gain as many points as possible. The fault is Plushenko's.
What, you might ask, has any of this got to do with the topic of this blog?
The answer: it's about personal responsibility.
When we blame our circumstances or outside factors for our behaviors, we abdicate responsibility for our actions. We give away the only control we really have – the control over our words and actions.
Earlier today, I read a post by my friend and colleague Kevin Eikenberry titled: Who Is Responsible, Really? In his post, he calls it a rant, he makes an argument for why we need to take personal responsibility for our actions. I could not agree more.
Do outside events affect us and drive our behaviors to a certain extent? Of course they do.
Do other people's behaviors affect us and our emotions? Of course they do.
Do we often overlook the influence of environmental factors when evaluating the behaviors of others (Fundamental Attribution Error)? Absolutely we do.
None of this takes away from the point of this post: If we want to win, we have to take responsibility for ourselves. If we want to be great communicators, leaders, parents, spouses, friends, family members, and co-workers; we have to take responsibility for ourselves.
Playing the victim, blaming others, and looking for others to fix our situation are futile efforts. As I heard in the Navy, you need to “man up” if you want to win.
Just for comparison, take a look at the definitions of victim and victor:
- One who is harmed or killed by another: a victim of a mugging.
- A living creature slain and offered as a sacrifice during a religious rite.
- One who is harmed by or made to suffer from an act, circumstance, agency, or condition: victims of war.
- A person who suffers injury, loss, or death as a result of a voluntary undertaking: You are a victim of your own scheming.
- A person who is tricked, swindled, or taken advantage of: the victim of a cruel hoax.
One who defeats an adversary; the winner in a fight, battle, contest, or struggle.
External events can happen outside my control. Other people may treat me in ways that I cannot control. Economic turmoil and business conditions are usually beyond my control. Winning or losing a particular event, situation, or circumstance might be beyond my control.
Thinking like a victor or a victim is in my control. Victors defeat adversaries. Victims have no control. In the battle to become a better parent, leader, spouse, and co-worker; the battle is with myself. The battle is to overcome my own self-limiting thoughts and emotional responses.
There is no Fundamental Attribution Error when I evaluate myself. There is either the honesty to confront my failures and to learn from them or the dishonesty of blaming others when I didn't control myself.
Plushenko didn't learn the rules of the game well enough. He did what he wanted to do rather than what would bring him victory. Lysacek played the game based on the rules as they were given to him.
In working with people, we can either try to change human nature, or we can learn to work with it. We can say that people shouldn't behave the way they do, or we can learn to understand the way they do.
I cannot control how other people behave. I cannot control many circumstances and events. I can control how I respond to them.
In working with people, you can take the Plushenko approach (this is how it should be) or the Lysacek approach (this is how it is). Plushenko lost. Lysacek won.
In the battle to make yourself a better person, you can be either a victim or a victor. You can't be both. The choice is yours.
1“victim.” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 20 Feb. 2010. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/victim>.
2“victor.” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 20 Feb. 2010. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/victor>.