Greatness Requires Pain and Taking Responsibility

I listened to someone share his life story recently. It was full of the highest highs and the lowest lows. He had outsize success early in his life, but it all came crumbling down, and he never recovered. As I listened to him tell his story, a few things jumped out at me.

He never accepted responsibility for the part he played in his downfall. Lots of things weren’t within his control, but he made a series of decisions that made the situation worse that it had to be. He never acknowledged those decisions and the negative impact they had. His perspective was, I got dealt a bad hand, which is true. But he never acknowledged that he played his hand about as badly as anyone could. When you’ve been dealt a bad hand and things don’t look great, it’s still possible to win if you play your cards right. A bad hand isn’t one that’s guaranteed to lose.

Ray Dalio says pain + reflection = progress. When I think of progress, I think of growth. This person hasn’t grown. He’s still in the same position he was in (if not a worse one) when things went against him. I suspect this is because of his reflection process—or lack thereof. Part of reflecting is being self-aware and honest with yourself. You need to own up to the things you did that contributed to your situation (even if they’re minor).

This person is talented and had every opportunity in the world to be someone great, but he didn’t reach his full potential because didn’t accept responsibility. If you’re trying to do something great, understand that pain is an inevitable part of the journey. Accepting responsibility for your role in creating your pain is key to growing so you can reach your full potential.