Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Not my fault

As the girls and I were knee deep in a pile of legos this evening building an entire kingdom (because they got sick of just building individual castles), I decided to take the opportunity to ask my content manager for a blog idea. In true six year old fashion, she gave me an answer without hesitation, eye contact, pause in her current activity or apparently even any thought. Her answer was "It's not my fault." At first I thought she was talking about something going wrong with the lego structure she was creating, but then I realized what she really meant.

"It's not my problem" is the point she was trying to get across. I guess that means I need to ease up on interrogating her for ideas...or at least use a more stealthy, recon style observation of her to gather my intelligence. I'd like to think I trained her well enough that maybe she really did mean fault instead of problem. There is a subtle, but valuable lesson to be learned from the difference of those two statements. (It really wasn't her fault that I didn't yet have my own idea for a blog post.)

Not being your fault is a completely legitimate argument to make. She often has to deal with sub-par contracting work when building lego castles with her younger sister. When that castle happens to tumble to the ground, it often (truly) isn't her fault. You no doubt deal with the same thing throughout your day. Things don't go the way they're supposed to and, if it's out of your control, it's truly not your fault.

Determining fault is merely a game of deciding who's to blame. More often than not, the fault game is a complete waste of time. (I can however see the value if it's used to identify the culprit, educate them on the error and prevent it from happening again.) Unfortunately, the blame game is more often than not a worthless exercise pointing at the other guy and playing pass-the-buck. Nonetheless, there is actual value or validity to not being the person at fault. It's what you do next that makes the difference.

If you jump right into "it's not my problem" mode, you're almost as much to blame as the person who really was at fault. I'm not saying you should be responsible for fixing everyone else's mistakes, but life is a lot more enjoyable (and productive) if you focus on the solution to the problem rather than arguing about who was at fault.

As my daughter looks at a lego castle in ruins because her younger sister has faulty craftsmanship, she has two choices to make. First, is she going to waste her time trying to convince me that it's not her fault - it's her sister's fault? Or, is she going to just move on because we both already know it's the younger sibling's fault it collapsed. Second, is she going to say it's not her problem and throw a fit or just plain give up and walk away? Or, is she going to see the problem and devise a plan to rebuild the castle?

That's where I see the difference between "my fault" and "my problem." Whether or not it's your fault, you have a problem. Are you going to choose to spend your time shifting the blame or get to action to correct the problem. In life, many things happen that aren't your fault, but at that point, they are most certainly your problem now.

Take the photo attached to this post for example. You're driving down the road and the wheel falls off, it may be your fault because you failed to tighten the lug nuts properly or it may be the manufacturer's fault for a defective part. Either way, YOU are the one broken down on the side of the road. YOU are the one that now has a problem. Which do you think is going to get you moving faster? Call and scream at the manufacturer or grab your spare or call a tow truck?

I understand the reality of having to determine fault in certain instances. In the example I just gave, you would more than likely contact the manufacturer if it was a defective part because they are at fault and you deserve compensation. That doesn't work quite the same in other areas. Fixing a co-workers mistake doesn't mean you're going to be able to prove they're at fault and they get paid "damages" in the form of them giving you some of their pay or benefits package. (I sure hope not anyway because I know I've made mistakes that I needed help to fix.)

With that, I will sign off for now. Just remember, if you're kicking yourself for actually taking the time to read this post all the way to the end, it's not my fault....and it's definitely your own problem. Until next time....