Lessons from my worst money blunders: blaming others

It's an easy excuse for not working to overcome obstacles.

A hiker treks through Glacier National Park in Montana. Blaming others is one way to keep you from accomplishing your goals.

Along my financial journey in life, I made a great number of mistakes. In this ten part series which runs from July 19 to July 30, I’m going to focus on ten of my worst mistakes and the difficulties and successes I’ve had in overcoming those mistakes.

I blamed others for the challenges in my life.

If you want to find scapegoats in your life, almost everyone can find a lot of them.

I was born with legal blindness in my right eye, deafness in my left ear, and a nonfunctional thyroid. I spent much of my childhood with various sorts of surgeries, surgical recoveries, and illnesses, leading me to less cultural and social exposure than I might have otherwise had. I spent much of that illness time reading, so I skated through most of secondary school without learning any study habits, which made college rather challenging at times. I chose not to follow my dream career path in order to earn more money.

All of these things would be extremely easy to change into an excuse for not doing the best that I could do. For example: My childhood doctors exacerbated my health problems. My parents didn’t expose me to any sort of culture. My advisors in high school pointed me down a career path I should not have followed. My teachers didn’t teach me any study skills. My bosses created a work situation that I was unhappy with and ate up my time and energy so that I couldn’t follow my dreams or ideas.

Guess what? In every single case above, I was the key to solving the problem.

I spent an awful lot of time in my life blaming others for the fact that my good life wasn’t better than it already was. All that did was give me an easy excuse to not work my tail off to overcome the obstacles in front of me.

Take my medical conditions, for example. My lack of hearing in my left ear is the result of having a completely destroyed inner ear – there’s literally no bone structure in there. Sometimes, in social situations, I simply cannot hear people sitting on my left. For the longest time, I would dole out blame for that – it’s their fault for not talking louder, it’s my doctor’s fault for not diagnosing my ear problems.

All those excuses are is a crutch to excuse me from solving the problem myself.

Today, if I want to participate in a conversation, I make a point to try to sit on the left side of that person. If I can’t hear what’s being said, I don’t blame the other person for speaking softly – I ask them to repeat it. If it’s in a noisy room, I apologize and simply say, “I’m sorry I can’t hear you. My hearing isn’t so good. Could we go over here where it’s quieter? I’m interested in hearing what you’re saying.” Guess what? Almost everyone I’ve ever met will happily accomodate these things.

Even more important, it’s not their responsibility to know that I can’t hear them. It’s my responsibility to make sure that I can hear them.

Let’s look at my teachers, for another example. In high school, I rarely had to put forth any effort at all. When I reached college and faced some of the more difficult classes, I was in trouble. I had no real idea how to study.

At that time, rather than simply saying, “I’ve got to learn how to study,” I would mostly just say things like, “No one ever taught me how to study.” I’d beg for grades and try to make an excuse out of my situation. Sometimes it would work – usually, it did not. I struggled mightily during my second and third years in college, permanently damaging my collegiate GPA. During my final years in college, especially my final one, I actually learned how to study and made dean’s list with a very difficult courseload. Yet, I still wanted to blame others for my poor GPA. It must have been the fault of my teachers.

Over and over again, my willingness to blame others for the challenges in my life delayed creating solutions to those problems. That blaming enabled me to keep on making the same mistakes as before and keep on repeating the actions that led to the things I was unhappy about to begin with.

What can you do to avoid this trap?

Here’s the real truth of the matter. No matter how unfair the situation, you are the solution. Using the cause of the problem as an excuse not to solve the problem doesn’t cut it. In fact, it usually just prolongs the problem and makes it worse.

Whenever things are not going the way you want in your life, ask yourself what you can do to make the situation better or change the context of the situation so that the problem isn’t as devastating. If you’re overweight, don’t blame the food companies and keep eating unhealthy stuff. Take action to toss out the unhealthy stuff and replace it with vegetables and fruits.

Whenever you hear yourself blaming someone or something else for a problem, stop. Blaming others for your problems is an incredibly pernicious habit. Yes, there are bad things in life. There are bad things in everyone’s life. The people that succeed are the people that don’t waste their time looking for someone or something to blame, but instead look to themselves for a solution to the problem.

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