15. Don’t Blame Circumstances – 21 Success Sutras for Leaders

Chapter Fifteen

Don’t Blame Circumstances

People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.


George Bernard Shaw

People often blame circumstances for their failures. Everyone thinks that they alone have more challenges to complain about. However, the truth is that everyone faces challenges, and those challenges are mostly the result of external distractions and disturbances. We all have two forces that either make or break our lives. The first force is internal, and is very much within our control to manage. The second one is external, and is almost beyond human control. People often fail to make it to the top due to external distractions and disturbances. However, the silver lining on the dark cloud of external forces is that we become tough through facing such distractions. Edison, for instance, faced several external disturbances. However, every external disturbance strengthened his will power and perseverance, and made him explore various other options to invent the light bulb.

Man and Circumstances

Man must cultivate the capacity to make use of these external forces to the hilt. But the majority of people give up just when they are very close to victory. Most people blame God or destiny for all external disturbances. Effective leaders have the ability to convert external forces and threats to their advantage and achieve all-round success. They have a strong internal locus of control, which means taking responsibility for their actions rather than blaming others for all ills and failures.

The fact is that God sends several problems to enable people to convert those problems into prospects. It all depends on how you look at the problem. It is rightly said that an optimist looks for opportunity in every threat, while a pessimist looks for a threat in every opportunity. People must learn to look at the bright side to make their lives more pleasant, and provide meaning to their lives.

Case Study of Ramakrishna Sayee

The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water moulds itself to the pitcher.

Chinese proverb

I have shifted my family from a small town to a city for my children’s education. My younger son, Ramakrishna Sayee, used to go to a swimming pool in the small town regularly as he enjoyed swimming, and had also bagged medals in swimming competitions. In the small town, the swimming pool was very close to our place of residence. However, in the city we shifted to, the swimming pool was very far from our residence. Ramakrishna Sayee would often complain about having to travel a long distance to swim. Then I told my son to go jogging in the park close to our residence, which was one of the biggest parks in the city. I advised him to not look at the door that had closed, but to always look at the door that had opened. My son was impressed with my suggestion as he loves jogging as well. He began jogging regularly and enjoyed the beautiful park and the people around. And he thanked me for the advice. Hence, we should see what is available to us rather than blaming circumstances for not getting what we want.

Arthur F. Carmazzi

People who often blame circumstances are hopeful of miracles happening in their lives. People need to work hard to tide over the challenges in their lives. Everyone faces challenges, whether it be Abraham Lincoln or Barack Obama. Nobody rose to fame easily. They all managed circumstances effectively and rose from their humble origins. There is one thing you can be sure of—you have to be optimistic throughout your life, and that will help you overcome all external distractions.

Arthur F. Carmazzi, Founder of Directive Communication Psychology and the author of Lessons from the Monkey King—Leading Change to Create Gorilla Sized Results (2011), is an amazing example of a man who turned the tide around. Arthur F. Carmazzi was half a million dollars in debt and had people chasing him daily for money. He achieved success after applying 14 hard lessons that cost him his first business and three years of his life. He is now a renowned Italian-American author and speaker living in Asia, and an expert on psychological applications for leadership and organizational culture enhancement and development.

No one helped Arthur; even his wife left him and ran away with a rich plastic surgeon, and he was left alone. He swallowed his pride and got a job with an organization that drained his energy and enthusiasm. But it was this negative environment that pushed him to find out why he was no longer happy, why he was no longer focused on making a difference in the world. He refocused on his objectives through optimism and creativity, and within a few years had established himself as a leadership expert and been recognized as one among the world’s top 10 leadership gurus. One of his greatest attitudes, the hallmark of his personality, is gratitude. Here are some famous quotes from Arthur F. Carmazzi on Leadership and Culture Change:

  • ‘Great leadership does not involve changing the mindset of the group, but the cultivation of an environment that brings out the best and inspires the individuals in that group to do what needs to be done.’
  • ‘The ability to do more than expected does not come from influencing others to do something they are not committed to, but rather to nurture a culture that motivates and even excites individuals to do what is required for the benefit of all.’
  • ‘Passion stems from the absolute belief that your actions may present an opportunity to “Become” something more than you already are. To lead, we must manifest an environment that can turn these beliefs into tangible and measurable outcomes.’

Arthur F. Carmazzi is a global symbol of hope for millions of youth fighting the several odds stacked against them. He provided a ray of hope for the youth through his struggles, which seemed to say that everything is possible in this world. He substantiated Bruce Barton’s quote, ‘Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who believed that something inside of them was superior to circumstance.’ Hence, don’t blame circumstances for all your problems. Learn to manage them and grow. What you need is will power, tenacity, hard work and persistence.

Distractions are not Appreciated

Distractions are costly: A temporary shift in attention from one task to another … increases the amount of time necessary to finish the primary task by as much as 25% …. It’s far more efficient to fully focus for 90 to 120 minutes, take a true break, and then fully focus on the next activity.

Tony Schwartz, Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time

Educators do not appreciate being distracted during their teaching sessions. People in a hurry to meet their commitments don’t like to be distracted. Employees highly focused on meeting their deadlines don’t like to be distracted. In fact, people don’t appreciate being distracted during important activities. However, we all get distracted by people or forces that prevent us from accomplishing our commitments. Hence, people must learn to manage their temporary distractions at the workplace and in their lives, and must be able to get back on track to accomplish their goals.

Convert Threats into Opportunities

Several companies have changed their marketing strategies and given them a local flavour, especially in countries like China, India and Brazil, as there is a lot of diversity in the tastes of the consumers. Besides providing huge growth opportunities, these countries will also provide a lot of threats. Some countries have managed business threats and converted them into opportunities. For instance, focusing on city clusters helped a company to reduce its customer service costs. Companies also realized consumer preferences in countries like Brazil and redesigned their strategies accordingly, thereby benefiting from them. In countries like China and India where the population is high, the huge populations were initially treated as a threat. However, when Western countries realized the huge growth opportunities provided by consumer needs and expectations, these countries understood that excessive population is not a threat, but a great opportunity for growth and prosperity.

Manage External Disturbances

Have the dogged determination to follow through to achieve your goal; regardless of circumstances or whatever other people say, think, or do.

Paul Meyer

Managing external disturbances is easier said than done. Most people fight a long battle and give up at the end. It is said that 97 per cent of the people give up, while only 3 per cent persist and succeed. When you face external disturbances, you will be under constant pressure to find out ways and means to overcome them. And most of the time the mental fight is painful, without any concrete results. Even then, you will need to manage and move on. That is life! Leaders are very aware of external disturbances and prepare themselves mentally to face these; and they usually come out with flying colours at the end. If Colonel Sanders had given up, we would not have had KFC; if Thomas Edison had given up, we would not have had the electric bulb; if Albert Einstein had given up, we would not have known the theory of relativity. Hence, all these legends persisted in their efforts through their convictions, by managing external disturbances. They converted their threats into opportunities, and finally, made everything possible.

Leaders do not blame others. They take responsibility for their actions. Leaders raise the hopes of others, and never belittle them. They have to cope with interruptions and distractions. They cannot afford to avoid them, as they are leaders and it is their job. However, they must know what to address and what to neglect

Converting current threats into future opportunities is the key characteristic that differentiates present and future leaders. Victor Frankl once remarked, ‘Everything can be taken from a man but … to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.’ To sum up, don’t get distracted or discouraged by external distractions and circumstances. Learn to make use of them and grow.