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Personal Responsibility, Humility, and Making Things Happen

Posted in Responsibility

I’ve been a little worried about what a second term for President Obama might look like but feel better now that I know that Jerry Springer favors his reelection. I would have totally discounted Springer’s opinion because of that raunchy, humiliating, disgusting, show he came up with but now know that I can’t hold Springer responsible for it because he didn’t really do it. It was some teacher he had or some highway that was built or maybe the government funded internet that resulted in The Jerry Springer Show.

I guess the point that President Obama was trying to make in his claim that, “If you’ve got a business, you did not build that – somebody else made that happen,” is that we all stand on the shoulders of our predecessors. Well, that is true. Henry Ford would have been seriously hampered if the wheel had never been invented, and Ben Franklin’s experiments with electricity certainly paved the way for Edison’s development of applications for electricity and even for that internet that the government developed.

But the president is absolutely wrong with the “somebody else made that happen” part of his statement because that is exactly what moves us forward, individual people making things happen. Ben Franklin and Thomas Edison and a long string of energetic and creative people involved in development of the internet all invested their time and talents to make things happen, and thousands of others, founders and scientists at Microsoft and Apple and Intel and hundreds of other companies have invested their time and talents and money to make things happen.

And because of all those people, someone now can start an internet business selling hot sauce or tee shirts or some other thing he or she has invented or a book written or a song recorded or a social network. But if such a person starts such a business, we can be sure that person has “made it happen,” and we can confidently give that person credit for having done so. And, if it turns out to be a bad business or a bad product, like The Jerry Springer Show, we can confidently and comfortably blame the person who made it happen.

Personal responsibility is essential, and, if we all agree to own up to our mistakes when things don’t turn out well and just express a little humility when they do, we will be stronger and happier. And, if we choose not to try to make anything happen, to just adopt a philosophy of total dependence, we need to recognize that there are personal consequences to that as well.