Hello, I’m Michael Sliwinski, founder of Nozbe - to-do app for business owners and their teams. I write essays, books, work on projects and I podcast for you using #iPadOnly in #NoOffice as I believe that work is not a place you go to, it’s a thing you do. More…

Take the blame. It’s really your fault. Learn from it.


It’s not natural to take the blame. It feels better to blame the other guy… like when we are late - to blame it on the traffic, nanny, the kids, iPhone’s reminder, whatever… whenever we screw something up, we try to come clean and say it’s not our fault. Well, it really is our fault. In this short post I want to tell you why learning to take the blame is critical to your success. Learn to accept it’s your fault… to really learn something from it!

Take the blame. It’s really your fault. Learn from it.

We’re moving to a new house with my wife and while searching for houses we had to make appointments with many real-estate brokers. One of them was Joan (not her real name). She was a very warm, driven and motivated person and she was about to show us the house we’d ultimately decide to take… but it wasn’t all that easy.

In the first meeting I almost crossed her (and the house) out completely because when we showed up for our appointment in front of the house to visit it, she said she didn’t have the key! I was like “Seriously? How do you want to show us the house without the key? Why did you drag us down here at an appointed time… totally unprepared?” and then it all started…

She started telling me this story where the neighbor had the key but she talked to her and agreed to get the key in the morning, but then she had to buy groceries, and then her assistant wasn’t in the office, and then… - I stopped her.

I said: “Joan, I really don’t care about the neighbor, your assistant or any of that. I don’t even want to hear your story. I talked to YOU. We agreed to meet here with YOU and YOU were supposed to have the key. Well, YOU don’t have it. It’s all that matters. And from what you’re saying I guess you’re not a person with enough integrity to admit it. I don’t want to do business with you. I don’t want to see the house. Goodbye.”

When we promise something - it’s our job to deliver it

I’m not saying I’m perfect. I make mistakes, I arrive late, I fail to deliver on my promises. I’m working on all that. And during this process I learned I need to put the blame where it belongs - with me. If I promise and it’s not delivered, it’s my fault, even when what really happened is that someone on my team failed me - I should have been prepared.

When I was putting the blame somewhere else, I felt “off the hook” and what happened was that I didn’t feel like I did something wrong. It wasn’t my fault, right?

When you take the blame - you have a chance to improve

Only when you admit it was your fault and take the full blame, you can really improve. You can find the reason of your fault and search for an improvement in the future. Like when we fail to deliver a new Nozbe version on time, next time when I promise a new deadline to my customers, I’ll be more cautious. I know, I know, it’s really hard to deliver software on time and we failed at it in the past… but we’re getting better and I sincerely believe we’ll get to the point where we’ll be really predictable with all this. Anyway, we’re getting better at this because we learned to take the blame.

Now that we also have iOS apps it’s really easy for us to blame Apple for rejecting our apps. We have a perfect scapegoat. Nope guys, I still believe that if they reject us, it’s still our fault. We should have been prepared. And we’re getting better at this.

Very often a feature we introduced in Nozbe doesn’t work like it should or a customer doesn’t know how to use it. We learned to take the blame for this as well - it’s our fault the customer cannot use this feature. Now, what can we do to make it better? How can we improve the user experience there?

When you take the blame - people treat your seriously

This real estate broker made a really bad first impression on me. I thought she wasn’t a serious person. When you want to be taken seriously and be perceived as a person with integrity, take the blame. Admit to your mistake. You’re not perfect and nobody is. At least you know that.

I remember one priest once said in the church: “Don’t expect the Church organization to be perfect - if it were, you couldn’t belong” :-)

Taking the blame doesn’t mean accepting suffering

Don’t get me wrong - you mustn’t take the blame to punish yourself and suffer. That’s not the point.

It’s all about learning from the mistakes.

You cannot learn from your mistakes if you don’t admit in front of yourself that these are really your mistakes. Take the blame, take ownership of your mistakes and learn how to avoid them in the future and become a better person, team and/or organization.

Question: In which situations you’re trying to blame something/someone else? What’s the hardest to admit? What’s the story of “fault” that you most learned from?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013 /blame/