Mea Culpa

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Entrepreneur Derek Sivers explains why he cut a couple of chapters out of a book. By his description, they sounded interesting, but he seems to have realized that his motive for writing them -- to vent -- was wrong. He also further realized the following:

  • I let the culture of the company get corrupted.
  • I ignored problems instead of nipping them in the bud.
  • I was aloof and away instead of managing or training managers.
  • I confused everyone by sharing my daily thoughts before they had cemented into decisions.
  • I announced decisions, then assumed they were being done, without following-up to ensure.
  • I whimsically delegated to the wrong people, avoiding the mental work of choosing wisely.
  • (I could list another 20 of these, but you get the idea.)
Sivers tells this story as a way of introducing the phrase "Everything is my fault" as "one of those base rules like 'people mean well' that's more fun to believe, and have a few exceptions, than to not believe at all." I see it a little differently: It's more of a useful way to remind oneself to look for one's own role in causing or worsening the consequences of almost any adverse circumstance. It is a way to provoke introspective questions that could be useful in navigating or avoiding such circumstances again in the future. Particularly regarding misunderstandings, it is much more common for both parties to carry some share of the blame than for everything to be one person's fault.

Sivers calls his mantra "empowering" and, it certainly is. One either leaves better able to avoid repeating a mistake or better knowing that he really did do his best.

-- CAV


Steve D said...

'my terrible employees staged a mutiny to try to get rid of me'

Good grief. I can scarcely imagine how bad it must have been at his company and so if he let things get that bad, I would be a little suspicious of any advice he might give.

I agree with you, though. I am not sure why believing that everything is my fault should be fun, especially when as you said, in most cases it is not really true; blame is shared. But as a 'technique' to force you to introspect it, makes some sense.

Dismuke said...

I think he is offering good advice - but only to individuals who do NOT suffer from the propensity to take on unearned guilt. I've known a few people who truly need to take the exact OPPOSITE advice.

Gus Van Horn said...


I think the fun the author had came from the feeling of liberation he got from genuine insights his method brought to him. I am sure he felt much less a victim about that particular episode of his life when he realized that there were things he could have done to have headed it off.


That is an excellent point. Perhaps some people need, "I made all that good stuff happen" in a similar way.