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Two male friends jumping off dock into lake in mid air

I’ve been asked:

“What if my organization’s culture doesn’t embrace personal accountability?”

“What if my supervisor won’t use QBQ!?” (This one actually became an FAQ in the newly rewritten QBQ! book!)

“What if the people I work and live with point fingers and blame?”

“What if our entire society becomes engulfed in entitlement thinking?!?”

Okay, I haven’t been asked that last one exactly—but that doesn’t mean the concern isn’t real for many.

Anyway, the answer to each of these questions is this: 

So what?

So what if others reject the power of practicing personal accountability?

So what if we live in a culture rife with destructive and childish blame? (Yes, I said “childish” since it’s no stretch to picture our political leaders as 5-year-olds engaging in He started it! Did not. Did, too! behavior.)

So what if some people have their hand out?

So what if those we know (or hear about in the news) don’t take responsibility for their lives?


Since when does the behavior of others shape mine?

Since when does being in the world cause me to become of the world, affecting what I think, do, or become?

Since when does the foolishness of people cause me to play the fool?

Since when do we worry about the actions of co-workers, friends, and family?

Sadly, since the dawn of humankindand since the day each of us arrived in this world.

Remember Mom who wisely asked, “If your friends jumped into the lake, would you?”

Translation: Don’t worry about what others do.

Mom knew what she was talking about. She knew that when some people choose the wrong path, it’s our job to choose our own path—a better path—by asking QBQs (The Question Behind the Question) such as:

“What can I do to do the right thing?” 

“How can I act in accordance with my values?”

“What action can I take to move my life forward?”

Questions like these not only keep me on the “straight and narrow”—not a bad place to live—but keep me from overly concerning myself with others.

Much less allow their actions to influence mine.

Imagine teaching our youth to withstand the pressure of peers. Of course, character like that doesn’t begin with young people. It begins with me. 

Just like practicing personal accountability doesn’t start with my boss, colleagues, spouse, kids, neighbors, or friends.

The truth is, successful people know that if they’re only going to live a life of personal accountability when those around them do, they might as well go jump in the lake. :-)

Said differently, successful people worry about themselves.

For discussion: 

Being totally honest, whose actions do you worry about more than you should? What will you now do differently?

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About John G. Miller

John G. Miller is the author of QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, Flipping the Switch: Unleash the Power of Personal Accountability, Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional and co-author of Parenting the QBQ Way. He is founder of QBQ, Inc., an organizational development firm based in Colorado dedicated to “Helping Organizations Make Personal Accountability a Core Value.” A 1980 graduate of Cornell University, John has been involved in the training and speaking industry since 1986. He lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife, Karen. They have seven children and three grandchildren.

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17 Responses to “What Successful People Don’t Worry About”

  1. Nick

    For the longest time I’d worry about my wife’s actions, pointing fingers, and insisting that I’d improve “when she [insert some dumb excuse-of-the-day here].” In business I’ve screamed personal accountability for years. Yet I never applied it to my marriage.

    But you’re so right. My relationship has improved significantly when I finally said “so what” and took personal responsibility for improving my relationship.

  2. Cathi

    It’s like breaking the cycle of any abusive behavior – which can occur in our professional lives as well as in our personal lives. How can I break this cycle right now – make it end with me? What can I do to positively influence those I touch, who can then have a positive influence on those they touch?

  3. Cathy

    QBQ! applies to Sports, too!
    I was playing (tennis) doubles with a new partner. She kept missing what I considered easy put-away shots. So, I felt I had to play better to “make up” for her missed shots (result: I played worse), And I was harboring an on-court grudge—against my own partner! We won the first set, but were down 0-3 in the second set when I had a QBQ! moment: I can only control me. So I just settled down and concentrated on MY shots. I also started to really support my partner by offering lots of positive comments about her play. Suddenly, we BOTH began to play better and we won the second set and the match!

    I realize that I can play doubles with ANYONE now and have fun while feeling like I gave it my best—win or lose.

    It is so cool to be somewhere (office, tennis court, car, etc.) and have that QBQ! moment where things suddenly become easy and clear and … calm. The next thing you know things are going your way and you feel a whole lot better!

  4. Jon D Harrison

    Like Nick said above, the spouse can be the most difficult to let go of worrying about. Especially if I have done “just enough” to feel a little bit self-righteous…

  5. Rick White


    You’ve hit an absolute homerun!

    When we spend more time the actions of others and worrying about what’s fair, we allow “those” people to determine the quality of life and the level of achievement we can achieve. I refuse to let that happen! I set my own standard and compare my life to its potential.

    On a side note, it was GREAT hearing you speak and meeting you at the VISION conference this past spring in Kansas City!

    Thanks again!

    Rick White
    The Profit Guardian

  6. Bob Bracco

    Rock Star letter John. Right on the mark with this one!!!! The world would be a better place with less entitlement and more personal accountability. I’m printing a T-shirt with the phrase “SO WHAT” across the front…….BRAVO!!!!

  7. Denise

    Hit this one on the head for sure! It’s equally difficult to do this as parents as well as spouses. I started saying “so what” to myself when it came to the kids happiness about a year ago. I’m not accountable for their happiness and I think a lot of parents put that on their shoulders. I’m here to keep them safe, be a role model, and teach them, not make sure they are happy, that’s up to them just as it is every individual. Thank you for helping me be a more accountable person. The reminders in your books and these articles are priceless.

  8. Nickie Friend

    I’ve been working on practising personal accountability for a couple of years now but there always seemed to be a something holding me back in certain situations. I finally got it at the beginning of this year thanks to a ‘friend’s’ particularly poor behaviour. I actually remember a voice in my head saying ‘so what, doesn’t mean you have to behave that way’. Maybe it was you :-) Either way I no longer worry what other people do or think. I only worry about my behaviour and it makes such a difference. Thank you John.

  9. Dave Field

    Hi John,
    you hit a home run with this one! You always said, Personal Accountability is just that, its personal, it doesn’t involve anyone else. Simple but sometimes hard to remember. And my mother did use the “jump in a lake” analogy on me many times. Great stuff John!


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