Choices: My Decisions Define My Destination


I sat next to 24-year-old Rachel on the plane who shared that her dad was a fan of QBQ! Just a complete coincidence—if there are coincidences, that is.

When QBQ! came up and she exclaimed, “Really? Wow, my dad talks about ‘the QBQ’ all the time!” I naturally stayed as humble as possible. I responded, “That’s terrific. Thanks for saying that. I’m honored.”

And, I meant it.

But I wonder if it was really a “coincidence” because it turned out she needed to hear something from me that I needed to hear when I was a twentysomething.

In late 1985, when I was lamenting to an older friend about my corporate “8 to 5” desk job that I’d held since graduating from Cornell in 1980, he said, “Well, if you don’t like your life, why don’t you change it?”

Um, gee, Bob, that sounds awfully deep. I thought. You mean, while I’m still young, I should grasp these truths?:

My decisions have defined my destination.

Life is based on choice not chance.

I am not a victim.

In the light of these truths, I have come to understand that “I have to” is a lie. People say “I have to go to work” and “I have to go to class,” but the reality is … IT’S NOT TRUE!

You see, everything is a choice. I don’t have to go to my job; I don’t have to go to school; I don’t even have to pay my taxes. The truth is I choose to pay my taxes because I don’t like the alternatives. 🙂

So, back to Rachel, who told me about her work at a blue chip insurance firm—and her boss:

“I think that I might have the absolute worst manager in the world. She plays favorites, doesn’t talk to those she doesn’t like, is grumpy, always in her office with the door closed, and appears to be on the narcissistic side.”

Now, I know someone might think that Rachel is playing the victim or is a millennial who believes she’s entitled to a super nice manager-friend who tells her 24/7 how wonderful she is. But after I asked a few follow-up questions, I surmised she is not in a good situation. I also learned that her manager is pushing 50 and has been there over twenty years. Thus, she ain’t gonna change, nor is she going anywhere.

So as Rachel was chatting away, I rudely interrupted her and said one word:


After a long pause she said, “Thank you. I needed to hear that.”

She had been freed.

Of course, she was almost there anyway before we sat down in seats 19C and 19D. She just needed someone to nudge her a bit toward truly embracing the truth that she does not have to keep working where she is mistreated by a lousy, unskilled, self-centered supervisor. Said differently, she doesn’t have to pay the price for the mistake this organization has made retaining and promoting this manager.

I told her, even in a tough economy outstanding organizations are almost always looking for accountable, high-integrity, hard-working individuals with a heart of service.

“If that’s you, Rachel—GET. OUT. NOW!”

Now, are there times we do things that we don’t want to do, don’t enjoy, or just aren’t much fun? Of course. But the message to my young seatmate was this:

There’s nothing you have to do. We all have the power to make a decision that will direct us to a new destination. Each of us can make a choice that will change our life.

And it can all happen today.

For Comment:

Have you fallen into the “I have to” trap? If so, in what area of your life? Is there an important decision/choice you need to make? Share below!

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46 Responses

  1. You are right John, sometimes you get exactly what you need to hear from unexpected places and people. Thanks for continuing the spread of personal accountability and self awareness! It’s good to be reminded of who you are and who you want to be!!

  2. One of my all-time favorite quotes comes from Alice In Wonderland
    Alice meets the Cheshire Cat at a crossroads and asks..
    Alice “Which Way should I go?”
    Cat “Where do you want to end up?”
    Alice “It doesn’t really matter.”
    Cat “Then it doesn’t really matter which way you go.”
    Advice from 1865 that still holds true today. Thanks Lewis Carroll.

  3. “I told her, even in a tough economy outstanding organizations are almost always looking for accountable, high-integrity, hard-working individuals with a heart of service.”

    WOW! So very true…it does get complicated when the referenced problem organization is a church (that you love very much) and the servant minded are skewered by the visionless that obstruct and diminish those called to serve.

  4. I love this. When our children were young and they would say, “do I have to?” We responded, “no, you get to!” Of course that was because as parents we felt they “needed to!” From that I believe they have learned the value of good choices and now are able to live their life in the “I want to!” mode!!

  5. So timely. I plan to share this one with my 18 year old high school grad son. Hopefully, his dad can keep this in the front of my mind. Thanks, QBQ guy!

  6. Great post. I need to get you and Jack Canfield together. Chapter 1 of Success Principles is “You must take 100% Responsibility for your Life.”

  7. John:

    Thanks for the story and as you so aptly point out, choice IS a wonderful thing as long as you are willing to accept the responsibility for the results. It’s the last part that keeps many people from admitting they have a choice. Thanks for your simple but always true QBQ philosophy. it’s a beacon of light in today’s world of blame and entitlement.

  8. Wow…that’s good! My goal is to never become that self-indulged, lousy, unskilled manager who can’t appreciate the talent I’m called to manage. Thanks to the QBQ message, I now have the tools to help create an Outstanding organization.

  9. Hi John,

    this is a great one, I’m always telling people here that Life is based on Choice not Chance, and we always have the chance to chose! Sometimes the little choices can make the biggest differences…..all the best!

  10. John,

    One of my favorite things in my practice is to go thru this “Have to” “Choose to” conversation.
    I’m not a believer in coincidence and think it wonderful that you sat next to Rachel to tell her exactly what she wanted/needed to hear from a space that wasn’t preachy or judgmental – only straight conversation. Plus, what a wonderful reminder to each of us when we come up against ‘have to’.
    As ever,


  11. choices…..oh what a terrible choice we often make that changes our life forever….even with our health…I have tried and tried to chose the right path in the battle of the sporadic hemiplegic migraine….so far I have not made the right choice in finding a Dr. who can help… I give up or keep trying to make the right choice….or give up….I am at the door and feel I am ready to close it and stop trying…but the old QBQ philosophy keeps coming to mind I am personally accountable to find a solution to this….but time seems to be running out….definitely need some encouragement….

  12. My mom actually taught me that lesson many years ago when I was complaining about one of my first jobs. She asked if I really hated it that much or if I was just complaining and advised that I quit if I truly hated it. I realized I actually enjoyed most of it and that I needed to put that feeling into my actions and words! I love how QBQ has more recently re-emphasized that lesson for me.

  13. So true! We need to remember that. I recently had to make a choice to take a new job within the same company, even though it was farther from my home, so I could report to a manager whose style better fit my ideal work environment. It was a choice to report to someone who makes me feel good about what I do.

  14. Like Rachel I was in a work situation that was rapidly becoming untenable. It took an incident where I was held accountable for the decision that another person made to make me realize that I had to be accountable for my own actions first which meant taking care of me. Sounds selfish I know but it was a huge wake up call as I now knew the job was not going to change but I had to. Long story short…found a new job that I really love that is totally within my values, has helped me to grow, and am part of a really great team. Sometimes quitting is the totally correct path. Thank you.

  15. I have a saying I teach at my businesses and at the local school each year.
    “You are your best asset and worst enemy , You choose which one you will be”
    Thanks for the simple wisdom QBQ.

  16. I imagine hundreds of people quitting their jobs. Hope not. I used to tell people you have to figure out what you can live with. If you can’t live with it, quit. Do something else. Or decide to make it work.

  17. Thank you for telling such a meaningful story. QBQ came into my life many years ago. The idea of personal accountability sunk in. It helped me to realize that my happiness was up to me. My wife and I started putting into action those changes needed to achieve what we really wanted. Less than a year ago I left a company that employed me for 30+ years, moved from the mid-west to the base of Pike’s Peaks. Now we are living our lives instead of our lives living us. Change is seldom comfortable. It is always scary. But it sure beats the alternative! Thank you.

  18. I’ve read, applied, and taught the principles of your book “QBQ Personal Accountability.” I’m reminded when I start my attitude with “I have to” I know I’m moving toward the victim thinking. Sure, there are things where I do “have to”, but I still can choose the outcome and my attitude.

  19. John,

    Thank you once again for your inspiration. Life is definitely about the choices we make. The key is to not get trapped by those choices and find a way to make a better one if need be.

    Thanks again.

  20. This was great for me to see John. I’ve been with my company for 20 years and have recently been passed over three times for different position by younger people, My annual reviews have been “strong” but I’m on the verge of turning 54. So, do I stay, or do I stick it out until retirement. That is a question I have been wrestling with as my company makes a youth movement. Your post has got me thinking!

  21. I worked for a boss similar to Rachel’s. I wish someone had said that word to me far earlier than I decided to quit. I love QBQ, but it was ultimately a book called “The Joy Diet” that led me to realize just how truly miserable I was. I had done everything I could do to make things better — attitude of service and compromise, eating well, sleeping as well as I could in the circumstances — and I finally realized it would never be enough.

    Sometimes “quit” is the best advice one can take. My life changed for the better that day!!

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