How to Practice “The Rock” of Accountability

Personal accountability and ownership are impossible to separate. Tough to have one without the other.

In our home Karen schedules doctors and dentists and provides our adult kids a most patient ear when they call from four states away. I check bank balances, set up airline reservations, and pick up dog mess in the yard (TMI? Sorry). We simply have defined parental and household duties.

So when the next Miller teen hit the WHEN AM I GONNA GET MY DRIVER’S LICENSE?!? stage, we all knew the job would fall to me. I handle the driver training and always have. Done it four times now. I’ve got experience!


But, this time, I blew it.

On Saturday afternoon, the teen daughter who hardly knows the difference between the brake and gas pedals and I were heading home. We live out in the Colorado country where young people have practiced driving on back roads since the dawn of the automobile. So, a half mile from our house, I put her in the driver’s seat and after thirty seconds of “training” said, “Go!”

She went—and did fine all the way to our driveway. Well, there was some swerving, but no harm done since we didn’t see another vehicle. But as we got to our drive, flanked by two huge boulders, I thought, Hmm, I should take the wheel now and turn into the driveway and park.

But I didn’t. I had a mental lapse. I assumed too much. And I got lazy. I mean, it’d be too much work to switch seats now. So I said, ”Go ahead and turn in. You can do it.”

Boy, do I ever wish I had a “do over.”

At first she wasn’t turning sharply enough, so I somewhat tensely instructed, “Turn, turn, turn!

I felt like I was singing very poorly The Byrd’s 1960’s folk song!

So she corrected, but way too much, turning so hard that my two-year-old Tacoma abruptly shook hands with a much older and far less flexible opponent: A one ton rock we’d bought at a Boulder, Colorado quarry in 1999.


The Boulder boulder won. My truck lost. Any idea what happens when today’s modern fender runs into last millennium’s rock???

What a mess!

The teen felt terrible, fearing Dad would be mad. But how could I be mad—it was my bad. To be truthful, I was mad at … me.

When Kristin—another daughter—speaks at a client event on “Personal Accountability and the QBQ!” she tells the last story in the QBQ! book. And she tells it well because she was there when it happened. I won’t share it here, but I will give you the punch line because it’s so perfect for my Truck Meets Rock story:

It’s my mess.

  • My child is struggling in school. It’s my mess.
  • The department I manage isn’t performing. It’s my mess.
  • I’m 35 pounds overweight. It’s my mess.
  • My marriage is on the rocks. It’s my mess.
  • My sales numbers are down. It’s my mess.
  • I’m really really stressed out! It’s my mess.
  • My life isn’t turning out the way I’d hoped. It’s my mess!

And, of course, my pick-up truck requires thousands of dollars of repairs now and it is totally, completely, and unequivocally my mess.

This is, of course, the essence of personal accountability, responsibility, and ownership. Those who can and do say “It’s my mess!” are far ahead of those who don’t. Without these words and the attitude that comes with them, I can’t solve problems—or learn, grow, and change. Personal accountability is foundational to all success. It’s an amazing rock to stand on.

Discussion questions:

What is one problem I have where approaching it with an “It’s my mess!” mindset will help me move forward? What will be the value to me?

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below and we’ll have some outstanding dialogue!


16 Responses

  1. Much the same happened in my family, Dad told Number 3 son to turn, just a bit too late, and Son ditched the car. With Dad’s coaching he got it back up on the road, and promptly turned over the driver’s seat. Not too surprisingly, that son turned into the safest driver of all three boys.

  2. Thanks for your openness and honestly in, and by sharing some of your less-than-gallant, and less-than-shining moments!

    We all have them and it is nice to hear that I am not alone! (and that WHEN I still falter with my fourth, …I still, will not be alone!)

  3. I’m so glad you called it a Boulder boulder John, because if you hadn’t, I was going to.

    Admittedly I got kind of sidetracked by the wordplay. That was my mess.

    The most similar theme in my life to this story is the first 30 or so people I ever hired. They had the basic skills (breathing, command of the English language, legal to work in the US) and so they started, I spent two hours with them, let them sit with another team member for a few days, and it was GO time…time for them to earn their check.

    And I wondered why for seven weeks they messed up the reporting. Or didn’t follow the guidelines on handling an upset customer (hint: we didn’t have guidelines). I realized after many years that: It was my mess.

    The reason they messed up was my fault. And I fixed it.

  4. I’ve been divorced from my first wife for over 20 years. Initially, it was a very amicable divorce; but over the years, different disagreements in child rearing led to, let’s just say, extreme tensions. This eventually led to very little communication between us. My son is now engaged and he recently approached me saying he was not sure how to handle “mom and dad” during the wedding and reception…can we be in the same pew, at the same table, etc. It got to me thinking very hard, and luckily, I had just went through a training program on Outcome Thinking based on Anne Warfield’s book. I realized that our two children had grown up to be model young adults, and while the process of mom and dad getting them there was not always smooth, the outcome was exceptional. I recently called my ex-wife to thank her sincerely for the wonderful job she had done “in getting us to this outcome.” We have been speaking again ever since. And I’m pretty sure my son is glad I took care of “my mess” well before the wedding day.

  5. One area that I can think of is probably how I physically feel. Taking an it’s my mess attitude helps to propel you forward into the next steps to feeling better. The value would be that the first step has been taken which is recognition and then the research or work begins to find what to do about your situation. There are many other areas in my life alone that I can think of but feeling healthier is one that comes to mind right away. Thanks as always for the e-mails! I save them and do read them!

  6. I facilitate and distribute QBQ! training for QBQ Inc. and here’s what QBQ! did for one client:
    There were some employees in their production facility that were not performing all of the job duties, and the supervisor had allowed it to go on for quite a while. After attending the QBQ! training, the supervisor realized that she could no longer allow this to continue because it wasn’t fair to all of the employees.

    She met with all of the employees as a group and then followed up with them individually to let them know that, moving forward, all employees would be asked to perform all job duties. She realized that she had let something slide and that she had created her own departmental mess.

    Now, the employees rotate positions with one another and everyone performs the same duties. Things are more fair and consistent – in part because she held herself personally accountable.

  7. It always lighten me loads to read your short articles times to times.
    Recently, something messy happen in my new appointed work and I seem to have difficulty handling it, which required assistance from my more experienced colleague.
    Just today, I was informed due to unforeseen circumstances, I was transferred back to my previous job scope after 6 months into this new work.
    Disappointment is unavoidable, but I can’t help feeling helpless.
    “It’s my mess!”
    It helps to look ahead and not Procastinate. Thanks.

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