One of the most transformative moments from my High School years came from a very unlikely source, a Madden football video game.
I was playing this game in our football team locker room against one of my teammates. The game was not going well for me, and I was furiously trying to make a comeback on offense. The game ended with me throwing an interception over the middle, and then loudly complaining that my virtual wide receiver had messed up his passing route.
At that moment, our head football coach, Matt Irvin, had stopped to watch a couple plays. He looked at me for a second, and then said “Guess you’ve got an excuse for everything.”
I thought about talking back to him, but instead sat dumbfounded. He was right. I had a tendency to assume that all of my successes were hard-earned, while my failures were the fault of everyone but me.
This is actually a well-known human cognitive bias, called the negative agency bias. However, just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean we’re going to let ourselves get away with this sort of spoilsport attitude.
In the seven years since then, I’ve gone out of my way to attribute as much of my activities and outcomes, both positive and negative, to myself.
When an investor turns me down, I know I need to refine my pitch. When our company misses its monthly targets, it’s time to check my bearings and make sure our strategy and implementation are still on track.
This is not an invitation to beat yourself up over every little setback; rather it is an acknowledgement of your personal responsibility over the outcomes in your life.
Try this approach for a few months, and let me know how it goes. The key to this strategy is to acknowledge the negative outcome, and then immediately look towards your path to improvement. Take that motivation with you as you retool your pitch, fine-tune your business strategy, or even just aim to complete your next virtual pass.