...Taking Responsibility for Your Life

When I was 19 years old, both my parents died in the same year. I’d grown up
with a loving family, but with the snap of a finger, everything changed.

My mom died of cancer; my dad was killed in a car accident. Through a series of
bad decisions over the next several years, I ended up homeless…before that
was even a word. I did odd jobs, but I literally slept at the beach, under a pier on
the Gulf Coast. Is life’s good fortune just luck of the draw?
I remember thinking that if this is my draw, I might as well quit.

Before I did that, however, I began to pursue some burning
questions. I spent a lot of time at the library reading more
than 200 biographies of successful people.

I needed to know if there was a common denominator
among these people that I was somehow missing. Was
there something in particular that all of them did to
ensure their success? Was there a commonality that,
if applied to my life, might render the same results for

As I read the biographies of these successful people,
success meaning contentment and happiness in addition
to the financial aspect, I found
seven common
, and set about applying them in my own life.  

In this eColumn, the first for, we will explore the first and perhaps the
most important common denominator of success,

My book, The Traveler’s Gift, talks of Harry Truman, our thirty-third President, who worked
as a farmer and ran a clothing store before he entered politics. This was the President who
authorized the use of the atomic bomb that brought World War II to an end. He created
NATO and the Marshall Plan. He increased the minimum wage and increased Social
Security benefits. This was a man who knew that the buck stopped with him. Studying
Truman’s life, I learned an invaluable principle.

The first decision to determine personal success is this:

            “The buck stops here”—I am responsible for
            my past and my future.

    There’s an important relationship between a principle and a
    decision that is vital. A principle is something that  works,
    but a decision is a principle that we have made our own.
    We’re aware of it, claiming it and about to use it. So the buck
    stops here because, until we accept responsibility for where we
    are, we have no basis for moving on.

    When I was as low as I could possibly get, I remember someone
    telling me, “Well, you chose this.” I can remember thinking, I didn’
    t choose this. If my parents hadn’t died…

But here’s the problem with that: If it’s our spouse’s fault or the weather’s fault, then we
truly are stuck. But if we can find the answer to our problems in the mirror, there is hope
for changing the future.
When we are able to accept responsibility for where we
are, we actually have a shot at controlling our future.

It’s our thinking that creates a pathway to success or failure. Outside influences are not
responsible for where you are mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, or financially.
You really have chosen the pathway to your present destination.

To create a pathway to success instead of failure, it’s critical to change your thinking.
way our thinking must change is to determine that we are responsible for where
we are.
If we’re responsible for where we are, then we can be responsible for where we’re

The bad news is that the past was in your hands, but the good news is that the future is
also in your hands.

By taking responsibility, you have hope. You may not have the ability to make right
decisions all the time, but you have the ability to make a decision and make it right. So
don’t let emotional tides deter you.

Your life should not be an apology; your life should be a statement and when we take
personal responsibility for where we are, it speaks boldly about where we are going.

When I was reading those hundreds of biographies, I also
found another constant that was tied to taking responsibility
for yourself—
Each of these successful people had to
battle adversity along with the success he or she

As I read of people who had changed the world, adversity
was always nearby. They had the opportunity to accept
responsibility for their decisions and they did, though I am
certain they were often tempted to ask, “Why me?”

When my parents died, that was my constant refrain: “Why

Things changed when I understood that adversity ran
through the lives of all great people.
 People tend to run
from problems, but running does not build muscle. Maybe
the reason the thread of adversity ran through the lives of these great people was
because of what it was creating in them. It was building muscle and an attitude that other
people wanted to be around.  

Adversity is preparation for greatness. Challenges are gifts. Why you?
Why not you? Why shouldn’t you be prepared for something great?
HOME        FAQs        SHOPPING CENTER        ADVERTISE         TERMS OF USE            

All contents © by No portion may be used in print, for broadcast or on the Internet
without prior permission. Contact:
America's Storyteller

The New York Times
calls him a "modern-day
Will Rogers who has
quietly become one of
the most influential
people in America."

His books, including
the bestselling
Traveler’s Gift: Seven
Decisions that Determine
Personal Success
Island of Saints, have
sold millions of copies

He is internationally
known as a speaker and
storyteller, has spoken
at the request of four
different United States
presidents, and his two-
hour special on the
Public Broadcasting
Andy Andrews:
The Seven Decisions
has been a blockbuster
All Photos by
Peter Nash
Get to know ANDY ANDREWS
better...check out the exclusive's
SPOTLIGHT featuring "America's
Go to the current IN THE LOOP eColumn

Go to the Index of Selected Recent IN THE LOOP eColumns by Andrew Andrews