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Personal accountability is the key to success

May 16, 2011

Not only did we get to hear John Miller, but we also got a spaghetti supper and entered into a drawing for $25. What a night!

My wife and I recently joined the Sterling Federal Credit Union, primarily so we could attend the annual members’ meeting and listen to the event’s keynote speaker, John Miller. He is author of the book “QBQ! The Question Behind the Question®.”

I imagine I was a little more excited to join a credit union than most individuals. I like the idea of being a part of a financial institution owned by the account holders. Their assets may pale by comparison to national banks, but at the annual meeting I discovered they know how to take care of their customers/members.

With a smaller operation and no stock shareholders, there is no concern to increase a share price. Because of this, the credit union is able to lend money out at a little lower interest rate and pay more interest on savings accounts.

The major bonus, at least for me, was attending the annual meeting. The spaghetti and entertainment by the Juke Joint Cruisers were good, and Miller was the highlight. We could not believe we could have a nice meal and listen to a speaker one normally would pay hundreds of dollars to hear at a conference for only $5. When we opened the programs we discovered the $5 was returned. You can imagine how excited this penny pincher was.

I had read “QBQ!” awhile back and appreciated the lessons the book teaches when it comes to personal accountability. It is intended to eliminate traps of victim thinking, procrastination and blame in order to be better at one’s job and provide excellent customer service.

Miller began his presentation by sharing something we all probably have felt at one time or another, frustration with a co-worker who did not do something as you asked him or her to do. The joke came later when he revealed that person for him was his wife. However, he stressed that he learned to ask himself, “What could I have done to prevent this problem?”

He said that when we are frustrated, we tend to focus on and blame others. We often teach others what we need to hear ourselves. By taking personal accountability, we avoid being victims and blaming things that are beyond our control, and we rid ourselves of procrastination.

We need to add joy to this world in which we live, of entitlement thinking, blame, and an attitude of “What can you do for me?” We need to serve others. Miller described service as doing something for someone else that you did not have to do.

Personal accountability is critical in all aspects of our lives — at work, in our personal relationships, and you guessed it, our finances. When something goes badly, it is easy to blame someone else or a situation beyond your control. It may make you feel temporarily better, but it does not improve your situation.

The recession, with job losses and pay cuts, has not been easy for a lot of people. Some lost their investments, which forced them to push back their retirements. Entrepreneurs were forced to shut down their small businesses.

Every individual who has faced a setback has two choices: They can blame the government, Wall Street, ratings agencies, or a financial advisor. Or they can ask what they can do now to make things better in the future.

If life hands you lemons, you can either wallow or move ahead. You may be discouraged or down on your luck, but that can change today. How can you make yourself better? How can you enhance your future? What can you do to improve your personal financial situation?

Are you going to blame outside situations for your current position? Or will you ask yourself what you can do to make things better? I hope you choose the latter.

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