Ownership is one of the most powerful skills we can learn for ourselves, but ownership is a mindset and is not easy to adopt. I developed this skill during high school football, primarily from my head coach, who taught both Joseph and me a lot of the skills and habits that we teach our students. At that point, I already thought my ownership mentality was pretty advanced relative to my peers. But Coach Dilley showed us an unbelievable level of ownership that can transform the way you approach everything in life- football, yes, but also school, your career, your relationships, and yourself.
What exactly do I mean by ownership? I think of ownership as the concept of taking responsibility for decisions, actions and outcomes. There are varying degrees of ownership, ranging from how fiercely you take responsibility for your life, all the way to how fiercely you take responsibility over the lives of others. That is one of the reasons why I love team sports (and football especially) so much. My team sports (and great coaches) taught me that everything I do impacts my teammates, and that no matter if it is a great or a disappointing outcome, I should always ask myself, "what could I have done better to improve this outcome?"
This mentality is difficult to adopt because it goes against our natural instincts, which are to take ownership when things go well, but to deflect ownership to others when things do not go well. A great example of this was a game my sophomore year, when I played tight end and got wide open in the end zone. As I turned to call for the ball, the quarterback found me and threw a pass my way. Unfortunately, the pass was high and sailed over my outstretched arms. I was frustrated that the quarterback had missed me as I ran to the sidelines. I jumped for the ball so I felt like I had done my part. One of my coaches came up to me soon after, and I was expecting him to say, "great route" or "we'll run that play again because you were so open." Instead, he talked to me about how I could have used better technique on my turn to be ready to jump higher. I was shocked initially, thinking that I had done what I was supposed to do. But as I thought more about it, he was right. Even if the pass was still too high in the end, I should be asking myself, "did I do everything in my power to help the quarterback complete the pass?" The answer was no, and that moment has stuck with me ever since. The rest of my high school football career, I worked hard to adopt a level of extreme ownership, going as far sometimes as, "how could I have pushed my teammate better during practice so that he would have been ready to make that tackle in the game?" or "did I encourage my teammates enough after they made mistakes during the game?" Football was so critical for adopting this kind of ownership because it taught me to no longer just take ownership over decisions, actions, and outcomes I could obviously or directly trace back to myself. Football taught me that (a) everything I do impacts my teammates, (b) the key was doing what was in my control to positively impact the team, and (c) I need to constantly broaden my perspective of what was actually "in my control."
Having this mentality has been and will continue to be one of my greatest strengths. And strong ownership can be a transformational mentality for you, too. When you stop blaming external factors for your problems, including other people and anything else that is out of your control, and start taking ownership for your decisions, actions, and outcomes, then you instantly place yourself on another trajectory. This level of ownership is a fundamental piece of the growth mindset, and as a result the the skills you can develop and the goals you can accomplish become limitless.
The next time you hear yourself, either out loud or in your head, placing blame on someone else for a decision, action, or outcome, stop yourself. Whenever this happens, always ask yourself:
- What could I have done to improve the situation?
- Did I do absolutely everything in my power to positively impact this decision, action, or outcome?
As we often say, your attitude and your effort are completely and 100% within your control. Use this to your advantage, in conjunction with your new level of ownership, and see what happens...
Did you enjoy this post? How can you improve the level of ownership you take in your life? Let us know in the comments!
Want to read more about ownership and the growth mindset? Read our post about the Global Learning XPRIZE and following your passion.