The concept of taking ownership in every area of our lives… it’s one of my most significant takeaways from the book Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. In the book, authors Jocko Willink and Leif Babin share the principles that helped them lead on the battlefield, and they translate these same principles to leading yourself, your team, and your business. There are so many parallels. As I’ve been listening to the audio version of the book on my drives, I’ve been struck by the weight of ownership in all we do – professionally and personally. Here’s what has resonated the most and how I am trying to implement it.

Let’s start with how I own my emotions and actions. Here’s the perfect example. I am writing this coming off of an argument with Cristina. We’re a normal married couple, and we disagree from time to time. To be completely transparent, in this instance I let my emotions and ego get the best of me, and I was disrespectful in the tone I took with her. Before reading this book and grasping the concept of ownership, I would have tried to shift the blame from how I reacted to something she had done or said to light me up. 

With the concept of ownership top-of-mind, I realize today that regardless of how we got there, I own my reactions. I own my emotions. I own how I show up in every situation, and most of all, I own my words. In this instance, I was wrong. There’s no external force that I can use as a scapegoat that would allow me to shed that ownership. I control how I show up, and no one can “make me” show up badly. That’s on me. So, I can either blame Cristina for my outburst… OR I can own it and find ways to get more connected to my emotions and responses.

Here’s another take on ownership from a personal perspective. The pandemic, along with this winter, has ravaged my workouts. I’m supposed to have more time on my hands, but it feels like I have less, and my fitness has taken a beating. I can shift the blame for that in a few different directions and look for all the reasons I haven’t been disciplined in this area of my life… OR I can own the responsibility and do something about it. I am going to choose to own it.

Let’s shift this to working within our teams, using this example. You give someone on your team the responsibility to complete a task, and they make a mistake. You have two options. You can blame them for how they screwed up, OR you can dive a little deeper and look for where YOU screwed up. Did you equip them for success with the tools, processes, and checklists they needed to win… OR did you leave them hanging to figure things out on their own without the right resources?

Here’s another example that comes from life at work. You have a big project that you’re working on as a team with all hands on deck, and the progress is slower than you’d like. You’re having weekly meetings and setting time aside to work on this project, but you wish things were going faster. In this situation, do you find yourself looking at everyone else on your team, pointing fingers at where they’re not delivering… OR are you pointing the finger at yourself, the areas where you’re not producing, and where you can lead better?

See the pattern here? Taking ownership over how you show up in life is a series of choices. Do we choose this path OR that one in how we respond? How we prepare ourselves and our teams for success, and how we react to adversity is the measure of how we view ownership in our lives.

It is always easier to blame others, including people we love and respect, when things go off the rails. We are wired in such a way where protecting ourselves at all costs is natural. Taking extreme ownership requires us to expose ourselves and step into the line of fire for the greater good of everyone we care about and serve with. It’s a challenging concept to embrace.

Over the past week, as I’ve been processing this concept of taking ownership, I’ve seen that I need to own EVERYTHING in my life. How I show up as a husband, dad, leader, teammate, owner, and friend all depend on it. I’ve also learned quickly that this idea of ownership is not a “one and done” practice. Over the course of my day, I need to take ownership over and over again – in the big things, small things, simple things, and the hard things. 

The Takeaway

Here’s a simple question… What is ONE THING you need to take ownership of? If you’re like me, there’s likely more than one thing that comes to mind. As you apply taking ownership in your life, many more areas will become evident to you – but start with one. My challenge for you today is to pick something that is hard. Ownership at work may feel comfortable. Taking ownership in your marriage may be more challenging. Choose something hard that will test your grit, and then own it.

Curious about the book Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin? Learn more here.

Ownership is going to be challenging and will require some outside accountability. Subscribe here and I’ll send you those nudges and reminders to stay focused and keep creating more depth in your life.

See you soon! – John