Of the many life lessons I was taught as a child, there is one that keeps coming back to me. That simple lesson is…


I am not speaking in the spiritual sense of “Everything Happens for a Reason”. Though I also believe that to be true, it doesn’t account for personal ownership of the “thing” that happened. I was brought up with a clear understanding of the concept that I was responsible for my own actions, that there was no one else to blame for the mistakes I made, and that mistakes were a means of learning. Mistakes are not accidents, but accidents are almost always results of mistakes. The biggest difference between those two words is that we use the word “accident” to absolve ourselves of any personal responsibility, but when we acknowledge our mistakes we are taking personal responsibility. That might be the reason we are far quicker to categorize unfortunate happenings as accidents vice mistakes. The concept of personal responsibility has become so basic to many that we have little patience for those who have yet to “get it”.

  • That car crash didn’t happen by accident, mistakes made lead to it
  • Earning Sailor of the Year didn’t happen by accident, deliberate performance allowed it to happen
  • Failing to finish that marathon didn’t happen by accident, improper training and/or poor race day decisions prevented us from realizing our goal
  • The 15 pounds gained this year didn’t happen by accident, poor diet and laziness made sure we bulked up
  • Not being selected for promotion didn’t happen by accident, the jobs we took and/or our documented performance made sure we were overlooked
  • Spilling fruit punch on the couch didn’t happen by accident, not paying attention to our surroundings made sure it happened
  • Fumbling the football didn’t happen by accident, not holding onto the ball with both hands allowed it to
  • A failed marriage didn’t happen by accident (neither does a happy one), a lack of commitment to each other opened the door for divorce

Simply put, I do not believe there is such thing as an “accident”, at least not in the way so many of us use the word. Instead, we contribute to the creation of the conditions that allow these things to happen. All too often I hear people talk of the situation in which they find themselves as if they don’t know how they got there.

I am not saying we have complete control over our lives, such logic is equally flawed. I am also not saying everything that happens is intentional or that we purposefully sabotage ourselves. I am merely acknowledging that “things” (good or bad) don’t happen to us, we allow them to happen. There are many things in life that didn’t turn out as I had intended (even with the support of friends, family, and shipmates) despite my (our) best effort; though, the result was never an accident. Unfortunate, yes, accident no! I may have turned left, when I should have turned right. I may have asked a question when I should have made a statement. I may have said “No” when I should have said “Yes”. Regardless of the result, we must own the outcome and show the person in the mirror (and anyone else who truly matters) we acknowledge our responsibility and ultimate accountability for the mistakes we make.

  • How many “accidents” in your life could have been prevented?
  • What are you doing to create opportunity for good things to happen in your life?
  • What missteps have you made to allow bad things to happen in your life?