When things go wrong, it’s only human to want to point the finger and to blame someone or something else. Companies play the blame game too, and quite well I might add.
You don’t meet your quarterly targets, blame this event or that circumstance.
You fail to close a deal with a huge potential customer, blame this team or that team – or blame your competitor who undercut you.
Your new product advertisement falls flat. Blame your outside ad firm.
Finding a scapegoat is easy. Dealing with your own weaknesses and mistakes, and learning from them is much harder. That’s why both companies and people generally take the former route.
This past weekend, I had a close and personal encounter with blame.
I was awakened this past Friday at 5am by my three indoor cats growling at the front door at a cat on the outside of the door. I got up and peered out the window, and saw what I thought was our neighbor’s black cat. It was still dark outside and I was still in the fog of sleep.
My concern was that the cat had escaped its owner’s house and was now stranded outside in 20-degree weather. I took out some food, which the cat devoured. Just before the cat finished the food, I thought (or I didn’t think) that I would reach down and grab the cat, take it inside for a few hours, and then call the neighbor to come pick it up. This cat thought differently.
When I reached down to pick up the cat, in an instant, it turned and took a huge bite out of my hand, while pushing its back feet against my other hand. I ripped my hands away, and stood there with both hands bleeding while feeling pretty stupid for trying to pick up this cat. I knew now that it was not my neighbor’s cat.
My dumbness resulted in an emergency room visit in response to my bitten hand doubling in size and turning red with apparent infection. The hospital kept me two days to pump strong antibiotics into my body via IV to aggressively attack the toxins that were in my hand. An infectious disease doctor saw me and told me that this type of deep cat bite could do permanent damage to the use of my hand.
I kept telling myself, which was also echoed by my husband, that I had no one to blame but myself.
The hospital was so crowded they put me on the oncology floor with the cancer patients. On the first night, I shared a room with a feisty 82-year old woman who had come to the hospital due to bad reactions to the cancer drugs.
On the second day, they brought in an Egyptian woman in her mid-30s, along with her husband, her mother, her young daughter and several friends and family. She was so ill, so weak, so emaciated, and clearly suffering from the rages of her cancer and the treatments.
My wounds suddenly felt insignificant. Here I was blaming myself for my predicament, and learning from it — and this woman, wife, mother and daughter had no one to blame.