This Time is Different

I read an interested op-ed piece in the New York Times today written by Thomas Friedman, called “This Time is Different.” (full article here: Friedman began with a letter from a friend of his who works in the Pentagon. The letter is reprinted below:  

I’d like to join in on the blame game that has come to define our national approach to the ongoing environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This isn’t BP’s or Transocean’s fault. It’s not the government’s fault. It’s my fault. I’m the one to blame and I’m sorry. It’s my fault because I haven’t digested the world’s in-your-face hints that maybe I ought to think about the future and change the unsustainable way I live my life. If the geopolitical, economic, and technological shifts of the 1990s didn’t do it; if the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 didn’t do it; if the current economic crisis didn’t do it; perhaps this oil spill will be the catalyst for me, as a citizen, to wean myself off of my petroleum-based lifestyle. ‘Citizen’ is the key word. It’s what we do as individuals that count. For those on the left, government regulation will not solve this problem. Government’s role should be to create an environment of opportunity that taps into the innovation and entrepreneurialism that define us as Americans. For those on the right, if you want less government and taxes, then decide what you’ll give up and what you’ll contribute. Here’s the bottom line: If we want to end our oil addiction, we, as citizens, need to pony up: bike to work, plant a garden, do something. So again, the oil spill is my fault. I’m sorry. I haven’t done my part. Now I have to convince my wife to give up her S.U.V. Mark Mykleby. 

In relation to the letter, Friedman notes: “I think Mykleby’s letter gets at something very important: We cannot fix what ails America unless we look honestly at our own roles in creating our own problems.” Isn’t that wonderfully true? It’s true of America, its true of our companies, its true of our local communities and true of our families. It is so much easier to blame others than it is to assume personal responsibility. I suppose that is why blame is so common in our world today.

Whether or not human beings have as big of an influence on the overall health of our planet as many claim in theory that we do is still debatable according to many scientists. What I do know is that the little choices I make from day to day have a cumulative effect. The more I assume personal responsibility for the direction of my life and the wellbeing of my fellows and the less I blame others for my troubles and discomforts the more right I have to voice my concerns for one thing and the more weight my voice will carry for another.

I am not one to contribute to the worst type of air pollution, the “smug cloud” produced by self-righteousness about lifestyle choices I make with the environment in mind, but this oil spill has got me thinking, how about you?


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16 Responses to This Time is Different

  1. Mitch Webb says:

    LOL – Smug alert! The individual smug cloud is probably the largest contributor to the world’s woes. Funny reference, serious matter… great op-ed piece that shouldn’t be missed.

  2. Aimee says:

    Love the article!

  3. Janis Taylor says:

    Important post, Gregg Hake… Well said, Mark Mykleby! Thanks for highlighting this letter and article by Thomas Friedman.

  4. Lucy Cera says:


  5. Colin says:

    You’re right that the unwillingness to take personal responsibility is one of the things that ails our world the most.

  6. Joshua says:

    Amazingly enough, someone has been willing to step up and assume responsibility, and his point hits home in a specific way. How many time’s do we as people need to receive the revelation of change and say “This time will be different” and an hour later we are planting the seeds of destruction all over again. Change is such a wonderful part of our living to actively engage in, and I look forward to taking full advantage of this opportunity to do my part. I believe what is behind that phrase is a hint of the insanity, that we allow to manifest, by doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
    For me this time WILL be different. Thanks for re-balancing the responsibility equation!!

  7. Doug says:

    I like Pat Riley’s take on complacency…“When a great team loses through complacency, it will constantly search for new and more intricate explanations to explain away defeat.”

    For sure it won’t stay a great team for long. Great article. You definitely got me thinking! Maybe a place to start is to stop being distracted or satisfied by the “more intricate explanations”.

  8. E.C. says:

    This time definitely needs to be different. We ARE the solution, but only if we refuse to let ourselves slide back down to the level of “business as usual.”

  9. Mark Miller says:

    Well worth reading!

  10. Ed Barnes, Sr. says:

    We need more “the buck stops here” folks speaking out like this!

  11. Julie says:

    Excellent article

  12. Chris says:

    Kudos to Mark Mykleby!

  13. D. Renshaw says:

    A crisis is a terrible thing to waste – great use of your blog!

  14. J.J.Mc says:

    It seems we are like miners with a dead canary, but we think if we keep feeding it and changing it’s water everything is fine. Hardly normal when it starts to smell!

  15. Rosa Maysen says:

    I agree it’s time for us as individuals to pony up and make our choices. Let’s do it!

  16. Charteris says:

    It’s so typical to either play the blame game or the defeatist game – what could one person (little ole me) do? And then there are the cynics sitting on their perches, looking askance at those who try to make a difference, thinking how disillusioned and futile everyone’s attempts always are.

    What about taking responsibility? What about being empowered and empowering others in their lives? What about setting an example? Does blame, futility or cynicism really stand out as a noble approach? Not in my book. It’s really black and white to – we all have a choice – either give up or pony up.

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