The Greatest Skill You Can Learn to Live a Better Life

Today, I’m going to teach you the greatest skill you can possess as a human being.

You are human, right?

It will make you more successful, improve your life in every aspect, help you lose weight, open the doors to whatever you want.

However, it can also be incredibly painful and will teach you a lesson that most don’t want to learn.  It might make you angry and might take some time before you accept it, but you’ll be a better person because of it.

This is the skill that all other changes and improvements stem from:

Personal responsibility.

What most people do…

sad dog

When something goes wrong, most people’s first instinct is to blame their bad luck, pass the blame on to others, or simply lament about their particular situation:  

  • If they’re overweight and unhealthy, they blame the fast food industry, the soda industry, the restaurant industry, their lack of time, or their genetics/parents.
  • If they’re late to work, they blame the cars in front of them for not going faster or waiting too long at stop signs.
  • If they’re in a job they hate that doesn’t pay them enough, they blame the economy or their boss for keeping them down.
  • If they get turned down for a date or dumped, they blame the other person for being an idiot and not recognizing the amazing person in front of them.

It’s much easier to pass the blame and responsibility onto somebody else, so there’s no guilt necessary when no action is taken!  

Accepting personal responsibility, on the other hand, can be far more painful.  It requires us to stop looking outward and stop relinquishing responsibility for improvement – which isn’t easy. Once we stop blaming outside forces for our misfortunes or predicaments, there’s only one place to look: the mirror!

Let me explain why the mirror is the absolute best place to look if you want to live a leveled up life.

Why personal responsibility rules


Notice I said “responsibility” and not “fault.”

Where you are RIGHT NOW in your life is a combination of decisions you’ve made, steps you’ve taken, and events that have occurred outside of your control.  Although everything might not be your fault (sh** happens), it’s time to look at everything as if it were your personal responsibility to fix.  Some people get to play this game of Life on easy, and others get stuck playing on legendary difficulty.

It’s not fair, but that’s life.

Here’s why personal responsibility is so great: once you start accepting responsibility for your situation, you’ll realize that you don’t have to wait for anybody’s permission to make changes – nothing to wait for, nobody to ask. You can just…start. Immediately. Like right now. 

And then doors start to open.

Because you are the reason that you are where you are, you ALSO get to be the reason that you move forward.

This is why I love Adam Carolla – horribly inappropriate at times, but also a huge champion for personal responsibility. Even if you disagree with his political beliefs, on this issue, he’s a guy to be listened to.  This particular video on personal responsibility had me nodding my head in approval throughout.

“We can change. It’s the greatest thing about being a human being, and people squander it.”

Adam Carolla – Change Your Life Video

So, once you accept the fact that everything is your responsibility to fix or improve (even if it’s not your own fault), there’s a tremendous opportunity for growth.  When we can stop lamenting other people’s good luck and our bad luck, we begin to realize that luck has nothing to do with it! This great article by my friend Gary Arndt spells it out perfectly: “Why I’m not a lucky bastard.”

This is what separates successful people (read: Nerd Fitness Rebels) from those who are content to sit back and complain about their bad luck:

  • They accept responsibility for being overweight and out of shape, and identify ways to start making changes to their daily habits that start to turn things around.
  • They accept responsibility for their part of a failed relationship or less-than stellar interactions with meeting new people, and they identify ways to improve their social skills, work harder to make a better first impression, and take the time to analyze the type of person they really want to be with.
  • They accept responsibility for being in a job they hate in which they don’t get paid enough, and they identify new skills they can learn or online courses they can take to make themselves more valuable. They’re okay with having that uncomfortable but necessary “I deserve a raise and here’s why” talk with their boss.

My struggles

traffic jam danbo

Now, just because I spend my time helping others live leveled up lives doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with this stuff too!  I’ve made it a personal project to address a number of the things about myself that I felt needed fixing, both physically and mentally, since moving here to Nashville:

I’m in the process of trying to level myself up in one particular way that has already helped tremendously:  

My tardiness! I noticed that I had an issue with getting upset whenever I was late for something.  I would angrily YELL at people in the cars in front of me for going too slow. I’d get mad at the light for not changing to green faster. I’d get mad at the elevator for not arriving faster. Instead, I’ve had to internalize this as a learning experience – I’m getting angry because I’M LATE, not because other people are slow.  So, I’ve made it a focal point to be on time or early these days, and to only blame myself when I am late!

I already feel like less of an ass.

Accept responsibility

big smile

Starting today, I challenge you to complete an audit of your life and take responsibility for fixing it.

Take the time to recognize then analyze why you’re unhappy and what can be better…whether it’s with your appearance, relationships, job, or life.

Identify the things in your life that you’re unhappy with, then start taking steps, even teeny tiny ones, to start improving them.

Because we CAN change.

I see it every freaking day!

I get to watch people lose tremendous amounts of weight, find happiness and self confidence, and completely transform their lives. When people email me and say “your site changed my life,” I let them know that I’m just a nerd writing articles. THEY are the ones taking action; they are the ones who have changed their own lives, and need to thank themselves!

Nerd Fitness Rebels accept responsibility for the hole they’re in, because they then get to accept responsibility for the eventual success that comes from personal development.  And that success IS coming.  They will get to look in the mirror with pride and say “I am responsible for the good things that are happening to me. Nobody else. I did it.”

Like this kid will tell you in one of the more inspirational videos I’ve seen recently: “stop being boring, start being awesome.”

Pep talk from Kid President

Dig deep!

I challenge you today – leave a comment with one aspect of your life that you’ve been passing the blame on up until now, and one step you’re going to take today to start fixing it!

And if there’s an aspect of your life that’s jacked up,

Let me know how I can help!


Today’s Rebel Hero: @BekBoots – An Aussie currently living in Munich, Germany who posted maybe the most enthusiastic tweet ever about receiving her Nerd Fitness shirt! When you can have that kind of smile while exercising in the snow, you know you’re doing something right, Bek!


Have an awesome picture of you rocking your Nerd Fitness gear?  Send it in to us at so we can make you the next Rebel Hero!  


photo source: epic mountain topdanbo traffic jam, epic sunrise, sad dog, big smile

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  • LaKingfish

    Great Article!  I just have to be careful to realize personal responsibility is not personal fault.  Just as I take responsibility for the things that go wrong in my life i am also responsible for the things that go right as well!  I need to keep it balanced and honest and not use it as an excuse to beat myself up!

  • Engelsdad422

    I’m wasting my life in a dead end desk job and I keep making up excuses why I cant leave and procrastinating when it comes to finding another profession or educating myself so I can be more marketable and open up better opportunities whether it be with the same employer or a new one. I need to take responsibility and quit being a victim of my own inaction. There i said it!

  • Jonathan Murray

    You’ve no idea how happy I am to see Robbie on this! I used to go to the school where he lives. (He lives on a college campus with his adoptive parents.) He’s SO adorable in person. Absolutely everyone there loves him to death. And the guy behind the camera (you occasionally hear his voice) is an amazing man as well. He does SO much to go out of his way to help where ever he sees a chance.

  • Mrs. S

    that’s my problem, too! and also completely my fault. admitting you have a problem is the first step, right?

  • Momo

    My advice would be to accept your bodys natural clock, and do your workouts in the evening! Some of us just aren’t built to do 6am workouts, it would be like trying to wake up at 3am to work out for a morning lark. I am the same way as you, and used to do personal training sessions in the morning. One time he had to reschedule for the evening and I had way more energy, a day of food and water inside me, and the workout was Much more effective.

  • Sascha Coursen

    Interesting. Right after reading this article, the first thing I thought about is how I keep getting angry that people in my life don’t seem to care about me. Maybe I’m not being as caring as I could be…

  • Linsay

    I haven’t talked to my father in four (+) years. I have always blamed that rift on him. I am going to examine my part in it and take steps to try and fix it. Thanks for the push in the right direction.

  • Musajen

    Son of a bisquit! You HAD to use the chronic lateness as an example didn’t you? Crap. I’ve officially been called to the floor and now realize the error of my ways… and road rage. Day 1 of getting places on time… funny how much more peaceful my morning commute was.

    Thanks for the come to Jesus. Hello personal responsibility.

  • Rob

    Its a great Idea. My girl friend and I had a workout room with a treadmill and bike. We decided to move our couch into the workout room and move the bike and treadmill into the living room! Now we either have to walk/jog/run or bike while watching the tube.

    We get a lot of weird looks from guests.. but our new found health and fitness is worth all the weird looks in the world!

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  • Joshua

    Wow! I thought I was the only one. 

  • Joshua

    Great post Steve. I wanted to put in that this can be taken too far in the opposite direction of outsourcing the blame. Most people don’t, and it’s usually not a concern, but I pushed myself past personal responsibility into blaming and self-shaming. For a long time I had myself convinced that I didn’t deserve anything good in life, and that all the bad things in my life were my own doing. 

    I 100% agree that personal responsibility is a critical life skill, but so is personal forgiveness. 

  • ceethegreat

    I completely agree with this! I pride myself in owning my actions, but then sometimes take it a bit far and wander into control freak territory. Like, I blame myself for someone else’s action because I should have known better and acted differently to begin with. I think sometimes there ARE things out of my control outside of natural disasters, lol, and I can control how I react when things don’t work out the way I want. Love the article!

  • Huskerfan

    I am the Queen of almost finished projects.  So, today, I pick one and work until it is completed.  And I also have papers everywhere.  15 minutes per day from now until I have that monster defeated – only touch each paper once. 

  • Mel Duncan

    Or you could remove the tv 😉

  • JC

    I don’t disagree with anything here, but I feel like you’ve given me an opportunity for a soapbox and I’m going to take you up on the comment about obesity.  It’s as much of a societal problem as it is a personal problem.Serving healthy lunches in schools, building liveable neighbourhoods that are safe to use active transportation like walking and bicycling, and where kids can play outside. Being transparent in food labelling, so people have the information they need to make better choices.  Building community gardens in poor neighbourhoods and making sure everyone has access to fresh food. These things are worth fighting for.

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  • Chris Souter

    This article really hit home. I realized that I am to blame for a lot of mess ups in my life.

    My failed relationship with the girl I loved, quitting my job because I was miserable, and not having another job lined up, getting into shape but not reaching my fitness goals, and going back to school at the age of 27 and still living at home.

    All my own doing for the most part. S#$% happens but it is not the same as digging the s^&^ your in yourself. 

    Love the site and thank you making me realize going back to school, taking the fire fighter test, getting myself out of debt, focusing even hard on fitness, and all of that has paid off.

    “It’s time to kick ass and chew bubble gum, but I’m all outta gum.”

  • Anne

    I freely admit that running late is my own fault, but to be fair I yell at other drivers even when I’m not late. It just annoys me to have other cars in front of me.

  • Kyherber

    You’re in luck! The foods that taste good to us (even those cultivated by lifelong habits) can change! Taste tells us a lot of information about food, such as the fats, salts, sugars, acids, quality, age, and fiber, and once you get to know these tastes, almost everything becomes enjoyable (or at least bearable). Try REALLY tasting the things that go in your mouth, and even if you just try to enjoy it, your brain will start making connections that say, “Oh, OK, this is what we’re liking (or trying to like) right now.” Over time, this thought “pathway” becomes easier and easier, and you’ll like more and more foods. Also, it helps me to think in the POSITIVE of any food situation. For example, instead of saying “I’m going on a low-carb diet with no processed foods, sodas, or caffine,” it’s very valuable to instead say, “Holy crap look at all the fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats, yogurt, nuts, seeds, and roots I’m eating! What an awesome, satisfying, joyful choice!” Or, in your case, “NO SUGAR!” can be substituted by, “I love food, and sweet choices like yams, butternut squash and other fruits are really enjoyable to me” (The words are totally up to you, of course). Instead of saying “No syrup on my oatmeal,” you could try out, “Yes, I’d love yogurt and peaches on my oatmeal!” Simple mindset changes can make life so enjoyable.

  • Alexander Heyne

     Yeah I’m with you Andy. When the shit hits the fan many people immediately shoot on over and play the “blame game” because life sucks ass and it’s easier to bitch and moan, than take responsibility, accept it, and do what it takes to change.

    It’s not easy though!

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  • Skip

    Steve: I actually found myself cursing inanimate objects. What an idiot!  I am changing that, now!
    One thing helped me more than anything else: I finally reminded myself one day that “Hey, you’re supposed to be enjoying this!”  I can’t tell you what a difference that has made.


  • Rod Lucas

    I think that this page will really help so many people start living a better life. It really makes sense that if you follow these tips that you will be more happy.

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  • Samantha

    Awesome article! Life really opens up and feels better when we accept personal responsibility and stop living in a fog blaming everything around us for what happens. I would like to ask, since it can be a fine line, how do you balance assuming personal responsibility for everything in your life while keeping it positive and not being harsh and critical towards yourself?

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  • Krytie

    I love this! I am all about taking responsibility for our actions. I do have a question though maybe some of you can help? :) I have an 18 year old daughter that recently moved back with me because if very deep seeded issues they both have yet neither of them are taking any responsibility for there part in this broken relationship. Her dad is probably the most narcissistic person I know and well my daughter is a GIRL and 18 so they are both out of their minds at the moment! I am happy to be there for her but also have declared recently I will not get stuck in the middle of the problems they have with each other. So I guess my question is what are the signs I can be looking for that tells me my daughter is ready to receive valuable tools and information that will help her move forward regardless if things with her dad work out or not. Thanks! Oh you can find me on FB @ Krystie Mathews Carey. :)

  • Krytie

    Omg. I spelt my own name wrong. LOL I will take responsibility for that! :)

  • Beth Mastick

    I’ve been blaming my husband and son for preventing me from doing what I want to do and going where I want to go and being who I want to be

  • Morgan

    my favorite article yet!
    the reminder to thank myself for the changes I’ve accomplished was an aha moment but make no mistake YOU have changed my life Steve! I’ve been acting like I don’t have time to look for a new job. I’m start with the only time that matters now

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  • Michael Bradham

    Thank you for publishing. I think quiet contemplation applies to initiating change. Heres to 20 Days Meditation honoring the New Year.

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  • Ann Howlette

    I have always blamed my weight on my parents (genetics, being raised on unhealthy diet, etc.) but as of late I have started taking responsibility. I am overweight because I have a unhealthy relationship with junk food, and am a underpants gnome.
    I am on the 80% diet right now, and am making myself work out at least twice a week (besides biking to work)

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  • Carlos Moreno

    I agree with you Steve, its such an important skill…A painful experience but once you master it, you will have your life back. I reblogged your article and qouted some of your words in

  • Krishna Chowhan

    I think I have never came of this article and it’s really very good.
    Taking your own responsibility for whatever you are today is a good message I never thought.

    It really makes me more to concentrate on my pitfalls.

    I have always keep saying about the situations and my parents is what I am here today, but the right or wrong happened in my life is always with my choice so I am the person to blame or appreciate.

    I thank you and happy for going through your article. Now onwards I am going to take my choices as my responsibility.

  • Nia

    I use to blame my low blood pressure for the amount of food I ate. Now I’m trying to find a way to eat healthier without my BP getting in the way.

  • Pizzle The Great

    Definitely in multiple areas that are all connecting, like my weight is linked to my smoking weed, my smoking weed is linked to my not looking for a new job, not looking for a new job keeps me in the same space and I even started blaming my wife and son. It have been a terrible nasty unnecessary person the past few months leading into a year. I needed this because now I’m going to stop smoking and get my life on track.

  • ArezK

    A Great Article Steve. Really inspired me in a lot of things and shared it among others. Thank you for the inspiration

  • putinsboss

    A relationship where my girlfriend wakes up one morning and says she dont want a boyfriend.That sucks even we been together for 10 months .now am paying the consequences because i was so attached to her.Think i need help.

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