"The soul of a free man looks at life as a series of problems to be solved and solves them, while the soul of a slave whines, 'What can I do who am but a slave?'" writes George S. Clason in his 1926 book "The Richest Man in Babylon". No, this is not a blog post on the heinous act of slavery. It's not a money talk, either. It's a blog post on overcoming problems using mankind's inherent gift; critical thought.

The deeper message behind Clason's entertaining story is one of mindset. I have little tolerance for those who blame their situation on circumstances beyond their control. Many readers probably think I'm going to give some motivational speech about how self-pity is bad and you need to toughen up and stop making excuses. Sure, I believe that. However, I've got my sights on something else.

"We have always done it that way." If you say this to me, or any of its equivalents like "We can't change that" or "It's too hard to learn", I will immediately hold you in lower regard. That isn't an exaggeration. I say this to all the new mentees I take on. It's a big part of my personality. Change isn't always good, but if the old way is truly better, you'd better come up with a rational explanation. A few engineers that I deeply admired and considered friends muttered these limiting words to me about one year ago on a topic of great import. Our relationship was buoyed only by our collective focus on the work, but it deteriorated significantly. It's unlikely I will work with them again professionally.

Blind adherence to old ways is a tacit refusal to even acknowledge that a problem exists. If you don't see life as a series of obstacles, what is it then? What is it you actually do, if not to adapt and overcome? Most people can positively influence at least some of the bad things they experience. Even if you are not measurably empowered to improve your station in life (at work or otherwise) what would it take to do so? Own the fact that what you are doing right now is probably not the final answer.

At least some of Clason's Babylonian slaves had the courage and wherewithal to recognize the misery of their situation, and act. In the words of entrepreneur Dan Lok, "Lame people blame people."

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