• Acknowledging my shortcomings and taking ownership in results, not blaming others
  • Accepting my responsibility to clients and colleagues and admitting my role in a situation
  • Seeking accountability, focusing on self-improvement, and providing solutions


It is easy to confuse the fact that something didn’t happen with the reason(s) it didn’t happen. Let me say that again in a different way. The reason an objective isn’t met should never be confused with the fact that it wasn’t met. Let me illustrate.

Two weeks ago, my youngest daughter’s soccer team dominated a game. They shot at their opponent’s goal no less than two dozen times and the ball rarely ventured onto the other half of the soccer field. I am not sure if the other team even attempted a goal. It was like watching half a game.

Of course, I would have felt sorry for the opposing team… if it weren’t for their outstanding goalies. You see, even though my daughter’s team was delivering some impressive statistics (number of shots, time of possession, etc.), the one statistic that really matters is the score -- and in this category, they fell short. Far short. At the end of the game, the final score was 0-0.

Zero-to-zero. No points.

All of those goal attempts resulted in zero points. It was maddening. I could have accepted 0-0 from two evenly matched teams. (“Wow, what a game! Battle of the titans, blah blah.”) Heck, I can even imagine being happy with a 0-0 outcome if we had been playing a better team. (“We got lucky on that one.”) But to have truly dominated every aspect of the game with the one exception being the thing that matters most was absurdly frustrating. How could they own the game but never take ownership of it?


Did my daughter’s soccer team win the game? Nope. I can list off for you the factors that I think contributed to their loss, but the fact remains that the team did not win, even though they should have.

In “real life” off the soccer field, it can be easy to confuse failures with the reason for the failure. A failed result is, after all, a failed result. A loss is a loss. We can offer up reasons for the loss, but it is still a loss. Sometimes those reasons, also known as excuses, can help us avoid future failures. It is a good thing to learn from a mistake as long as we still take sight of the fact that it was a mistake.

That is the idea behind the principal called “Offer No Excuses.” At Funds For Learning, we are hired by schools to help them get funding for Internet access and classroom technology. If it were a soccer game, getting those funds and spending them wisely is winning the game. There are a lot of factors that contribute to the process, but, at the end of the game, the one statistic that truly matters is whether or not the funding came through and was spent properly.

If those funds don’t make their way to our customers, then our customers haven’t won their game. Yes, there may be reasons they didn’t get funding -- there are always reasons – but that doesn’t matter much to a school in budget crisis mode who needs the money. (Fortunately, Funds For Learning has a nearly flawless record helping our customers win; but, I will save the rest of that information for a sales presentation.)


Understanding mistakes certainly can help us avoid similar mistakes and failures in the future. And, when asked, it is okay to provide the reason behind a failure. Nevertheless, it is important to distinguish the fact of failure from the reasons for a failure, which is why at Funds For Learning we “Offer No Excuses.”

Postscript: Back to my daughter’s soccer match. The other team had fantastic goalies. I think they were so good because they had a lot of practice blocking shots. Lots of shots.


Key Words and Phrases

Take ownership of outcomes; Agree to responsibility; Accept accountability; Provide solutions; Recognize failures; Acknowledge shortcomings; Focus on results, not excuses; Admit mistakes.

Opposite Terms

Rationalize inferior work; Deny or justify a fault; Offer a pretext for failure; Provide self-justification.


GuideMarks – Distinguishing Characteristics of FFL E-rate Guides

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