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Never Complain or Explain

By Orrin Woodward

Leaders address issues head on, but refuse to complain about them, seeking to resolve, not inflate the matter. Has complaining about something ever produced real change? Any change that is browbeaten out of another isn’t a true heart change.

One can watch husbands and wives complain to, and about, each other endlessly, but it won’t elicit the desired changes. A character based response is to address the issue with the person responsible, asking how one can help with the challenge. But no matter what happens, a leader won’t complain to others.

Good company avoids critical spirits. Life will deal bad cards to all of us.  Instead of complaining, play the cards and learn the lessons needed. Bitter or better, that is the two choices that people have in life.

Complaining leads to bitterness and resentment, two characteristics that are lethal to a positive attitudes, creating a cultural cesspool that destroys organizations. Everyone plays a part that in resolving challenges, even if it’s just encouraging others rather than complaining at or about them.

Because seeds are scattered everyday, it takes a disciplined thought process to maintain a positive attitude, refusing to wallow in negativity. Left to itself, a mind will quickly fill with weeds, just as a garden will. Until the weeds are eradicated, positive reading and association will not prosper, because most of the success seeds are blocked out by the weeds.

Kill the weeds first, then replace with positive books, audios, and associations. Henry Ford II, said, “Never complain, never explain,” emphasizing the worthlessness of complaining about the circumstances or explaining it away through excuses.

Mentally complaining may release people feeling responsible, but by passing the buck, one has also passed on leadership, since leaders, by definition, accept responsibility. People, filled with weeds, instead of accepting responsibility for fixing their problems, attempt to escape responsibility by blaming others.

This would be laughable, if it wasn’t so prevalent. When a limiting belief (weed) is adopted, people will fight to defend that weed. In fact, many times people will argue with others, denying that they have what it takes to win, becoming upset at them for daring to suggest that they could win.

Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull concurs, writing, “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they are yours.”

People, fearing the pain of change, or more specifically, the pain of pulling their own weeds, run to self deception instead, in an effort to defend their fragile egos, because they know that if they admit they have what it takes to win, the weed is exposed as lie wrapped in an excuse.

The author recently read an anonymous story about a 92 year old lady, exemplifying how attitude is a choice:

“She is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with her hair fashionably coiffed, and her makeup perfectly applied, in spite of the fact she is legally blind. Today she has moved to a nursing home.

Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making this move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, where I am employed, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready.  As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet curtains that had been hung on her window.

“I love it,” she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year old having just been presented with a new puppy.

“Mrs. Jones, you haven’t seen the room….just wait,” I said. Then she spoke these words that I will never forget: “That does not have anything to do with it,” she gently replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like the room or not, does not depend on how the furniture is arranged. It is how I arrange my mind. I have already decided to love it. It is a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice.”

“I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or I can get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do work. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I will focus on the new day and all of the happy memories I have stored away….just for this time in my life.”


Orrin Woodward is the co-founder of Team, a leadership development and training company, and the New York Times best-selling co-author of Launching a Leadership Revolution.

Named by the International Association of Business as a Top 10 Leadership Guru, he is dedicated to building leaders and entrepreneurs and promoting freedom and prosperity.

Orrin blogs regularly at Orrin Woodward. He lives in Port St. Lucie, Florida with his wife and four children.

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