If You Break it, You Buy it (The Pottery Barn Rule)

Brent Pittman —  02/02/2015

Remember those signs that read, “If you break it, you buy it!”? They were usually in those fancy shops where your mom took you when you were a kid. Didn’t you want to touch EVERYTHING in the store?

Of course you couldn’t because they were made of glass or porcelain or some other fragile substance unsuitable for slippery little fingers.

What if you actually picked up one of those little shiny figurines and…oops! CRASH!

If You Break it, You Own it

Now, what do you do? There are several options:

  1. Run and hide.
  2. Make excuses and blame someone else or the circumstances.
  3. Own up to your mistake and confront the not so happy shop keeper.

Will you actually own up to the fact that you broke something as the sign in the shop says and “own it”? Yes, even the little broken pieces on the floor.

This isn’t rocket science, but a gut check on moral responsibility and a reflection of character. Will you do the right thing when the time comes and own up to your mistakes?

The Pottery Barn Rule

I was reminded of this when listening to Colin Powell’s biography It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership in my daily commute.

He is attributed with the Pottery Barn Rule- You break it you own it. (they really don’t have such a rule, but the name stuck) Powell was referring to the Iraq war, when the invasion (breaking) involved a much deeper commitment to the country and region (own it).

The Pottery Barn Rule and Personal Finances

When applied to money, what does the Pottery Barn Doctrine infer? I believe that of personal responsibility for our actions and–yes even mistakes.

  • Paying back our consumer and personal debts even if it takes years.
  • Not easily declaring bankruptcy, not until we’re forced to after a long hard fight.
  • Not engaging in strategic walk aways of homes without having tried to pay back what we’ve committed to pay.

You get the idea. Take responsibility for your actions and mistakes. Clean up your mess. Pay for what you’ve committed to buy. What happens after a mistake is a test of moral integrity and a revelation of our character to the world.

What are your thoughts about the Pottery Barn Rule? How have you applied it to your life or personal finances? 

 

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Brent Pittman

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Brent is a financial coach and writer looking for the perfect donut. He believes personal finance should be both fun and accessible to anyone willing to learn.
  • krantcents

    I take responsibility for everything I do! When things go wrong, it was either something I did or did not do which caused it. No Excuses is the only answer!

  • Travis Pizel

    I broke our finances BIG TIME. We took ownership of our debt by grabbing it by the horns, and confronting it head on. We enrolled in a debt management program and in 6 months, we will have paid off every penny of a 109K of credit card debt. FEELS GREAT!