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One of the greatest traps people fall into is believing they are entitled to something based on what they have done in the past, or are capable of doing. An even greater problem is believing you are entitled to something for nothing. Incredible as it may seem, most of the people I have seen in the working world throughout the years have an improper sense of entitlement. Rather than helping you, a sense of entitlement holds you back.
Anyone who believes he or she is entitled to something – a parent, an employer, a union, a government, or anyone else, is offering you a Faustian bargain. By making you dependent upon them, they are exerting control over you and your future. There are people and groups that want you to feel entitled and be dependent on them. This is their way of gaining control over you. This is not what you should want. If you have zero sense of entitlement, you can do whatever you want without help. By realizing you are owed nothing, you will go much farther.
The people who are the happiest, the most successful, and in control of their futures realize they are not entitled to anything. They know what happens to them is up to them, not anyone else. The second you give control to others you become a puppet, not a participant, in your own life. I want you to be someone who makes things happen in your own life, and someone who is in control. You can easily seize control of your career and your own life just by changing how you think.
Several years ago, I was sitting in the Kennedy Airport in New York with a relative. We were in a crowded food court with people sitting on both sides of us. My relative had recently learned he was going to inherit a few hundred thousand dollars, and he was planning on leaving it to me.
“Some day you are going to be very rich,” he said.
The people around us looked at me uncomfortably. I did not know what to say. Rich is relative and this was a great deal of money to me at the time. I was young, 26, I believe, and in that moment a dynamic was forming that I could either act upon or not. I could choose to plan my future around this inheritance, which would probably occur in 30 years or more – or I could choose not to care. If I were to plan my future around this inheritance, I might have been happy knowing I would one day have security. However, I could not allow this prospect to affect the way I lived my life.
While I feel it is somewhat crass to bring this point up, I have seen numerous people shape their lives around their family wealth. Some people I knew in school did not apply themselves because they knew they would inherit money one day. This sort of thinking is insane to me.
Your achievements, life, and income should be the result of what you achieve – not others. You should want to create a life based on how you want it to be, instead of waiting for success to come to you. This is an extremely powerful concept I encourage you to really think about. Understanding this can fundamentally change your career and life.
Following World War II, the United States grew at a rapid pace. During this time, our economy grew and trade prospered, and a massive amount of wealth was created. The money that came into the financial system also fueled a larger government, more union representation, and a giant expansion of the middle class. Fair wages, healthcare, and a certain standard of living became the focus of government and unions.
People began to feel the government and large business organizations could take on all of the problems of the world. People began to look to the government, unions, and others as organizations owing them the lives they wanted. While the idea had been percolating for some time, the notion the government could fix all ills was a centerpiece of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society social reforms, which he announced during a commencement speech at the University of Michigan in 1964:
“We are going to assemble the best thought and broadest knowledge from all over the world to find these answers. I intend to establish working groups to prepare a series of conferences and meetings–on the cities, on natural beauty, on the quality of education, and on other emerging challenges. From these studies, we will begin to set our course toward the Great Society.”
Some goals of the Great Society social reforms included the elimination of poverty and racial injustice, the creation of major social programs, and spending geared towards deficits in transportation, urban issues, education, medical care, and more. People came to believe the government could fix anything.
Johnson’s Great Society represented nothing less than perfection. People were promised the government would fix whatever perceived wrongs existed in society. This sent the message to most people that someone else was responsible for what happened to them and their lives. The idea was that a society made up of bureaucrats could essentially take care of the people.
What happened, however, was these solutions never fully worked. People felt cheated and angry when certain promises were made by bureaucrats and others were not met. Companies and other large organizations that were unionized crumbled under the weight of their own entitlement programs. As layoffs and other problems began affecting the United States from the 1970s onward, people began to see themselves as victims of society. They became trapped in a cycle of dependence, resentment, and anger.
As we look around at the world today we see everyone blaming others for the issues they face. If people cannot afford their mortgages, they blame the banks and request government aid. If car makers cannot make a profit they request government help. There is a belief, which politicians and others have helped cultivate in this society, that people are not responsible for their own actions and someone else is to blame. No one is responsible for his or her own situation.
Putting the blame on others sets up a vicious cycle of dependence and disappointment. We begin to look for leaders who promise us various entitlements. We elect people based on their promise to redistribute wealth in society because we feel society owes us something. We base our lives on the hope someone else will take care of this. This sort of thinking is exactly what has led to socialism and, ultimately, communism in some countries. Everyone wants something from the government. If we continue to believe the system is unfair and the demands are great enough, communism promises a society in which everyone is rewarded equally by the government.
What you need to do is realize if your life is controlled by others you will be continually disappointed. You need to be in control of what happens to you, and to realize you are in control of your own life. No one else is responsible for you and no one owes you anything. There is nothing worse than living your life under the assumption someone owes you something. You should always consider you owe something to yourself.
If you go into job interviews believing you are owed something, you will probably won’t get hired. Employers want people who want to contribute. If you go into relationships believing you are owed something, you will fail. If you believe your current employer owes you something, this is also likely to create issues for you.
Accept total and complete responsibility for your career and life. You can do this. If you are from the United States you are part of a long line of people who have done this.
At some point in time, your ancestors came to the United States with great ambitions about what they could become and the people they could be. Chances are they came to this country with very little, if any, money and the simple hope they could become successful. Your ancestors knew this country could give them a tremendous amount of opportunity – the ability to work and achieve what they wanted without intervention from the government, class systems, or other societal restraints that keep people down in many other societies throughout the world.
Your ancestors came here because they knew they could do it on their own. They came here because they knew they controlled their own destinies. They came to a country where no one owed them anything. They came knowing they could make their own dreams come true.
Maybe you’ve gotten caught up in believing the government, your employer, or someone else owes you something. I would say you have been assimilated into this culture and country now. Sometime in the near or distant past, however, one of your family members came to this country believing they were owed nothing. They may have even come to escape the same system of frustrated expectations and entitlements you are now experiencing. You need to step back, take control, and realize that you, and only you, are in control of your destiny.
Filed Under : Life Lessons
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