The Life-Sucking Danger of an Entitlement Attitude

It was Friday, January 20, 1961, and President John F. Kennedy spoke some of the greatest words ever spoken by any President … or any human being … for that matter. He said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

If only we had listened, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in today. We would have a government that works, organizations that are more productive, and families that are healthier families. Instead we have enormous amounts of greed and dysfunction.

Unfortunately, Kennedy would probably roll over in his grave if he saw how an “attitude of entitlement” has swept over so many people. He would see scores of people who no longer ask what they can do for others; they simply demand others give them what they want.

This entitlement leads to destruction with a capital D. It destroys success, progress, teamwork, self-esteem, self-respect, initiative, motivation, and relationships. It serves no useful purpose.

So what can you do if you’re surrounded by people who feel “entitled?” After all, you’ve got to do something … because you’ll never have a good organization or a good family if the people in those groups feel “entitled.”

► 1. Recognize entitlement.

Look for it. Call it out. Don’t sugarcoat it. And don’t gloss it over with political correctness. You can’t turn an “attitude of entitlement” around if you don’t even notice it or call it by name.

An “attitude of entitlement” comes out in a variety of ways, including the following

  • The feeling that other people, the company, the government, or life itself owes ME. (For example, just about everyone thinks the huge deficit is insanely dangerous, but almost no one is talking about it. After all, they don’t want to see “their” pet project cut back.)
  • The idea that you have to give ME whatever I want, just because I exist. I don’t have to do anything to earn it or deserve it. (Think of all the executives who take exorbitant salaries they didn’t earn … while they downsize their companies.)
  • Behaviors that are all about getting or taking instead of giving or sacrificing. (Look at all the people on TV, out on the streets, protesting and demanding their rights … but they never talk about their responsibilitiesor what they’re going to do to make things better.)
  • The question of “What have you done for me lately?” (How many times have you read the news story of parents leaving their kids home alone … so they could go on a romantic get-away with a new boyfriend or girlfriend?)
  • The belief that because you hired ME you are responsible for my career path. (Whatever happened to the deeply held belief “If it is to be, it is up to me?”)
  • The myth that life should be easy and I should be taken care of, instead of having to work for it. (That’s the first thing that responsible parents teach their kids … to stand on their own two feet. But we have scores of parents who cave into every whim and wish of their kids, without the kids having to do anything to earn those niceties.)
  • The lie that whatever anyone else has I am entitled to also. I should have everything that “they” have or it isn’t fair. (It’s the second thing wise parents teach their kids … that life isn’t fair. So get over it.)
  • The lethal attitude that “If you have it and I want it, I can take it.” (Did you catch the news about kids killing kids to get their Nike shoes and school letter jackets?)

By contrast, the people who attend my Journey-to-the-Extraordinaryprogram are all about self-empowerment and making the most out of their lives, careers, and relationships.

Take Stuart Gray, for example. He attended my Journey program and went on to found, own, and direct his own highly successful company called Hospitality Rocks. He says, “I credit Dr. Z’s ‘Journey’ for setting me free from the strains of my previous employer and for starting my own company. And one of my friends, Clay Anderson, picked up the same self-empowerment attitudes and skills at the ‘Journey’. It gave him the discipline to buy his own plane and create a rental income from it.”

My next and last Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program will be held in Minneapolis on May 21-22, 2019. Register now … before March 15 … and save $500

► 2. Stop nourishing entitlement.

In other words, be very careful of doing anything for people they can and should be doing for themselves. It’s one of the secrets of every highly effective leader, manager, teacher, coach and parent. They refuse to treat people like children who need to be coddled or taken care of.

Vince Lombardi, the legendary football coach, preached that very philosophy. He said, “Football is like life; it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.” He didn’t say football was like a nursery where he would make life easy and comfortable for his players. He knew that would turn them into losers instead of winners.

Of course, most people don’t consciously nourish entitlement. Most people don’t try to turn other people into unmotivated individuals who don’t know the first thing about being a self-sufficient self-starter. But a lot of parents do exactly that when they say/do such things as the following.

√ “Here, let me do that for you.”

√ “I want you to have everything I never had.”

√ “I will lay out your clothes, so you look just right.”

√ “I will make sure that you never experience anything unpleasant.”

√ “I will drop you off and pick you up, so you won’t have to wait.”

√ “I will make sure that you are not bored.”

√ “If you have difficulty with others, I will intervene so you feel good.”

√ “I will confront that teacher who dares to correct you.”

√ “I will make sure you don’t struggle with anything.”

√ “I will make sure you don’t experience disappointment.”

√ “I am your servant. So I’ll continuously ask you, ‘What do you want to eat?”

These days … life coaches and career coaches have become very popular and very helpful. But no reputable coach would ever nourish or allow their clients the luxury of having an “attitude of entitlement.” No coach would ever say to his client, “There, there now. You don’t have to think. You don’t have to make any decisions. You don’t have to do anything. I’ll do it all for you.” It would be malpractice of the highest order.

So please, STOP YOURSELF when you’re tempted to do things for people that they can and should do for themselves. It destroys their present dignity as well as their future success.

As Franklin Roosevelt so wisely observed, “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort” … not in having someone else doing everything for you.

Or as the ancient scribe told us, teach a man to fish rather than give him a fish. When you teach someone to fish, you empower them. When you simply give them a fish, and keep on giving them more and more fish, you cripple them with an “attitude of entitlement” that could destroy their lives, careers, and relationships.

Stay tuned for next week’s Tuesday Tip when I’ll give more tips on what to do when you see an attitude of entitlement seep into the people around you.

Dr. Zimmerman’s Tuesday Tip, Issue 977 – The Life-Sucking Danger of an Entitlement Attitude