Having standards vs. having entitlement

I was having a conversation with some friends, and the topic was good and bad personal relationships, but a theme that it reminded me of was the idea of having standards, versus having entitlement. Here’s how it applies to your career, and here’s mindsets to watch out for that can hold you back from getting the level of success that you really want.

There’s a key difference between standards and entitlement. Having standards is good. Having standards means that you won’t settle for anything less than quality when it comes to your relationships, your professional success, your physical fitness, your education, and other areas. Having a high bar gives you something to work towards.

Entitlement is something different. Whereas standards are goals that you want to work for, entitlement is a feeling that you automatically deserve or that you just naturally have a right to success in those areas.

If you’re easily offended, just stop reading now, because here’s a cold hard fact: you don’t have a right to ANY of that success. Here is what you have a right to: free speech, basic human dignity, and that’s about it. Anything beyond that, you have to work for.

Take relationships, since it’s an easy example. I’m a guy. Say I wanted to be in a relationship with my personal idea of a very attractive girl with a good personality, but all I did with my time was play Warcraft, eat fast food, ignore the gym, disregard my education, and not have a vibrant social life. Anyone can see that scenario would be laughable. What value would I be bringing to the table? Nothing. I’d just be a value leech, and nobody wants to be around that.

But what about your career though?

Everybody coming out of school these days seems to think that they will be a millionaire. If you work hard (and smart) toward it, it’s not out of reach. But, are you coming from a frame of having standards when it comes to your career, or having entitlement?

What are you doing with your time? Are you furthering your education by reading quality books, or are you spending your time reading silly lists and quizzes posted on your Facebook newsfeed? Are you actively expanding your professional network, both within your company and outside of it as well, or are you hoping that the right kind of peers will just magically fall into your lap? Are you doing things that build up your energy and drive, like exercise, meditation, and education, or are you letting your ambition dissipate by neglecting those areas?

I’m painting extremes here, but it’s to illustrate a point. The fact that you’re reading this article probably means you aren’t at the extreme end of the spectrum where you just clock in and clock out without any ambition or drive. Most people are somewhere in the gray zone in between, and there are little mini-entitlement behaviors that have a cumulative damaging effect:

  • “My job could be worse…it’s not terrible; I can deal with it for a little while longer before I look around.” And then a little while turns into months, years…
  • “I’m tired. I don’t feel like going out and meeting new people at that CFA Society/CAIA Association/whatever event tonight.” Then don’t expect to have a peer group who will go to bat for you when things get tough…
  • “I know I could do better than this job…but I like the people that I work with!” Then keep hanging out with them, but move on with your career.
  • “I had a long day. I can read these books that I’ve been putting off some time later.” You CAN, but WILL you? In the time you spend reading stupid Buzzfeed quizzes and list articles…you could be getting a legit education that will pay benefits down the road instead.
  • “If I really want to step up, that might mean moving away from friends/family to a place with better opportunities and I’m not sure about that.” Fortunately, there are two inventions now called the telephone and called the airplane. Besides, if they’re truly your friends, they will encourage you to do what is best for your career.

There’s more, but you get the idea. The underlying hidden message in all of those rationalizations is entitlement. It’s the idea that even though you are not following the right course, somehow just by magic, success will suddenly come your way. That’s not how it works.

Finally, I leave you with a quote from Wayne Dyer: “You don’t attract what you want. You attract what you are.”

Everyone wants their dream girl/guy. Everyone wants to be paid well and to get rich. Everyone wants a nice lifestyle. All those things are forms of value that someone else is giving to you. What value are you willing to give back to earn this?

Keep hustling,