“Me? Entitled? Definitely!” A Message from Millennial Me

At QBQ, Inc. we are blessed to speak on personal accountability at a time when our world truly needs it. Teaching QBQ! is fun—and relevant. Relevant to the people I work with, and most importantly—relevant to me!

Because guess what? Want to know a secret?

I am entitled.

Or, said correctly, I find myself feeling entitled. Often. Regularly. And it makes me sick.

I am writing this as a “millennial.” I shudder to even use the term, as our generation has been dragged through the mud a bit. As the oldest of the millennials (“millennials” were born 1980-2000; I was born in 1983), I have struggled to identify with much of my generation. However, no matter how I feel about it, I am a millennial.

In the past three days alone, I’ve read two articles about millennials—my narcissistic, entitled, lazy, self-absorbed generation. I’ve read about our lack of professionalism, our inability to hold a decent conversation without checking our smart phones, and our inadequate understanding of or respect for the establishment. And, of course, our sorely entitled attitudes.

As I read these articles, I found myself scoffing. “Oh, those millennials. Aren’t they so cute—self-absorbed, unwilling to work hard and put the time in …” Oh wait … that’s me!

Take a look in the mirror, Kristin, because you know what you’ll see?

A millennial staring right back at you.

Millennial Me
I’m a millennial, whether I like it or not!

You gotta love those reality checks where you realize the criticism you’ve been flinging toward others should have been directed at yourself.

But come on now, I teach on personal accountability! I run sessions based on ownership and give examples of good questions (QBQs) like, “How can I make a difference?” “What can I do to develop myself?” “How can I serve?”

And yet, I struggle with entitlement? Yes, yes I sure do.

I hear it in myself when I crave recognition, and I don’t get it. “Why don’t people recognize my efforts?”

I hear it when I want to achieve, but struggle to work hard. “Why doesn’t success come more easily?”

I recognize the entitlement in me when I want my voice to be heard, my opinion to be sought, and my help to be coveted, yet I don’t step out, lead, or take risks. “Why doesn’t anyone see the value I have to add?”

It’s sneaky and often hard to spot, but all of those thoughts lead to a place of entitlement. A place of “I deserve.” I deserve recognition; I deserve fame; I deserve respect.

The truth is I don’t deserve any of these things. I must earn them. Just like I earn a raise or a promotion. When I take a hard look at myself, I realize, “Yep! I really am a millennial: a fairly good-hearted person, easily absorbed by entitlement thinking.”

So what now? What do we do with this generation of young adults who were told from day one “You’re special!” “You can be whatever you want to be!” “Here’s a trophy just for participating” (even though you sat on the bench and the team didn’t win the championship.)

We equip them—with a practical tool. Will every single one of us embrace it? Unfortunately no. But will many of us? Yes, I believe we will.

QBQ is that tool.

For those of us millennials already in our late 20s and early 30s we need the QBQ! book. And if we are parents already, with potentially little entitled offspring of our own, we need Parenting the QBQ Way. We gotta make sure we don’t pass the mentality on to the next generation, or this world might be in a heap of trouble!

For the younger millennials, the ones like three of my sisters who are still in high school, we have I Own It! This curriculum was written by a millennial (me) for millennials.

There’s no better way to combat an entitlement mentality than with truths like ownership and accountability!

To my fellow millennials reading this post we, let’s be honest—we are everything they say we are. But that’s no excuse. Just because we are “narcissistic,” “fame-obsessed,” “convinced of [our] own greatness,” and “feel entitled to a promotion every year, regardless of performance” doesn’t mean we can just keep on living that way. Every great generation is defined not by how perfect they are on paper, but by how they rise above their shortfalls.

Millennials, our shortfall is entitlement thinking.

Let’s fight it!

For discussion:

What is your opinion of the millennial generation? What do we do well? What are the dangers of entitlement thinking? Share below!

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 *quotes from Joel Stein's article in Time Magazine
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24 Responses

  1. Great blog. . . introspective, honest, challenging to others. As I read it, however, I find myself asking, “What is the difference between a Gen Xer (which is what I am – just barely – born in 1965) and a millennial.” I see a lot of similarities in regard to the entitlement mentality, i.e., I deserve (recognition, fame, respect). I also very guiltily acknowledge that I have fostered that mentality in my children to some degree. Am thankful for a slightly older husband (more of the baby boom mentality), who has helped counter that.

    1. Lana, thanks! I agree–entitlement thinking can be a problem for anyone, no matter what generation. The differences between Gen Xers and Millennials are quite fascinating. I myself life with a Gen Xers and sometimes I can see the differences, even though we are both right on the breaking point between the two generations. No matter what, whether I’m a millennial or not, the best thing I can do is recognize the entitlement thinking in myself and work to get rid of it!

  2. Could not agree with you more. I too, find myself trapped in entitlement thinking. It’s a constant game of acknowledging those moments that you’ve outlined, that define our generation, and reminding myself that perhaps they are not producing the most conducive environment for my success and/or happiness. Often times, I find the answer lies in focusing on the act of “doing”, not the scheming and dreaming that accompanies entitlement thinking. If I simply “do”, often times everything else falls in to place. If I spend my time in my head, wondering “why?”, “who?”, etc… I never accomplish anything other than adding to my sense of dissatisfaction. It’s a reminder that life is about what I have to give, not what I can take.

    1. I love the emphasis on DOING! I get frustrated when the only thing we do is dream and brainstorm–let’s get some stuff done!! Thanks Matt–I appreciate your comment!

  3. Kristin, the spam protection for my post is “2 + 3 ?” If I said “6” could I still post? Wouldn’t shutting me out damage my self esteem? And therein, I believe, lies a lot of the problem. I am a boomer. My generation must accept a lot of the blame for the things you are talking about. I believe that we created a generation of self absorbed monsters (sorry kids) because we bought into the message about self esteem being the most important aspect of our kids’ development. Educators and gurus like Dr. Spock (not the Star Trek guy – Dr. Benjamon Spock) told our parents they/we could relax the rules on tight feeding schedules and nap times and such. And we did. He told us that we knew more than we believed we did as parents. And we bought it with such a sense of freedom that we just knew we needed a book to raise our kids with the massive, overwhelming self esteem that put all of them in first place. No losers. 2+3 = 6? Good try Johnny. No scorekeeping. We created huge success stories for trophy shops because everyone got one for everything.
    All that being said, I believe there is hope for you all yet. Recognizing any problem is the first of the 12 steps to recovery. Your post identifies and recognizes the problem. So congrats on that. I’m going to read your book, not because Dr. Spock tells me I need it, but because i want to. I cannot be an effective manager of your generation if I don’t understand how you think. I’m hoping you provide me with insights on motivations, appropriate and fair recognition, and tips on how to bore through the ingrained protective layers of some millenials’ sense of self worth. I’m all for self esteem. I just believe that is is “self” esteem, and cannot be conferred upon one like a royal title. Want self esteem? Go accomplish something. It will happen all by itself. I just want to know how to foster that accomplishment so I can responsibly and appropriately provide coaching to those who are willing to listen. There’s a QBQ in there somewhere! Thanks for a great post!

    1. Michael, thanks for the comment! You caused me to chuckle many times. We are a great generation with strengths … we just need to get a handle on this entitlement mindset! Thanks for seeing hope for us. 🙂 I haven’t written a book yet, but maybe I will! In the meantime, check out QBQ! and Outstanding! if you haven’t yet for great management/coaching material!

    2. Michael nailed it! I am Gen X (1966) but my parents weren’t boomers – since they predated the 1946 start (dad was 1923 and mom was 1934). As a result, I didn’t grow up in a house where you got a blue ribbon just for showing up and you were accountable for your own success or failure. My parents rarely inserted themselves in my life – they just gave me opportunities and advice and it was my life to live – they had their own lives. That is probably why I have been attracted to this blog.

      For those millenials that were spoiled by their parents and the educational system of the day, you can sit around feeling sorry for yourself or you can get up and start fighting back. Self esteem is built one small victory at a time – take on today’s challenge and do your best – you might succeed or you might fail – but regardless you are working towards more success in the future – by learning from your failures and that is where the self esteem is built.

  4. Great post! I’m doing a training on Thursday on motivating millennials and this post will be so helpful. I love how Millennials are so mission driven.

    1. You’re right, Jim–we are very mission driven. The problem is, we get bored quickly, and aren’t quite sure how to work hard AND long toward a goal! Instant gratification in our technology and ease of life have created this expectation of things coming easily. Best wishes with your training–mention QBQ!

  5. A conversation between a boomer (teacher) and a millennial (student):

    Student: Mr. Hill how could you fail me?
    Teacher: I didn’t fail you, I simply assigned the grade you earned?
    Student: That can’t be, I came to class every day?
    Teacher: What?
    Student: Yeah, I can’t fail because I was here all the time.
    Teacher: Yes, I agree you were here. You chatted with your boyfriend on text and updated Facebook nearly every day in my class. In fact, I took your phone away twice, if you remember.
    Student: What does that have to do with my grade?
    Teacher: You weren’t paying attention and didn’t learn any Algebra.
    Student: I turned in all my papers! (very puzzled look on her sweet face – tears beginning to well up)
    Teacher: Grades aren’t for showing up or turning in incorrect papers. Grades are assigned to show how much you have learned and know about the subject.
    Student: That’s not fair. Nobody ever told me that.

    In my experience, Millenials must be specifically told that rewards (grades, pay, honors) are connected to achievement not participation – this isn’t something they intuit, as I do. I don’t have the above conversation much because I have learned to be very clear about expectations, grades, and the purpose of my classes. The kids eventually get it. They just haven’t been taught. I also teach QBQ! To my students. The brother of entitlement thinking is victim thinking. “Why didn’t he give me a good grade?” becomes “What can I do to raise my grades before report cards come out?” I especially like hearing my class say, “Uh, uh, Mr. Hill. Not ‘why’ but ‘how’ or ‘what’!”

  6. Feelings of entitlement are not something new. During court ordered integration in the deep south a young man stuck a pistol in my ribs and told me he was going to shoot me because I ruined his life. He needed either chemistry or algebra to graduate and wanted me to take his algebra grade and add it to his chemistry grade so he could have a 71 and thus be able to graduate. That was my last day as a school teacher. I was newly back from my Grand Tour of South East Asia and the school thought that I had over reacted. Since then I have become a grandparent / mentor to many young ladies and I find that by focusing on what they are saying and taking them seriously that they are very willing to listen, discuss, and learn. They have much more potential than the baby boomers and the generation Xers.

    1. Herb, you’re right–entitlement is NOT a new thing! That’s why we can all benefit from recognizes it in our own lives–no matter what generation we are a part of! Thanks for your thoughts!

  7. Herb, I am asking as gently as possible … What does “court ordered integration in the deep south” have to do with the scenario you have described?

  8. Kristin, we met last year when you came to do a QBQ presentation for my company. Since then I’ve read a couple of the books and registered for the QBQ e-mails. I’m a late Gen-Xer (1978) and find myself falling into the entitlement trap from time to time. I’ve been asking myself a lot of IQs lately and this post couldn’t have come at a better time to help me recognize what I’ve been doing. I find you, your father, and the QBQ program to be inspiring and your tips always seem to arrive just when I need them. So, I just want to say thanks and keep up the good work!

  9. I have to disagree…somewhat.

    To quote a line from “Desiderata”…

    “You are a child of the universe no less than the trees or the stars; you have a right to be here.”

    So I would like to ensure we include a qualification to this blog’s theme: Entitlement is absolutely appropriate if you have EARNED it.

    I’f you’ve worked hard, taken personal accountability for your life–your words, deeds and actions–and you do not get the recognition, then by golly go treat yourself to something nice. You earned it. You ARE entitled to it.

  10. Kristin, I have followed your dad’s work for years, but must admit I think this is the first piece of yours I have read. Great job! It’s clear your folks did a great job raising you because intelligent, thoughtful, and aware people don’t happen by accident. I could be wrong, but I imagine while you were growing up your parents didn’t blame TV violence, teachers, or rock music if you or your siblings got off track, but rather asked themselves some parenting QBQs on what they could have done differently. Unfortunately, I have seen many parents try to buy love from their children, by showering them with every physical possession dreamed up. They fall short by not giving them the means to acquire these things on their own, and instill a “give me more” attitude that festers into feelings entitlement. Again, great job, and I will be sure to introduce my daughters your work to.

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