The #1 Problem With Entitlement Thinking


If I say I’m against “entitlement thinking,” many would cheer. However, if I say I’m against “entitlements,” some would call me mean-spirited.

Most talk around “entitlements” is political, highly charged, and nasty. The minute lawmakers try to reduce any specific “entitlement program,” they are accused of being nothing short of evil.

But, this board member of the Denver Rescue Mission is not evil at all. I just think we need to be aware of “unintended consequences” …

What Would Happen If

When I think about “hand outs” of any kind, this well-known English proverb comes to mind: “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

Watching the movie “Z for Zachariah” about the last three people on Earth following a nuclear holocaust, I was struck by what people can do when they have to do it. Without electricity and other modern conveniences, these poor souls had to …


Hunting for food, growing crops, and foraging for daily nourishment is hard work—but out of necessity, they found a way.

The question is, what might a person do differently if not handed free stuff?

The Problem With Free Stuff

When I spoke at a blue chip insurance company, I left several QBQ! books at the ballroom entrance on display. Later, they were all gone.

Was this crowd a crowd of thieves, bad people, and “takers”? No. Someone just thought the books were free.

See the Pepsi can in the photo? If you’ve read Chapter One of QBQ! you’ve been wondering, Why would The QBQ! Guy have that?

Karen and I attended the “Extreme Dog Show” at the famous National Western Stock Show in Denver on Monday. At the event, they handed out free hot dogs, chips, and Diet Pepsi.

As you QBQ! readers know, I prefer Diet Coke. Yet, I carried an unwanted/unneeded Diet Pepsi home for one reason: It was free.

That’s the problem with free stuff.

Have I Become Entitled?

Believers in the QBQ! message of personal accountability often complain about entitlement thinking pervading our society. I understand that frustration. I also believe, if we’re not careful, we all can become entitled …

“My boss should coach me more!”

“The company should pay for my schooling!”

“I should be a manager by now!”

“My spouse should be more loving!”

“My kids should listen to me!” (More on parenting here)

Should, should, should! Said differently, I deserve!

The Problem With Entitlement

When I fall into the I deserve! trap, I serve less, work less, and contribute less. Where’s the value in that?

The biggest consequence of entitlement thinking, though, is this:

I do not come close to reaching my potential.

And that’s a darn shame.

Two introspective questions to challenge me to become more than I am today:

Have I become entitled by letting in I deserve! thinking? Instead of judging others’ entitlement thinking, what can I do to eliminate it from my life?

Powerful questions worth asking today.

Meanwhile, we’re going back for the “Draft Horse and Mule Show” tomorrow (yes, you read that right), so I think I’ll take that Diet Pepsi back.

Comments welcome!


8 Responses

  1. Chuckling to myself, I thought you might be attending that show to see how differently draft horses and mules respond to various motivations!
    I have enjoyed your writings for years. They have helped me navigate a variety of work place dilemmas while improving my availability and usefulness to our public school district. Additionally, I believe my family and other personal relationships have benefited from my better understanding of what motivates me.

    Thank you,
    Tony Rowland
    President, Association of Classified Employees
    Poudre School District
    Ft Collins, CO

  2. John –

    In 2002 I heard a motivational speaker refer to this issue while talking about servant leadership. He reflected that we serve others best when we “give a hand up, rather than a hand out.”

  3. “Should, should, should! Said differently, ‘I deserve!'” — love this. A colleague said to me once, “don’t should on yourself” Taking personal accountability for me also means giving myself grace and room to learn. Thank you for this great read/share!

  4. Part of the problem is that the term ‘entitlement’ has been misused…especially by certain groups. So, if I put money into a savings account, I think everyone would agree that I’m entitled to that money (including the interest that was earned). If I have house insurance that I have paid for, I’m entitled to settlement money if I have a loss. So now certain parties have started to call things like Social Security and Medicare ‘entitlement programs’ with the idea that no one should feel ‘entitled’ to anything. But, we all have paid into these programs with the understanding that, when we need the money, it will be there for us. That’s at retirement for most people, but there are also things like survivor benefits, etc. So, my caution is that we understand what we’re really entitled to and what people just want to take thinking it’s free. Then there’s the idea of pensions…people agree to work for a lower wage/salary and the company puts money into a pension fund for the future. If the company then drops the pension, isn’t the employee ‘entitled’ to something? When I worked for a multinational company, we were always told to look at ‘our total compensation package’ which included health insurance and pensions. What people get angry over is then losing the pension (or a good portion of it) after years of working and being told the pension is part of the ‘total compensation package.’ As for things like education in the workplace, make certain you understand the contract (which may be spoken as opposed to written) between employer and employee. In some cases, people are really looking for the opportunity to get additional training…it may be out of reach because of distance or money required up front.

    My only caution is to understand what people are really entitled to and what people may, in some cases, simply want.

  5. I often refer to the “Diet Coke Story ” in my mind when faced with a decision to help , does not take very long to figure out what to do 🙂

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