Whining about a world that gets more perfect all the time

There is no single generation or that has a monopoly on entitlement.

Exaggerated feelings of deservingness and superiority are fair game for anyone. It’s human nature. We all get greedy from time to time.

Grubs conducted the premier study on the topic. He defines entitlement as an unrealistic, unmerited or inappropriate expectation of favorable living conditions and favorable treatment at the hands of others. His research demonstrated that if a person finds themselves in this perpetual loop of distress and repeatedly feeling frustrated, unhappy and disappointed with life, it’s possible they have an entitlement complex.

Believe me, I’m just as guilty as anyone. The amount of times I have prioritized trivial comforts and pleasures for myself over basic needs of others is downright embarrassing.

But the lesson that life keeps trying to teach me is, there are distinctions. Nuances in our attitude and behavior that can help us understand how entitlement negative impacts our relationships with others and, ultimately, our own happiness.

Here’s list of several of those distinctions. Accepting you’re probably no saint yourself, think about which of these examples apply to you.

We are entitled to all of our feelings, but the world does not automatically owe us any reward for having them.

We have a right to whatever emotional experience our mind and body decides to produce, but we are not more deserving of care than anyone else.

We should take steps to make our dreams a reality, but we shouldn’t believe that anyone owes us anything intrinsically.

We should believe in the power of an abundant universe, but we should remember that the world is under obligation to give us what we want.

We are entitled to have our boundaries respected, but we don’t have the right to step across the line of others.

We invest our energy in desiring and planning and trying, but without making the psychological mistake of having expectations. 

The study also found that the two traits which help protect against the distress associated with entitlement are humility and gratitude.

And so, anytime we catch ourselves bemoaning what everyone else gets away with, demanding that the world reciprocate, we take pause.

We give thanks for what we have and where we’ve come. We accept whatever startling limitations we’re up against in our lives.

And rather than complain about what isn’t here that we want, we take steps to create something that is.

That’s not being entitled, that’s being empowered.

Do you use the word deserve as a way of justifying the unfair?

That’s the reverberant joy of human relationships

Hermes coined the principle of correspondence.

As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul.

This axiom has broad implications in many fields of study, from thermodynamics to alchemy to philosophy.

But perhaps the most useful application on a daily basis is with our emotional lives. As above, so below, as within, so without, this is a striking visual for the correspondence of our feelings.

Because it is impossible for anyone to feel anything for another person that they don’t already feel within themselves.

Take forgiveness, for example. Without our willingness and ability to accept ourselves as we are, it’s highly unlikely we will extend that same gift to others. Without identifying a stable place of acceptance within, our relationships with those around us will always contain tension, resentment, even rage.

Whereas the people who are willing to offer grace to their own imperfections have almost no problem delivering the same unmerited favor to others. That’s the reverberant joy of human relationships. We can’t hold a candle to our own growth path without brightening someone else’s.

It’s always a two for one deal.

How are your inner feeling corresponding to outward realities? Have you noticed that acting with greater forgiveness, acceptance, generosity and love toward yourself only deepens those feelings towards others?

Think of it as being more emotionally efficient. Paying yourself first, trusting that there will be a feelings surplus that expands outward to impact others.

It’s one of the reason people’s generosity warms my heart so much. Even when it’s not directed at me. Because when you see someone earnestly giving to another with great abandon and no expectations, that’s a surefire sign that they’ve already done the work within. It means they hold a sense of abundance and propensity and have already given so many gifts to themselves.

As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul.

Remember, the quality of life depends on the quality of intimacy with self.

When we begin by reaching deeply within to generate the force of love, it can’t help but ripple out and nurture others at the same time.

How do your inner feelings correspond to your relationships?

You don’t actually need to know anything

Rogen’s finest voice acting work was for a monster that is a brainless, living mass of blue goo.

Bob is an indestructible gelatinous blob whose greatest strength lies in his ability to devour and digest any substance. In my favorite scene, the doctor gives people the following warning:

Forgive him, but as you can see, he has no brain.

To which the young mass of goo replies:

Turns out, you don’t need one, totally overrated!

Bob may sound dimwitted, but at the end of the movie, the monster somehow comes up with a surprisingly successful plan to infiltrate the overlord’s clones and save planet earth.

This children’s parable is about the fallacy of knowledge. How we rarely need to know as much as we think we do.

Not that we should avoid doing our due diligence, but we gain next to nothing by trying to master every single detail. That only adds more stress.

And so, if answers are obsolete, then here is the question worth asking.

What is your minimum viable knowledge? In other words, what amount of information do you need to know about this subject to operate effectively?

Here’s a hint, it’s probably less than you think. Particularly if you trust yourself and have been around long enough to develop a strong sense of judgment and perspective. As my mentor used to say, don’t be stopped by not knowing how.

Hell, you could even shorten the mantra to simply say, don’t be stopped by not knowing, period.

Edison’s biography tells an inspiring story about how the world’s greatest inventor had a deep interest in the craft of printing. After several years of working as a newsie, he finally purchased a small secondhand press. And at the age of fifteen, he began publishing and distributing his first gazette. Out of the back of a train car, no less.

But here’s best part of his origin story. Every other line of his newspaper copy contained spelling errors, style gaffes and punctuation mistakes. Edison clearly didn’t have the gift of grammar, but he did have the spirit of enterprise, and that’s why customers both applauded and purchased his products. He possessed the minimum viable knowledge.

Who needs to know everything when you can make anything?

Back in my own entrepreneur days, I didn’t know the first thing about publishing books, delivering speeches or producing training videos. But that lack of knowledge wasn’t going to stop me. In a world that seemed to allow for such audacity, starting was more important than knowing.

Because you can always germinate another fact, but you can’t generate another minute.

Don’t let knowledge weigh you down and kill your speed.

Learn as little as possible and as much as necessary, and then go devour the world. 

What amount of information do you need to know about this subject to operate effectively?

Remove the residue of rejection that’s alive inside of you

When somebody cancels plans last minute, it often says more about the person being cancelled on, than the canceler themselves.

It becomes an interpersonal inkblot test, providing insight into much deeper issues around attachment, worthiness and forgiveness.

Imagine one of your good friends sends you a message ten minutes before your party is about to begin. Turns out, she’s exhausted from the week and won’t be able to make it tonight, but she sends her love and hopes you have a great time and plans to see you at the next one.

How do you respond to this rejection?

Do you write a resentful, passive aggressive note to her about how she inconvenienced you by declining the invitation, or do you accept that something outside of your control might be going on in her life?

Do you reject her rejection and start lecturing her about how it’s not polite to flake out, or do you accept her boundaries and remember that everyone is disappointing from time to time, including yourself?

Do you question your relationship with her, or do you trust she still loves you even if she bails out every once in a while?

Do you feel rejected, abandoned and insulted, or do you know in your heart that you’re lovable and this interaction is not a reflection of your value?

Do you worry that the cancellation plague is ruining all of your friendships, or do you have faith in social prosperity and abundance that flows to you freely?

Yet another sign that letting go might be in order. Because is it really worth it to undermine your own peace of mind by obsessing over something small like this?

Forgiveness is a smarter use of your energy. Not because it erases the act of rejection, but because it relieves the residue of rejection that’s alive inside of you.

It breaks my heart, but some people simply don’t believe that they deserve to be kind to themselves and others. Myself included.

All the more reason to forgive ours and other people’s imperfections, remembering that that at any given point, we’re all doing our best with the level of awareness we’ve been given.

If you learned to make your acceptance of human nature as radical as possible, how would your relationships be different?

Tornadoes are scary, but it’s the debris signature that’ll kill you

Organized chaos can empower employees, foster critical thinking, fuel engagement, stimulate adaptability and help teams achieve their goals.

But we should be careful not to elevate our corporate buzzwords into company initiatives.

Because a there’s a fine line between quirky, lovable dysfunction, and a hot mess tornado of chaos that’s leaving a trail of destruction in its path.

My startup once had an applicant who explicitly stated during his job interview that he thrived on chaos. Which seemed like positive personality trait on the surface, as most startups tend toward chaos.

But we quickly learned that it was more than just a cliché, it was a character defect. Jake was the kind of person who constantly felt like the bottom was about fall out. Hanging on by a thread, he was always running from one emergency to another, manufacturing crises like factory widgets.

Which, to his credit, fueled him to finish key tasks. But after a few months, the collateral damage began to outweigh the uptick in productivity. Jake’s energy started to spread around the office like a virus. The hot molten center of his frenetic universe expanded outward and infected the rest of the team, and the emotional contagion was undeniable.

Just being around him was stressing people out.

Turns out, there’s a science behind this exchange. Framingham’s famous cardiovascular study, not to mention dozens of other accredited pieces of research, demonstrated that as humans, we’re innately vulnerable to catching other people’s emotions. Our feelings are more than merely a function of personal experience, but also is a property of groups. Emotions, therefore, are a collective phenomenon.

Which brings us back to my tornado of a coworker. We reached the point where the downside of his contagion trumped the upside of his execution, and we unfortunately had to ask him to leave. Jake was upset, but not overly surprised, as this wasn’t the first time in his career that thriving on chaos worked against him.

Our parting was bittersweet, since he did bring many positive qualities to the role.

But it just goes to show you, organized chaos isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Each of us still has to take responsibility for the energy we bring to the workplace.

There’s definitely something to be said about the positive tension of disharmony.

But just ask anyone who grew up in the middle of the country.

It’s not the tornado you gotta worry about, it’s the debris signature that’ll kill you.

Does your company actually thrive on chaos, or is it just chaotic?

Feeling grateful to whatever power has led me here

Gratitude is much more meaningful than a mere emotion, it’s a higher force.

When we give thanks for anything, big, small or in between, our appreciation sends out a cosmic alert into the universe that we are someone who is grateful for what is being so freely given to us.

And we do this, not because there is an audience watching, and not because we secretly hope our reverse psychology trick the universe into giving us more of what we want, but because the reward for giving thanks is being the carrier of gratitude. Period.

Because giving thanks helps us, not the people to whom we are grateful.

Which is good, considering nobody will congratulate us on doing this kind of thing anyway.

But it’s still worth doing.

For example, think about every job you’ve ever held. Odds are, most people in your office could have split into two groups. The people who chose to be critical of every goddamn thing the company put in place, and the people who chose to be thankful about being there at all.

Which camp of team members did you belong to? Which camp do you think your organization valued most?

Most likely, the people who trained themselves to make gratitude their default response to difficult moments.

And for some individuals, this is not easy. Particularly the ones who hold onto resentments and grudges like a dog with a bone. This personality type never made sense to me. But it’s quite common. Someone will feel bitter about their needs going unmet, even though they never explicitly expressed them, and stubbornly carry that bone to their grave.

It breaks my heart. Their complete unwillingness to let go of old hurts blocks their ability to appreciate new joys.

Hemingway summarized it perfectly but tragically when speaking of another writer. He said that he sincerely hoped the man burned forever in some hell of his own digging.

Well now, that sounds very dramatic and memorable, but it probably didn’t leave a great taste in his mouth.

Perhaps giving thanks would be a better use of our energy than throwing shade. 

Do you rile up about the world’s imperfection, or do you rest in gratitude for what is still working well in your life?

Ejected into a swirl of misdirection

The advantage of being a relentlessly optimistic person with and boundless energy is, your frequent errors in judgment are generally overlooked.

People will be so impressed by your enthusiasm, confidence and speed, that they won’t notice how bad your ideas are until they’re stuck cleaning up your mess.

This strategy has paid off for a number of my jobs over the years, from launching my own publishing company to working as an employee for agencies and startups.

Turns out, you can volunteer a disproportionate amount of your valuable time spearheading projects for which you’re completed unqualified, and as long as you execute quickly and confidently, nobody really says anything. They’re too busy enjoying the show.

Reminds me of a hilarious satire article about marketing executive at a tea company:

Matthew’s coworkers reported that while many of his ideas are never used, some occasionally will pass as original, due to the strength and force of his hopelessly misapplied personal energy. The guy is always briskly walking through the office, on his way to an important meeting. And despite the failure of many of his campaigns, most employees at the company still perceive him as an ambitious go getter.

Gaiman, the award winning bestselling author, preached this very strategy is his popular commencement address:

People keep working because their work is good, they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. But you don’t even need all three. You don’t have to be as good as the others if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.

My first exposure to the power of this strategy came in my early twenties, when my quirky idea to wear a nametag everyday starting becoming a profitable business. Despite having no job experience, no resume, no credentials, and no legitimate expertise whatsoever, big companies paid me big money to travel around the world and share my story with millions of people.

I had no clue what I was doing, but nobody noticed. They were too busy looking at the nametag.

That’s magic. It’s the art of choreographing attention. It’s not about deceiving people, it’s about misdirecting them.

If you master that, you can get away with anything.

Not forever, of course. Eventually people will grow wise to your shenanigans, but by that time, you’ll be ready to move onto the next thing anyway. 

What if working with you was fast and friendly enough that quality became irrelevant?

Joy dries up to the extent that we monitor the equity in the transaction

We can feel proud of every step we take forward, but we can also feel proud of every step the people that we love take forward.

Buddhists call this mudita, aka compersion, or vicarious joy. Pleasure from delighting in other people’s wellbeing.

Think of it as the opposite of compassion, which means to suffer with. Compersion means to celebrate with. Witnessing other people’s positive experiences and finding satisfaction in them.

However, if you have pockets of scarcity and resentment in your heart, this expression of love will be difficult for you. Watching someone you love step into the uniqueness of their journey might trigger comparative and competitive thinking. Their ship might come in and knock the wind out of your sails, which might make you want to either punch them in the face, kick yourself in the ass, or both.

That’s normal. Most of us have been conditioned to view other people’s wins as our losses. To believe that when someone else drinks from the stream of life’s abundance, we should weep at the loss of water.

But that’s an immature understanding of prosperity. Turns out, joy is a deep, inexhaustible wellspring. It’s a renewable resource that only dries up to the extent that we monitor the equity in the transaction.

Any time we’re willing to express joy at someone else’s success, that energy reflects back to us. It’s a reminder that our security in world can’t come from other people living up to our expectations, but our joy can come from them living up to theirs.

This brings me to one of my top daily rituals. Making entries in my victory log.

This is a small calendar that I populate with any and all victories, large or small. And what’s fascinating about this practice is, lately it has evolved to include greater compersion.

Because one out of every ten entries on the log is someone else’s accomplishment, of which my help was a small part. Perhaps a close friend launches their new website that they asked me to give feedback on, a coworker finishes a client project that I was able to add value to, or my wife aces an interview that we stayed up late preparing for.

Their victories are my victories. Their joys are my joys. It’s not about whether they thank me for their help, all that matters is that we share a moment of joy together, as the knots grow tighter on the ropes that bind us.

If someone you love is taking positive steps to move their story forward, please remember this.

The reward for cheering isn’t so that other people will return the favor when you win too. The reward is being the carrier of joy. The reward is growing your capacity to experience and share delight.

That’s the gift.

Instead of paying greater attention to the people who don’t clap when you win, go invest your energy putting our hands together when somebody you love crosses the finish line.

Whose name needs to go on your victory log?

Using the stuff of daily life as a part of meditation

If we continue to let ourselves be victimized by an experience, then we’re at fault.

Only by telling ourselves that we’re choosing to relax empowers instead of victimizes, cushions our stress and cultivates a peaceful spirit.

But what if meditation wasn’t a thing, but a place inside of us? What if we could use anything as a vehicle for our relaxation?

Perhaps our society could finally release itself from the collective grip of anxiety.

There’s a fascinating study from a psychology journal that maps air travel stress. The analysis indicates three components in people’s overall experience of anxiety while in airports or flying.

Anxious reactions to adverse air travel events, angry reactions to other passengers, and the lack of trust that the airlines or airports will ensure one’s comfort and safety.

Read several of the survey questions below, and think about how your answer might have evolved over the past few years.

Does your body feel tense if your flight is delayed?
Do you feel shaky if the airport is crowded?
Do you worry other passengers may do something harmful on the plane?
Do you feel panicky when you are running late for a flight?
Do you fear your baggage will be lost, stolen or damaged?
Do you get angry when other passengers take up part of your personal space on the plane?
Do you feel like screaming at people who bring lots of carry on baggage?
Do you feel resentful if you have to sit near loud or talkative passengers?
Does it bother you if other passengers try to board the plane before their row was called?

An older version of myself would have responded yes to every one of these questions. Particularly during my workaholic years when traveling was equated with making money.

But reading this survey today, not a single one of the scenarios causes me anxiety. In fact, none of those issues even cross my mind during the travel experience.

They’re neither here nor there. Because for me, traveling is just another meditative facilitator. It’s opportunity to do all of my favorite activities, like reading, writing, listening to music, exploring new terrain, taking pictures and connecting with people.

These things create the opposite of anxiety in my body. Traveling is a vehicle, no pun intended, for calm, centered contentment. It’s a series of moves guaranteed to provide me with the experience of fulfillment.

Each experience reminds me that the opportunity for meditation is always present.

We just need the eyes to see it.

How might you reframe an otherwise stressful experience?

Accept the idea of thought as a behavior

We all get faced with threatening situations, and we all need to be aware of the dangers they represent.

But not every feeling is a call to action. If our anxiety suddenly starts welling up inside of us, that doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong.

We may be imagining a threat that isn’t there. In fact, our inappropriate anxiety might even be making things worse.

To avoid getting caught in this doom loop, take my therapist friend’s advice:

Accept the idea of thought as a behavior.

This may sound contrary to what you’ve been taught. Since when did thinking count as acting?

But my friend tells me that this framing can an important step in coping with our worries is taking control of our mindset.

Say you recently dropped the ball on a client project at work. You canceled the weekly conference call last minute, but then you forgot to reschedule it, and now the client is upset because they don’t have their usual report to show to their boss.

Anxious people in this situation may start beating themselves up, catastrophically misinterpreting this mistake as the reason the client will churn and the impetus for their termination.

Sounds like me in my twenties.

Calm people, on the other hand, would weigh all the information logically. Try a few threat assessment questions that have been helpful to me.

Is this actually threatening or dangerous to my career? What’s the worst that could happen? And how likely is it that the worst will happen?

Through this evaluation, you can reduce your experience of anxiety. By stepping back to calmly and comprehensively evaluate your stressful situation, you can usually prove to yourself that this feeling is not the call to action you thought it was.

Think about it. That cancelled client meeting is in the past. Which means it’s not a problem that can be solved, it’s a fact that can’t be altered. Which means it’s not appropriate to worry, which means you can move on.

Doesn’t that sound better than freezing yourself into inaction?

Next time your threat level turns red, try to analyze your fear.

It’s probably not rational. But you can be.

What questions could you ask yourself to give your rational mind a chance to vote?

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