You Deserve Nothing- But you can Build Anything!
Updated: Feb 22, 2019
People on my facebook feed constantly post about how you “deserve love” or a high wage job that aligns with your passions, or access to resources. Nope. To say that someone deserves anything implies that there is some sort of cosmic justice balancing the scales, when all evidence points that the universe is a random place with no stabilizing force at all.
When we are denied things we feel we “deserve”, we feel bitter because our sense of entitlement has been violated. We see this with many mass shooters in America who feel like they deserve a romantic partner and are angry when they can’t find one and feel rejected. Instead of feeling like they deserve a relationship, they should have been out there going through the hard process of meeting so many people that they find one who will love them as they are, or going through the harder process of making themselves into somebody more people will find attractive and lovable. That is doable, but it’s hard work to get in physical and emotional shape, develop talents and expertise, get your financial house in order, and risk rejection by putting yourself out there. It’s a lot easier just to be angry that the universe hasn’t put the perfect person in your life.
The idea that you “deserve” a reward after a hard day can often blossom into out of control spending. We can see that in the idea of “treat yo’ self” popularized by one of my favorite shows, “Parks and Rec”. The “treat yo’ self” attitude depletes our resources and wealth just to have a few gee-gaws, spa treatments, and overpriced pieces of clothing. This is especially true if you have any debt in your life, like most people do these days.
You also don’t “deserve” a high paying job, or a job that allows you to pursue your passions. It’s sure comforting to think that forces in the Universe will combine to find you just the right job that fits you like a luxurious glove, but I’m sorry to say that those forces don’t care about your bank account and happiness levels. It would be great if there were something in the social contract that made sure we all got fulfilling careers, but nobody owes you that.
And thank goodness nobody owes us anything! Feeling like we will one day be presented with what we want; be it a relationship, a job, or a shiny car, just because we are “good” people is a debilitating delusion that keeps us passive for far too long, and then bitter when the world doesn’t work out the way we want. Why would we ever work or strive to accomplish those things if we were convinced that we would get them without any effort?
The reality is that you have to go out and take what you earn. If you want that other career, you need to put in the work to build the skills and get the certifications it requires, then go make the contacts and sacrifices it needs. And you need a bit of luck (sometimes, a lot of luck). If you want a higher salary, you need to go build more income streams through side hustles or climb the corporate ladder, even if it means less free time, more responsibility, and playing the reviled game of office politics. If you want your creative dream job, you need to realize that there are millions of other people who want that same job, and those people are also talented, hard working, and self-sacrificing. Are you willing to be more extreme than them? Are you willing to accept that you aren’t the best, and won’t become so by just feeling like you deserve to be the best? How will you cope when you see people you view as less talented get their lucky break and achieve YOUR dream? Because that will happen, and you need to be prepared for it. Remember, you deserve nothing.
But you can build anything,if you’re willing to put in the concerted effort and make the sacrifices it takes to be the best and reach your goals. It’s not easy. And that’s the way it should be, because you won’t know the deep satisfaction and joy of a life accomplished without getting what you want the hard way. That’s the only way to properly appreciate how valuable whatever you strive for is. If it’s just given to you, there’s no way you can understand how much sacrifice it took to get it. This is why 70% of all lottery winners end up bankrupt, according to the National Endowment for Financial Education. Easy come, easy go.
So, instead of passively sitting around and feeling like you deserve anything in this life, here are a few steps that have helped me in the past to achieve my goals.
1. Know what you want and what makes you happy in life (beyond possessions).
2. Research how you can get it. Google is awesome. So are people who have accomplished what you want and can help you (they’re called mentors, and you can google how to find them too!)
3. Learn obsessively, like 2-3 hours a day for a year or more, because you want to, because you can’t go through life without this knowledge.
4. Start creating something related to what you want. Start a blog, create a youtube channel, make a sculpture or business plan: something that is related to your goal.
5. Put that stuff out into the world and act on the knowledge. The internet gives us incredible reach, no matter what field we want to get into or learn about. It’s ok if you think your stuff is terrible. At the beginning, it probably is. It’s ok, and it’s great if people tell you so in a constructive manner so you can improve. This is where mentors are awesome!
6. Keep at it. Don’t give up. If you’re creating things of value in the field you are obsessed with, with time and practice, you will improve to the point that people take notice. It’s when the right people take notice that real opportunities come your way in the fields you want.
7. Success! Accomplishment! Reaching your goals! Take the opportunities that are offered to you and do the very best you can with them. Show up on time, underpromise and overdeliver, be kind; success will come. Then you can pick a new goal or push this one as far as your life can take it. This can become a career or a relationship or anything you dream of.
I know this works, because I’ve done it. Multiple times. Nothing good that I have in my life came about because I sat around feeling like I deserved something I didn’t work for. Sometimes I’ve gotten help from luck as well. Sometimes I’ve failed. But if I wanted something deeply, I just kept learning and improving and trying and eventually, it usually worked out.
My teaching career happened because of this. My photography jobs, my music career, my personal finance column and blog: yep, this process. Positive relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners all have roots in this as well, even if the steps are a bit different.
When you’re thinking to yourself, “Why don’t I have this! I deserve this! That person has it and I’m a better/smarter/harder working person”, stop yourself and remember; you deserve nothing, and really, earning it through hard work and determination is better anyway.
If you liked this post, come join the discussion over at The Happiest Teacher Facebook Group! I would love to have your voice added to the discussion! Also, if you're into that Twitter life, come follow me!