From Empowerment to Entitlement

by Larry Winget

help

I doubt anyone can make an intelligent argument against the fact that our society has the biggest sense of entitlement in the history of our world. I have written much about the problems of entitlement in each of my books and have talked about it for years in blogs, social media and on various TV shows. We are the entitlement generation. In fact, the bulk of all government spending is for a series of programs called Entitlement Programs.

Some believe they are owed a living while doing nothing on their own to make sure they are employed, have any savings or that their bills are paid. That’s why we have fifth-generation welfare recipients. Folks believe they are owed retirement income, even though they spent every dime they had their entire working lives with little or no thought about what would happen when they were finally put out to pasture — or if their company went out of business.

Some think they are owed unending unemployment benefits when they didn’t put away any money for a rainy day, or they don’t make much of an effort to become re-employed. Evidence shows many people didn’t even put out the work they were being paid to do to stay employed in the first place. Most of the “99 Weekers” never bother to look for jobs until the last few weeks before their unemployment runs out.

Some folks wear the latest fashions and have big screen televisions, drive new cars and eat every meal at a restaurant, and yet they have never bothered to save a dime and blame others that they are broke. Bottom line: People believe they are entitled to compensation for consequences they brought on themselves due to their irresponsible lifestyle and stupid choices.

How did this happen? How did we reach this point? My parents’ generation didn’t think this way. Yet, they raised the baby boomers who created this mess. And now the baby boomers have raised a generation with an even bigger sense of entitlement. I just finished reading the New York Times Bestseller “World War Z” by Max Brooks. I ran across this great line:

“You can blame the politicians, the businessmen, the generals, the ‘machine,’ but really, if you’re looking to blame someone, blame me. I’m the American system, I’m the machine. That’s the price of living in a democracy; we all gotta take the rap. Nice to be able to say, ‘Hey, don’t look at me, it’s not my fault.’ Well, it is. It is my fault, and the fault of everyone of my generation.”

I couldn’t agree more. It’s everyone’s own fault. I could sum up all that I teach, speak and write about in one sentence: Life is your own damn fault.

But again, the question is: What happened to move the baby boomers to from being self-sufficient like their parents to becoming so self-indulgent?
Answer: The self-help movement. Before baby boomers, there wasn’t a self-help movement, there was only the “help yourself” movement. It was the baby boomers that created Positive Thinking rallies and flocked to them like lemmings into the ocean.

We made bestsellers out of Norman Vincent Peale’s books “If You Can Think It, You Can Do It” and “The Power Of Positive Thinking,” as well as Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich.” We took a pots-and-pans salesman named Zig Ziglar and turned him into the king of motivational speakers. Then we created an entire industry of “motivational speakers,” like Tony Robbins, Jim Rohn, Earl Nightingale and yes, even ME!

Some added a religious element, and we ended up with Robert Schuller and now, Joel Osteen. Then we pushed the whole concept even further and ended up with stupid books like “The Secret” and “The Law of Attraction,” and folks started following abominations with a messiah complex like James Ray.

(Say what you like about what I do for a living, but no one ever died as a result of attending one of my seminars. And I won’t make you walk on fire or sit in a sweat lodge. I’ll just ask you to look in an imaginary mirror and take responsibility for the life you have created. If you die from doing that, your reflection must be pretty bad!)

So, is the self-help industry a bad thing? And what about Zig and Tony and Norman Vincent Peale and Earl Nightingale and the thousands of other motivational speakers yelling positive platitudes from stages all over the world – are they bad? No. I like much of what the motivational guys do. Not all of it, for sure, but much of it.

So let’s make it clear: I am NOT blaming the messenger, and I am not blaming the message. The message itself isn’t bad at all, but we have bastardized the message and ended up producing the exact opposite result of the original intent. The original intent was to get people to realize they had the power within themselves to change their results. It was meant to give them the confidence to go out and work — to use their talents to create success, happiness and prosperity. It was a message meant to empower people to become all they had the potential of becoming. That message of empowerment is important, necessary and powerful. However, that message has sadly been twisted and corrupted, and in many cases, lost. We turned empowerment into entitlement.

Zig Ziglar said, “You can be whatever you want to be, do whatever you want to do and have whatever you want to have as long as your believe in yourself.” That statement was meant to empower people to have confidence in themselves and to believe in their abilities to work and achieve their goals and aspirations. We messed it up. It might have been our laziness, or our ever-declining work ethic, or our sliding scale of morality, or the gray area of integrity that runs rampant among workers, corporations, Wall Street and government. Add to that our greed and unhealthy desire for more, more and MORE.

Maybe it’s our demand for more sensationalism via our insatiable need to be entertained. Or it’s our fascination with the shallow, inane and ridiculous. But whatever happened, it corrupted the entire self-help movement. Somehow the self-help movement shifted from SELF, which was Zig’s (and the others) original message, to HELP.

Hear more from Larry in his exclusive interview with C-Suite Network Radio — Click here to listen.


Larry Winget is a six-time New York Times/Wall Street Journal bestselling author. His newest book is “Grow A Pair; How To Stop Being A Victim and Take Back Your Life, Your Business and Your Sanity.” He is a member of the Speakers Hall Of Fame. Larry is a regular contributor on many television news shows on the topics of money, personal success, business and parenting.
Find out more at www.larrywinget.com. Follow him on Facebook at Larry Winget Fan Page and on Twitter @larrywinget.