Few human behaviors rile me up more than entitlement. I didn’t tolerate it within organizations that I ran and it drives me crazy when I see it in other places.

Entitlement is the attitude that the world/society/company owes me something simply because I exist.

“I come to this restaurant all the time; I deserve to have the corner booth I like.”

No, you deserve to sit your pompous ass down in the first available table like the rest of us. And, yes, my wife and I have been asked to move to a different table 15 minutes after being seated because a long-time customer arrived and wanted the corner table. Amazingly, this really happens.

“I’ve worked at this company for 10 years; I shouldn’t have to follow the new employee rules.”

If you’re not contributing to the organization today in a meaningful way, you might not even deserve to still work there. Time on the job isn’t a free pass. You have to follow the rules and be productive. It may sound harsh to be asked, “What have you done for me lately?” but… what have you done for me lately?

“I have a degree from Big Name U and get paid a lot of money. Do you really expect me to wash my own dishes?”

Yes. Yes I do. You make the mess, you clean it up. Shocking concept. I also expect that after you wash your hands in the restroom, you make sure your paper towels end up in the trash—including the little bits that ripped off when you tried to pull the paper out of the dispenser—and that the toilet is flushed. And before you flush, dump in the dozen strips of toilet paper laying on the seat that you used to make your personal defense barrier against potential germs. Why would anyone think that’s the next person’s job?

“I hate having to step over these people lying in the street. Someone should really do something about the homeless problem.”

Yes. You and me. It’s a hard problem to solve, but none of us gets to pretend that it’s not our place to help find a solution or that we deserve a place free of poverty and mental illness. Bad things happen to good people all the time. It’s not because they are any less worthy than the rest of us.

It’s really very simple: We all have to contribute some of our time and effort to keep this world healthy—no exceptions. You don’t get to opt out because of any false entitlements you have dreamed up in your head. I don’t care who you are or how long you’ve existed, drop your entitlement and follow some caring rules:

  • Don’t look down on people because they don’t have your status or fame or degree or money. This may be hard for you to hear, but you’re not actually better than anyone else.
  • The more you have, the more generous you should be.
  • Leave the place better than when you arrived.
  • Be nice to the people around you and smile once in a while.

Life is a beautiful gift. Entitlement is the act of stomping on that gift and then complaining that it messed up your expensive shoes. I’m not perfect and have probably come across as entitled on more than one occasion, but I do work to check myself often by asking, “What have I done to improve the place where I exist?” If my answer is “nothing,” then I probably played my entitlement card.