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February 9, 2016

The World Owes Me Nothing

Summary:

Try this for a week. Every morning, tell yourself, "The world owes me nothing." See if you don't feel a lightness afterward.

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I am fortunate to live amid incredibly smart, driven, hard-working people who care about making an impact. Sometimes, some of them trust me enough to come to me for business and career advice.

Before every such meeting, I try hard to set aside my beliefs and biases and just listen. For me, it takes genuine effort to actually listen and remember that listening to someone isn’t really the same thing as just waiting to talk. I do my best not to make someone clearly in pain feel good with the formulaic “10 steps to happiness” psychobabble.

The problem usually starts with a clear symptom : “I hate my boss,” “I don’t have faith in my CEO,” “I deserve more equity,” “I need a bigger title,” etc. Having been in their shoes as an employee, a manager, a CEO, I’ve dealt with many of these feelings myself, so I can often relate to where people are coming from. I suppose that’s the real value of talking to someone—it helps separate problems from symptoms, and knowing the problem is half the solution.

A lot of times, what I discover in these conversations—once we talk through what’s going on and dig deeper into the situation—is that these surface emotions are just really reflections of the real problem, which is larger, more corrosive and harder to admit.

Entitlement.

The problem is we all feel entitled to something. Entitlement is a subtle and implicit belief that we deserve things, that the world owes us something.

The truth, something we all know, is that the world owes us nothing. However, it is hard to remember that at the right time, when you are feeling entitled.

I am not suggesting that having expectations, desires and sometimes taking things for granted is unnatural or even bad. I am saying that if you stop for a minute and zoom out, you’ll start to realize that a lot of your pain goes away if you stop feeling entitled and that dealing with the reality of your situation becomes a heck of a lot easier.

So the next time you are feeling upset about something, try it . Zoom out and tell yourself, “The world owes me nothing,” and see what happens.

When I do it mindfully, I can tell you I feel a sudden emptiness, followed by a delightful lightness. Sure, it may only last for a minute, but that little lull puts things in perspective, replacing the heaviness of “I deserve better” with “I am grateful for what I have. There will always be more I want. It will never be enough, but it will all be OK.”

Try this for a week: Every morning, tell yourself , “The world owes me nothing.” See if it subconsciously affects your thoughts, alters your tone and orchestrates your actions throughout the day. Note how that sets you up for a simple but powerful call of duty, to be useful to people around you—your family, friends, co-workers, customers, investors, neighbors, strangers, everyone! Be grateful for the many, many things you have.

We begin life with a cry. In the end, the only thing that matters is how many people cry when we die. Or maybe that, too, is an entitlement.

Originally published on Medium

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About the Author

Sanjeev Agrawal is the president of the healthcare business and the chief marketing officer at LeanTaaS, a Silicon Valley company that uses advanced data science to optimize healthcare operations. Agrawal was Google’s first head of product marketing.

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