Entitlement vs. Initiative

By: Dan Kennedy on: October 5th, 2009 16 Comments

I have a particular philosophy about entitlement vs. initiative.

This has always kept me oriented toward self-help; towards resourcefulness; towards responsibility, thus providing me with an exceptional level of control. (Imperfect, but exceptional.)

I was in an Italian neighborhood recently. An old Cleveland neighborhood originally populated by Italian immigrants, still populated by a lot of first generation Italian immigrants as well as second generation families.

Plus a slight homogenous mix of everything else.

I walked through a Lowe’s store and a Walgreens. Saw no signs in Italian. But Lowes and Walgreen stores in many parts of the country now have signs in Spanish for Mexican immigrants. On the chains’ part, this is obviously smart marketing.

In fact, I’ve often advised similar tactics for ads, mailings, web sites, etc., for direct-response marketing to Hispanics. And I’ll continue doing so. And you’d be smart to consider where this fits in your business.

But from a broader perspective, it troubles me. It’s another sign of America pandering to people rather than demanding personal responsibility of them.

Seems reasonable to say: want to live here? Work here? Go to school here? Earn here? Learn the language.

My friend and speaking colleague, Nido Qubein, a past president of the National Speakers Association, immigrated here (legally) unable to speak a word of English. He went to college, worked to put himself through college, became a top professional speaker, is Chairman of the Great Harvest Bread Company, a chain of franchised bakeries, and even Dean of High Point University in North Carolina. He learned the language.

Consider this a metaphor for the behaviors I find most discouraging in so many otherwise smart entrepreneurs. They seek to enter a new or different market, to sell to a particular group of consumers, to compete against the already entrenched without even bothering to “learn the language.”

To prepare. To research. To know. They seek unearned, unwarranted, undeserved success and, bluntly, I don’t like it.

As example, a few weeks back, I sat with a young man who wants to start a newsletter and information business in a particular topic category and market that personally interests him. His reasons for going there (so far) are all because he wants to. And in 3 minutes, I stumped him with my first 3 questions.

He hasn’t even bothered to do SRDS research. To subscribe to the top newsletters in the field, to get on mailing lists. The names of the five major players were unknown to him.

Yet he expects, even seems to feel entitled to success, and easy success at that.

The very idea of entitlement for any reason….because somebody else has what you want, because you happen to be in a geographic place, or born of the lucky sperm club, or have been discriminated against; the idea of entitlement is fundamentally anti-American (re-read the Constitution); it is always, ultimately anti-self, a unique form of self-sabotage; and it is definitely not the philosophy or behavior of successful people, especially successful entrepreneurs.

We now have an army of politicians pandering with the entitlement idea. College as a right i.e. entitlement for all, health care an entitlement for all, forced job security an entitlement for all, good grief pre-kindergarten as entitlement for all.

If you want such things, please move to France, pay 80% taxes, and watch the rioting as the entire society breaks down around you.

It doesn’t work, can’t work, can’t be sustained.

Here, you and your family are entitled to scrimp and save and sacrifice and you are entitled to work in order to go to college. And if simply given to all free of investment or sacrifice, it will cease to have meaning, corporate America will have a worse crop of dullards and emotional infants to hire from than they do already.

I am opposed to entitlement as philosophy or practice, in any and all forms. I am for initiative: deciding what you want and then exercising self-discipline, organization, applied imagination, persistence and effort in order to get it.

Ultimately, money moves only based upon exchange of value. All attempts by individuals or groups to move it around otherwise ultimately fail miserably.

Anyone dissatisfied with the amount of money moving to them should not look to government to somehow rob the richer as Robin Hood or regulate the ratio of CEO pay to janitor pay or any other silly Communist schemes.

They should examine how they can personally increase the value they personally deliver to the marketplace.


Dan Kennedy is internationally recognized as the 'Millionaire Maker,' helping people in just about every category of business turn their ideas into fortunes. Dan's "No B.S." approach is refreshing amidst a world of small business marketing hype and enriches those who act on his advice. For more money-making marketing tips, tactics and strategies, go to www.GKIC.com

16 Responses

  1. Brian says:

    Well said. The entitlement mentality is crippling the country. Very frustrating that so few people can’t accept responsibility for themselves.

  2. Rob Anspach says:

    The problem arises when those who feel entitled punish those with initiative.
    Case in point… and I dont want this to be a political debate… but what the heck was he (the president) thinking when he stated… “Lets spread the wealth around”

    that my friends is the biggest crap I ever heard against those who show initiative… take the money away from those who earned it and give it to those who feel entitled to it.


  3. Rob Anspach says:

    If you’ve ever visited Alcatraz… you will see many regulations….

    Regulation # 5 states…

    “You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter and medical attention. Anything else you get is a privilege”

  4. great as always.

  5. As always, Dan gets it spot on. Brilliantly put.

    We really need to get this message out…fast.

  6. Dan Scott says:

    As always right on Dan.

    When you say, “Anyone dissatisfied with the amount of money moving to them should not look to government to somehow rob the richer as Robin Hood or regulate the ratio of CEO pay to janitor pay or any other silly Communist schemes.” You point out the problem with the “let’s spread the wealth around mentality.”

    You get paid if you provide value. That’s it.

    Thanks for reminding us of this.

  7. I catch hell from 90% of my family for holding predominantly conservative views about money. I’m an entrepreneur. If I earn it, I’ll choose how to spend it; thank you very much. It just doesn’t sit well to be robbed in the street, and that’s not much different than being robbed by uncle sam. Forgive me, liberal democrats, I just think WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAy differently about money than you do. Be ok with it. I’m ok that you can have your ideas and emotions, just let me make up my own mind about what I think.

    Stage Hypnotist Simone

  8. Both sides have valid arguments.
    Both sides have invalid arguments.

  9. Rob Anspach says:

    the government cant run anything right… yet they want us biz owners to give them more money so they can inturn make sure the poor have everything they need…

    I’m sorry our government is not Robin Hood … forget this whole take from the rich and give to the poor. FREE cash, FREE housing, FREE health care, FREE job training, FREE transporation to said job, FREE FREE FREE FREE…

  10. Rob, I’m with you. Our charismatic President, and those who would agree with him seem to think it’s ok to write (very large) rubber checks.

    Basic Math: Write Check against existing funds.

    There’s no more money!

  11. Don’t write checks with your mouth that your a@$$ can’t cash. Crude but effective truth for liberal politics.

  12. Rob Anspach says:

    now the dumb @$$ wins the nobel peace prize…wtf!!

    I guess when you act like Robin Hood – people bow before thee…

    lets call him the “entitlement” leader

  13. Actually, DO understand, I have nothing against Obama. I think he’s a very nice guy…and an extremely talented hypnotist/persuasionist.

    It is also true that he wants to spend my money without my permission.

    I look at all the people on the planet with which I disagree and I say to myself, that’s interesting.

  14. Rob says:

    … we do live in interesting times!

  15. Dan,

    There is a story about Pizza Hut that they advertised in Spanish with much success… except that they forgot to actually make sure they had people that could answer the phone in Spanish!!!

    Marketing like this is great, but you gotta make sure that you think it though until the end of the sales process… and beyond!

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