Chapter 2: The world owes you nothing
As a society, we have created this illusion that we are privileged and entitled to our desires despite our lack of effort to earn them. We believe it is our birthright to have luxuries such as a good education, a high paying job, healthcare, food or happiness. But the reality is that the world and the people living in it do not owe anyone anything. Nothing. Not one damn thing. As human beings, we are born with endless potential but we have forgotten that potential is just an idea if hard work is not used to transform it into something tangible. Without effort, potential is utterly useless.
We all entered this world the same. We were all born an empty book with its pages waiting to be filled. We were all born a tiny being with the world at our fingertips, ours for the taking. Our minds were not tainted, and our hearts were not hardened. Although we all started out the same, this journey called life we each embarked on would be impacted by our unique circumstances.
Maybe you were born into a family. Maybe the kind with two parents, a couple of siblings and a dog. Or maybe the kind of family with a single parent or no siblings. Maybe your parents were not ready to be parents and decided to give you up in hopes someone else could provide a better life for you. Maybe your Mom and Dad were your biggest supporters. Maybe they packed your school lunches, cheered you on at soccer games and tucked you into bed each night. Or maybe you were one of the less fortunate ones with absent parent, forcing you to navigate through childhood alone, growing up much too soon.
Our upbringings play a substantial role in shaping our futures. Your childhood may have set you up for great success or it may have left people shaking their heads and thinking, “this kid has no hope in life.” But either way, you were born with the raw ability to decipher right and wrong. You were born with the independence to make choices. You were born as an empty book that you, and only you, can fill.
Now these choices you make day in and day out, they matter. They matter so much. They matter more than anything else. These choices will cumulatively determine the outcome of your life. We all have our own baggage and weight to carry. We all have our own demons, and we have all been through our own version of hell.
Just because someone was born into a “privileged” lifestyle, does not mean they have an easy life. We have all heard stories of geniuses in medical school or successful businessmen that committed suicide. Stories of wealthy celebrities who drowned themselves in drugs and alcohol. Stories of prom queens who had more insecurities than every other student in their class. Just because someone was born into wealth or “privilege” does not mean they do not have their own demons to face.
Look around and you will find countless stories of hope and overcoming adversity. People born into severe poverty who studied every book they could find, got themselves an education, and went on to become successful business owners. People born into a life filled with crime, hate and deception that used their pain as motivation to escape that lifestyle and create one exactly the opposite. People addicted to drugs or alcohol that overcome their vices to live a fulfilled life of sobriety.
Steven King’s first novel was rejected numerous times before publication, and he is now one of the world’s most successful writers. Walt Disney grew up with an allegedly abusive father, filed for bankruptcy, lost the legal rights to his first cartoon hit, suffered a nervous breakdown, and had the beloved Mickey Mouse concept rejected by hundreds of investors before one finally said “yes” however, he eventually became one of the most influential people of the 20th century. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school varsity basketball team before becoming arguably the best player of all time. Oprah Winfrey was born to a teenage mother in poverty, suffered physical and sexual abuse and experienced the loss of a child before creating her own cable network and becoming the world’s first African-American billionaire. Louis Zamperini, an Air Force Veteran, withstood years of torture as a Japanese prisoner during World War II and, despite the hate he experienced, became a born-again Christian and spent his later years preaching forgiveness.
There are endless inspiring stories to be told of individuals who, against all odds, fought their way out of a nightmare situation and made something of themselves. Ordinary people overcoming extraordinary obstacles happens a lot more often than we acknowledge or give credit to, however, these people did not defy odds effortlessly. They were not handed success or happiness. Overcoming adversity is really hard. In fact, it is a lot easier to give up and blame a parent, significant other, teacher or politician for your failures and wallow in them your entire life. It takes a strong person to persevere through burdens, remain positive through struggles, and withstand thousands of stormy days in order to enjoy the sunshine.
This world owes you nothing at all. Although it is your right to work and get an education, you are not entitled to either. Although you may feel you deserve a fancy home and designer clothes, you still must earn them. Although your great aunt has millions of dollars to spare, she has no obligation to share with you. You must sway away from the expectation that society or government should be responsible for your wants and needs. Why should someone who works harder than everyone else in the room and has achieved great success be forced to share their earnings with those who choose to do nothing. Why should taxpayers be obligated to pay the college tuition, electric bills or grocery tabs of others? These are our own individual responsibilities and we must remember that everything in life worth having must be earned.
Now, please do not mistaken me for a cold-hearted person. I am not saying we should never offer help to those less fortunate than ourselves or that we should be stingy and selfish with our success. What I am simply saying is that we must recognize our entitled behavior and stop expecting handouts. We must be willing to sacrifice our own blood, sweat and tears if we wish to achieve greatness. We must reap what we sow, and we must become resilient.
It is time we must all begin to shift our thinking from what the world owes us to what we owe this world. We are privileged to spend our days living on such a beautiful planet and, as human beings, it is our duty to leave this world just a little better than the way we found it when we took our first breath of its sweet air.