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Business 101: Entitlement is the Original Sin.

September 24, 2013

I am always fascinated by the thoughts that get my brain whirring and this one did take me by surprise.

After travelling in China and coming back to my Australian life I was struck by a sense of ‘something isn’t quite right here, something is different’.   I was talking about our (Australian) business culture – well, the bit that I am part of anyway and an underlying energy that I could sense.   I am now of the opinion that energy was driven by a sense of entitlement……

Entitlement = feeling owed,  the ‘that’s mine and I should have it’ mindset, the ‘I deserve’ or ‘I’m special and need’ the ‘how come you can and I can’t’.

I feel this energy sometimes during my working day dealing with clients and students, especially when I am teaching  new cosmetic science tricks and tips or critiquing their formulations or brand direction.   I do my best to notice that raw nerve ahead of time and navigate around it, numb it with psychological anaesthetic, give it time to settle and feel comfortable but it isn’t always possible to avoid.

Original Sin PIcture

I have noticed over my short but sweet 6 years in business that a sense of entitlement is a dangerous thing to have. It sets you up for all sorts of political dramas, underpins many a dysfunctional relationship and prevents you from fully growing.  I believe it contributes to all of these things because of what entitlement masks and that is one of two closely linked emotions – shame and vulnerability.

Let’s think this through for a minute.

Entitlement as a mindset revolves around the feeling of being ‘owed’ .  As such it makes sense to think that where there is an owing there is a debt – a ‘thing’ unpaid for, a loose end.

Together that creates a virtual suit of armour that, rather than look for connections, opportunities and ‘enlightenment’ seeks comfort, validation and reward.

The reasons why I didn’t pick up this vibe in China could be many including the fact that I didn’t actually meet and ‘interview’ enough people in relation to this theory to form a critical view and as such, for now this will remain an untested theory of mine, a framework ready to be furnished by data if and when I get the chance.  However, anecdotal evidence suggests that this entitlement issue is something  I need to be very, very aware of in my business and personal dealings.

The original sin.

As often happens when I toss and turn and idea around in my head for a few days, strange ‘omen’ like signs appear out of nowhere.  Being aware of how weird that sounds I’ll give you a couple of examples that might resonate:

  • When I first found out I was pregnant I was stunned by the number of others who were, something I found odd as I had never noticed pregnant women before. Well, not en mass as they then seemed to be.
  • Due to health reasons I had to give up eating gluten last year.  Having never thought about doing this before I felt sure that there would be nothing I could eat ANYWHERE and that life would be very difficult.  However,  I quickly found gluten-free options almost everywhere to the point that now the words ‘gluten free’ jump out at me across a street when I’m food hunting.

Weird or normal?  

I think it just shows that our reality shifts with our attention – this is the backbone to the book ‘The Secret’ or (in my opinion the much better) ‘The Alchemist’.

So, back to my omens.

My omen for this little piece of blogging was the phrase ‘Original Sin’ which is odd given that while I have always lived in Christian society (Original sin is the first lesson in the bible I think – or if not the first, very early on in the garden of Eden) I am not an avid follower of that religion.  Anyway, after seeing it on a sign post, hearing it in a song and then witnessing someone talking about it I knew that this was indeed a sign (and yes, I do sound bonkers right about now).

If you go back to what I said about entitlement and the underlying feelings that prop up that belief we have a situation that is not unlike the Biblical teachings on ‘Original Sin’.   In the bible  God tells Adam and Eve not to take anything from the beautiful garden but of course Eve (and that is symbolic but I’ll leave that for a feminist post) grabs an apple and gives it to Adam who then eats it.  After that lovely happy apple moment things turn ugly, God is unhappy because his explicit orders were disobeyed and Adam and Eve are damned to a life less beautiful.  They are cast out into the world as sinners (well, that’s how Augustine interpreted it anyway….)

Original Sin Meme

I have never really thought very deeply about this story until now and as such never got past the obvious meaning (that man disobeyed ‘God’ in the same way that a child left in a room with a chocolate cake that he shouldn’t touch would) but now I see another, more important layer.  A layer of entitlement.

Maybe this biblical story is teaching us about the dangers of entitlement.

Maybe all Adam and Eve had to do was be patient, put in some work, listen and then be thankful.  Maybe they dived in for some instant gratification because they felt entitled to – after all it was only one apple in a garden of many…….

When Entitlement steps aside.

As a business owner I feel it is critical that I keep an open mind and an unguarded soul.  That my ego stays out of any decision-making process,  teaching scenario or lab session.  As a business owner I feel it is important that I don’t let entitlement stall my growth and prejudice my outcomes because if it does I will be doomed to a life as a sinner (or in non-religious terms a life trying to protect my ego, prior-held beliefs and self-worth).

While letting that feeling of entitlement subside and removing its power is a good thing it does leave you, the business owner and human vulnerable but that, I believe is a good thing.

Exploring our vulnerabilities and weaknesses as professionals is a powerful way to grow and do business and while it does mean that we can sometimes feel unsure, un-nerved and confused ultimately we will find what we need to succeed.

With that I’m off to the lab to explore my vulnerability some more.


Amanda X

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