Posts Tagged ‘learntolead’

An Rx for the “Ashamed Generation”

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

An entire chapter in my book, Up Your Business, addressed the dangers of entitlement within organizations and offered remedies for weeding it out. In If You Don’t Make Waves You’ll Drown I presented ten strategies to combat the negative impact political correctness has on high performance business cultures. After watching trending cultural currents in recent months I am presenting additional strategies to explain how to survive and prosper despite the encroachment of a force as atrocious as either entitlement or political correctness: a potent mix of bitterness, envy, and resentment projected against financially prosperous entities by a swelling number of malcontents I’ll classify as the “ashamed generation.” Following are background observations that relay the evolution of this unsettling phenomenon. Afterward, I’ll present tactics to prevent its influence and values from infecting your culture.

  1. Finishing college and entering the workplace over the past years have been the first generation of kids brought up under the farcical “don’t keep score and everyone gets a trophy” philosophy. The intent behind “tell them they’re special, give them a participation trophy, and prohibit punishment for poor behavior because it might hurt their feelings” was designed to engender a higher level of self-esteem in young people. This failed approach has backfired by creating a generation largely marked by entitlement, selfishness, disrespect, and a false sense of their worth to the marketplace.
  2. Upon entering the workplace with an “I’ll be rewarded for showing up versus stepping up and life is obligated to make me happy” arrogance these folks are soon deflated by the realization that life isn’t easy, they aren’t special, and making it big will require work. The false self-worth built through two decades of political correctness quickly fades as they earn below-average wages, in ho-hum jobs, suffer for lack of discipline, weak character, and glean the first clues that despite all the smoke they’ve had blown up their collective backsides, they just might be losers.
  3. As they fail to live up to the hyped expectations created for them, they are shamed, demonstrating the principle that those not prepared for life will be shamed by life. Shame provokes one of two emotions in human beings: get your life together or blame others for your state. Many in this generation choose the latter.
  4. Human nature drives people to seek purpose in their lives and to make a difference in the world. When one begins to feel that making a difference by building something up is too difficult or out of reach, the alternative is to seek purpose and attention by tearing something down; in this case, the prosperous people and companies they’ve come to resent and envy. Sadly, the ashamed generation failed to learn in their PC classroom that throwing rocks at another man’s Bentley won’t get them out of their rusted out Yugo. Ironically, this group’s mindset has infected generations beyond their own, attracting adherents from past eras who struggled, gave up, have been going through the motions, and in defeat decide to latch onto the same blame bandwagon embraced by the ashamed generation.
  5. Thankfully, there are many from the ashamed generations’ era who were raised in a manner that made them understand and appreciate the value of earn and deserve, and discount the whole concept of monuments to mediocrity like the participation trophies, and the unearned praise and weekly allowances their counterparts relied on for affirmation. They learned discipline, respect, hard work, and personal responsibility. They are refreshing exceptions to the huddled mass of their counterparts crowing out their chorus of complaints and demands. Many of these fine young men and women make meaningful contributions to businesses, churches, volunteer organizations, and the armed forces.

To those caught up in the entitled, bitter, and envious mindset that pervades the ashamed generation, I suggest the following:

  1. No one is impressed with the spin your parents and teachers fed you about how special you are. Respect is earned through the consistent demonstration of character, competence, and results. All life owes you is what you’ve earned and deserve.
  2. If you are one of the moochers circulating petitions asking the government to eliminate your share of the one trillion dollars in outstanding student loans, forget about it. When you go to the party and leave with the goods, you pay the tab. 
  3. Gather your worthless participation ribbons, trophies, and other testaments to your mediocrity and toss them. Then borrow a dictionary and look up the words earn and deserve; memorize them and begin to live according to their standards. Here’s a head start: earn is defined as having acquired through merit, or in return for labor or service. Deserve is defined as being worthy of or qualified for.
  4. Shut up and pay up. Many of the hardworking people you’re assailing pay six and seven figures in income taxes annually, you pay squat—and you’re ticked off at them? Don’t cry “pay your fair share” when you pay little or no share at all.
  5. If you’re a Warren Buffet-type, ashamed generation sympathizer, and don’t believe you pay enough in taxes, simply write a check to the IRS to relieve your guilt and leave the rest of us alone.

To those endeavoring to thrive in their business despite the assault of the ashamed driven generation’s mindset and its potential to affect morale at all levels within your organization, consider the following.

  1. Make it extremely difficult to get hired. Dig into an applicant’s life and determine what they’ve done, overcome, and flush out their life philosophy on hard work, success, prosperity, earn and deserve. Don’t give questionable candidates the benefit of the doubt during the interview, and if doubts linger, keep looking.
  2. Don’t reduce your vision or standards to accommodate the comfort zones of others. Rather, stretch your people to reach your expectations and if they don’t measure up remove them.
  3. Require team members to qualify based on past performance for the right to participate in spiff programs, contests, and other perks they now take for granted. If they don’t average producing “X” over the past 90 days, they cannot participate in incentive programs whatsoever. This earn and deserve philosophy will help weed out entitlement and make those who do qualify for your generosity more appreciative.
  4. Require the team to qualify for perks they now take for granted, ranging from donuts on Fridays to lunches on Saturdays. In order to get their free lunch on Saturday, they must collectively produce at least “X” during the week. This simple change in your earn and deserve philosophy will begin to change attitudes toward benefits people now take for granted and evoke more humility and gratitude.
  5. Celebrate excellence in your organization by launching a top performers club where people qualify quarterly. Give the winners the best schedule, office, opportunities and more. When the whiners squawk about how unfair life is simply tell them, “When you do what they’ve done, you can get what they’ve got.”
  6. Install minimum performance standards that cause the laggards to fire themselves faster if they cannot attain them. Letting underachievers stay on a great team is the equivalent of giving them an adult participation trophy.
  7. Replace longevity bonuses with performance bonuses. This eliminates entitlement and sets the standard that tenure, experience, and credentials don’t substitute for results—and in your organization people are rewarded for stepping up, not simply for showing up.

The cultural currents and trends in society surrounding your enterprise will adversely influence and infect your culture unless you take deliberate steps to protect it. If you fail to shape your business culture according to personal values and standards, society’s values and trends will shape it for you—to your great disgust and peril.

The Lost Art of Taking Personal Responsibility

Monday, November 28th, 2011

 For decades, I’ve written extensively about discipline, accountability, focusing on what you can control, and taking personal responsibility rather than blaming. These are principles I have personally embraced and applied in my life to prevail through tough times.

 In the early 80’s I worked in my parents’ restaurant business that failed. It was in the midst of 20+% interest rates, 10% inflation, and unemployment as high as today. I held three jobs to make ends meet, selling products door-to-door for two companies, and in the evenings delivering tortillas to restaurants for 50 cents per case. It wasn’t the work that I wanted or was qualified for, but it was the work that was available, and I felt lucky to have it.

 While living with my wife and daughter in the ugliest trailer, in the least desirable part of town, I changed careers and began to sell cars. In seven years I advanced from salesperson at a dealership in Texas, to the number two man in a successful $300,000,000 dealership group in California. When I declined the pay cut offered me by new owners I was forced out. Despite this misfortune, I chose not to whine, sue, or pitch a tent and “occupy” the dealership in protest. Instead I founded LearnToLead which, by God’s grace, prospers to this day.

 As I pursued my aspiration to write, six dozen publishers rejected my ideas for Selling Above the Crowd and No-Nonsense Leadership. Consequently, I exerted the effort to self-publish, distribute, and publicize both books. Their success attracted into my corner Wiley, the world’s largest business publisher with whom I’ve now published ten books. My publishing experience reaffirmed my belief that if something is important to you, you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.

 I don’t share this history to impress you, but to impress upon you that I’ve been broke, at the bottom, and the chief architect behind numerous failed ideas and ventures. But upon hitting the wall I chose to bounce, not splatter. Like many of you, when things got tough I didn’t opt to whine my way out, wish my way out, wait my way out, or demand someone bail me out. Rather, I took personal responsibility for my life and worked my way out.

 There exists today a dangerous trend that must be blunted—a burgeoning blame game and pity party spreading across continents that vilifies success, demonizes the financially successful, and endeavors to penalize prosperity. This assault has become a convenient and clever diversion for society’s malcontents to shift anger, frustration, and responsibility away from their personal failings, and thrust it upon those who have made productive life choices, or who have found ways to convert stumbling blocks into stepping stones and succeed. Here’s a glimpse at the forces that are fanning the flame:

 Millions are hurting financially in America. But for many, the pain is prolonged by their refusal to accept personal responsibility for poor decisions that have caused or augmented their struggles. Worse, politicians, unions, and the media encourage and enable their “I am helpless” mindset by assuring them that they are blameless in their mediocrity, and that the country’s most financially successful citizens and companies are the culprits. Protestors are “occupying” cities throughout the world, demanding substantial transfers of wealth to help turn their languid lives around.

The fact that things have reached this state should come as no surprise. Most people forty years and older would agree that the trend towards blaming more, entitlement, and undisciplined lifestyles has accelerated in recent decades. Not coincidentally, so has the national poverty rate. But, as convenient as it is to assail others or outside conditions for one’s lack of economic progress, nothing impacts the quality of one’s life more than his or her inside decisions. Those who don’t take responsibility for the consequences of their decisions, and instead blame others for misfortune, surrender control over their own destiny. This folly perpetuates their misery.

 While you’re not likely to read this in most headlines, many people suffer primarily because they’ve made poor life choices that created or compounded their financial hardship: the decision not to work hard or at all; not to self-educate oneself; not to live within one’s means, not to save money, as well as choosing to engage in habits like smoking, drinking, illegal drugs, gambling and a variety of other vices that deplete their limited resources and impair their soul. In reality, if society’s malcontents and protestors could kick the person most responsible for their woes they’d be unable to sit down for weeks. The sad result of this failure to take responsibility is an inability to progress from their current state, because they refuse to acknowledge their role in creating, or prolonging,  it in the first place.

 Following are five tenets that help you recommit to the lost art of taking personal responsibility. They are truths that place you on a path to rise above the masses that go through life assuming the position, thinking, talking, and walking like victims. Please share with those you know who are suffering from any of todays’ fashionable “it’s not my fault” fantasies. These include entitled family members and mediocre employees who went into retirement years ago but remain on your payroll, expecting to be rewarded for showing up versus stepping up.  

 1. Becoming precedes getting. Until you become more than you are in areas like attitude, discipline, character, work ethic, and knowledge, you are unlikely to get much more than you’ve got. When you do get more (usually because it is given to you) without becoming more, you rarely get to keep it for long and won’t have the skill to replace it once it’s gone.

2. Attitude is a choice. While you cannot usually choose what happens to you, you have the power to choose your response to it. The quality of your response will greatly determine the quality of your life. No one and nothing can assault your attitude without your consent.

 3. Discipline is a choice. No one is born disciplined or not. Discipline is developed when you get clear about what you want, decide to pay the price necessary to get it, and resolve to give up what hinders your quest. If you’re undisciplined it’s not genetic, it’s because you’ve chosen to go through life seeking prizes without paying prices.

 4. Growth is a choice. Personal growth isn’t automatic, and it doesn’t come naturally with age. Personal growth must be intentional. In other words, you must choose to read the books, to attend the seminars, to learn and assimilate success principles, to study the lives of life’s giants and decide how you can apply what made them successful in your own life. If you’re not growing, it’s because you have made the decision to not pursue growth.

 5. Character is a choice. Your character is determined by the moral qualities you’ve decided to embrace and live out in your life. If you lack strong character, you can’t blame mom and dad, the government, economy, or your teachers. Ultimately, you get to choose what’s important to you, and what’s not. Your character will develop—or not—in accordance with those convictions.

 Here’s what economic protestors and their critical kinsmen in life’s various arenas must understand: Needy people can’t expect to advance by demanding more of what someone else has earned. Rather, they must advance through education, perspiration & determination. I don’t know anyone who has risen from rags to riches by complaining,  protesting, or clamoring for the government to pick the pockets of those more successful than they and use the proceeds to subsidize their own inadequacy or complacency. While a humane society must support those who can’t help themselves, it owes absolutely nothing to those who won’t help themselves.

 A recent television program featured a contemporary study in personal absolution: a healthy, articulate, unemployed man who assailed “the system” because it had “failed him” and made it “impossible” to find work. In fact, he has quit looking for a job and now lives his life on the sideline cheer-leading the blame game. It is impossible to know how many of the unemployed persist in their parasitic assault on national resources not because they cannot find work, but because they don’t like the work they find. This particular man remains idle despite the fact that 150 million other Americans have found jobs including the physically and mentally challenged, blind, deaf, and mute. In fact, six million Americans work two jobs or more. It would benefit the temporarily unemployed to understand the difference between the system failing them, and making poor decisions that cause them to fail themselves. This particular gentleman has chosen to regress from loser to quitter: a loser being someone who comes up short and tries again, while a quitter simply gives up.  

President Theodore Roosevelt had encouraging words for those who roll up their sleeves to make things happen, rather than critique, complain, demand, or quit. It’s fitting to conclude this piece on personal responsibility with his famous acclaim for the man in the arena:

 It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

 Note: I recently filmed a four minute video on this topic: “Whining is no Substitute for Working!” Click here to view: http://budurl.com/l4tv .

dave@learntolead.com