“In life there are no shortcuts to joy. Anything that is
worth pursuing requires us to suffer just a little bit.”
(Chris Burkard, March 2015, TED Talk:
“The Joy of Surfing in Ice-Cold Water”)
Recently, my younger brother, Edmund, told me about one of our college interns who walked into his office and asked for some advice. This young man was an undergraduate in one of the top schools in the Philippines and he was quite troubled about his future.
“I want to pursue a career that fits my lifestyle,” he announced. “I don’t see myself as a person working eight hours a day.” When my brother prompted him further, he went on to explain, “What’s the point of working the same kind of hours as the generations before us? We should be able to produce the same results with less effort given all the intelligence and technology we have today. I don’t need to work as hard to make just as much money.”
At that point, the only advice that my brother could give was to tell him to get out of his office before he had him replaced immediately. We had a good laugh about it but I also understood why our intern’s comments had set him off. Both my brothers are early risers who work around the clock trading stocks in multiple global markets. If they’re not trading, they’re training other traders, conducting seminars, or scanning through research reports for new opportunities. They are two of the least likely people I know who would even bother to keep track of the number of hours they put into their jobs or to compute their work output in a single day.
But after chewing on a little food for thought, I had to admit that our young millennial actually had a point. We have almost an unlimited supply of advanced technological resources at our fingertips and wasn’t that why the world created them in the first place—to make our lives easier?
I was told that I am part of the last generation of individuals who will ever remember life before the Internet became a household necessity. I do still remember growing up in a home wherein all I needed to complete my homework were a textbook, a pencil, and a piece of paper. Research had to be done in a library and encyclopedias were still quite popular. Book reports were handwritten on lined sheets and there was no such thing as a hard or soft copy of anything. Cramming meant that you started a project one or two days before it was due. In this day and age, the amount of tasks we can accomplish within twenty-four hours is quite remarkable.
There is no question that plenty has changed in the past twenty years that have made our daily routine much more efficient. The time it used to take to conduct certain chores has been reduced by half—shopping for anything can be done with the click of a button, and there is an abundance of free communication channels at our disposal. Even the farthest corners of the world have never been more accessible for travel than they are today. Assuming, of course, we can afford the latest technology and the itinerary expenses.
It’s impossible to deny that things are definitely much more convenient today than decades ago when our fathers and mothers didn’t even have a way of knowing if you were a boy or a girl until you were finally delivered into their arms. And with the standard of intelligence and innovation at its peak, things are only going to get better, faster, and definitely easier.
So why is it so annoying to hear other people judge our lives as such?
The statement that kids today have it too easy obviously has a negative rhetoric behind it. It was never meant to be a compliment but a criticism of the current social environment, one that I have heard many times from a number of affluent, self-made parents. They have an endless supply of comparisons to illustrate just how easy the lives of their children are compared to their own.
“They complain about traffic but they should be grateful they have nice cars to drive them around. I had to walk, take the bus, the jeep, and the tricycle to get to work every day.”
“They complain about how slow their mobile data services are when we didn’t even have mobile phones when we were their age.”
“They complain about dealing with clients over the phone when back in the day, we had to go door-to-door just to make a living.”
This led me to the conclusion that most wealthy parents, if not all of them, believe that their children are spoiled. And why wouldn’t they? They’ve spent millions to provide their children a comfortable home, top-dollar education, the latest gadgets, and all the opportunities to pursue the highly coveted “work-life balance.” Being able to say that they were able to impart the very luxuries that they were deprived of as a child is their badge of honor—something they have earned the right to tout with pride to their friends. But in our culture, being boastful is considered bad manners, so instead of outright gloating, they became the pioneers of humblebragging. “Oh, I spoil my kids too much. I don’t know what I’m going to do about them.”
Spoiled. I absolutely hated being associated with that word when I was younger. It took a lot of self-restraint not to answer back every time uncle Chairman would see me grabbing Starbucks on a break and casually greet me with, “Oh you’re so lucky your daddy spoils you. No wonder you don’t need to work.”
How dare he. I had multiple projects waiting for me at my desk, three press releases to write, and after my hot caramel macchiato was gone, I would once again have to succumb to the stress of corporate life. Problems? I had my own fair share of worries, just like everyone else, and in my eyes that made all of us equal.
Except that it didn’t.
On a rather busy morning in 2006, I was driving to one of my first presentation meetings as a fresh graduate, newly assigned to the position of product manager of our company. One of our veteran account executives, Aida, accompanied me just to make sure I didn’t screw up too badly on my first marketing pitch. With a good hour and a half stuck in traffic, I was able to spend a certain amount of time getting to really know one of the biggest assets on our sales team. Aida had joined us way back when I was still in high school. She had repeatedly proven over the years how exceptional she was at her job. Our regular customers were loyal to her service. She was professional when engaging with suppliers and her sales numbers were consistently through the roof.
As she shared her valuable advice on how to work with our clients, I found myself asking more questions than providing answers despite the fact that I was supposed to be the one managing her. I was so impressed by her ideas that I blurted out with genuine curiosity, “Why am I the one doing this presentation? Shouldn’t it be you?”
She laughed, but I couldn’t let it go and pressed for her thoughts. With a shrug, she spoke to me with kind but direct honesty. “That’s life. Your family owns this company and I work for you. What will complaining about it do? I have children to feed. There are things that I have to accept but that shouldn’t stop me from working hard. What matters is that I love my job and, maybe in a few more years, management will notice that and they’ll let me move up. In the meantime, I’m glad that if they were going to put any COO (child of owner) in charge of our team, it was you.”
I should have felt honored by her trust in my capabilities, but it did little to mask the overwhelming sense of guilt and shame upon seeing our circumstances from her perspective. She had unintentionally revealed to me that I had been living in a shadow of overconfidence. That I, as a fresh graduate, felt that I had been given a managerial position because I deserved it, earned through the harsh labors of thesis work and projects assigned to me in college. Earned? What real-life track record did I have to prove that I had earned anything?
Right after our pitch that day, Aida gave me a gleeful hug as she told me how floored our client was with the product that we had showed them and how “potential buyers” had become “sure buyers” within a matter of minutes. Modesty aside, I was well aware that I had put on the best performance of my life, but what she didn’t know was that it was her presence in the room that fully motivated me to step up my game. It had nothing to do about trying to prove that I was better than her in an attempt to establish that I was the rightful choice to be the boss. No. Instead, it had everything to do with trying to impress a mentor—someone whose respect I wanted to earn and someone who I wanted to watch me with pride as I fought for every project beside her as a partner and as a colleague.
I was only able to work with Aida for two short years, but she still serves as a motivating factor for confirming an important realization about my life—I am spoiled. And my life is easy.
Overcoming denial is always the first hump. But it is one of the most painful ones. Accepting that I was a second-generation, entitled COO was obviously a more hurtful alternative than accepting a job offer because I felt that I was the best person for the position.
But the truth hurts. And sometimes I feel as if I was too dumb not to have recognized it sooner. I was never asked to submit a resume, there was no record of my GPA in their system, and there had been no screening and no job interview. Almost instantly, a worktable had been set out, buffed and stocked with supplies, just waiting for my arrival literally the day after I walked across a stage to accept my diploma.
At that point, I was aware that there was no clearer definition of the word easy. And to think that I had initially used the word equal to describe the level of stress and worries that my staff and I were experiencing. The mere fact that my team had openly welcomed me as their new supervisor before diving back into their work was evidence that they had more important things to worry about than office nepotism.
So the remaining question was—now what? What do we do once we find out that we are not the most qualified person for the job? What is the plan after we acknowledge the notion that our entitlement, not our aptitude, was the primary reason why we were able to take the elevator straight up the corporate ladder?
One thing that I’ve learned is that quitting can sometimes be considered the easier way out. It’s actually more convenient for us to immediately throw our hands up in surrender and give up without even a minor attempt to make the most of a situation. We can choose to say, “OK, I’m not the best person for the job so I’m just going to leave.” Or we can muster the courage to accept the situation we are in and then work ten times harder than everyone else in the room to improve ourselves to the degree of excellence expected of our position.
Entitlement is not a physical handicap. It is a mindset and a personal belief that we can opt to feed further or learn to manage wisely. It is about earning the right to be entitled, not by birth, but by our work ethic, our morals, our actions, our thoughts, and our ability to serve as an example to those around us. It is a challenge to own our title to personal success, and that hurdle, I can promise you, is certainly no easy task to overcome.
*This excerpt is taken from Raising Heirs by Eleanore Lee Teo.
Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash.
The first generation makes the money. The second generation spends it. By the third generation, there’s nothing left. It’s the same classic story that we’ve heard before and we can’t help but ask — why do many accomplished entrepreneurs find it easier to build a business than to raise their children to become independently successful?
This book is for those wondering why their children are lazy and reckless with their money. This is for the children who wonder why they’re being labeled as lazy and self-indulgent. And this is for those who are close to success and have the time to prepare their children for what’s to come.
The solution lies in your hands. The best part about it is that it won’t cost you a fortune.
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