“To get what you want, you have to deserve what you want. The world is not yet a crazy enough place to reward a whole bunch of undeserving people.” – Charlie Munger
You can point the blame in a ton of directions to explain why you don’t have what you personally want in your life.
You can blame your parents for the way they raised you. Or you can blame the socio-economic status you grew up with. You can blame your characteristics — the color of your skin, your attractiveness, your IQ.
The explanations might fit perfectly. But are they useful? I love that word, useful. It strips away all the additional context we add to the scenarios in our life — right and wrong, fair and unfair, lucky and unlucky.
Is it more useful to believe that to get what you want, you have to deserve what you want? Or should you believe that having the things you want is entirely outside of your control?
You know the answer. But you live in a reality you’ve created with your rationalizations. On top of that, you have a culture that will placate your beliefs and make you feel like you should have what you want just because you want it.
But if you look at the way the world works, you know that’s never the case. You know which attitude is most useful to hold. But it’s not the easiest one. Far from it.
“There two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” – Simon Sinek
Let’s dive into that word, deserve.
You can look at it from many different angles and the word carries a different meaning depending on the context. Some people say they deserve to make a certain living.
We all probably deep down feel like we deserve to live a good life, whatever that means to each of us. You might say you deserve to have great people in your life, good relationships, and a solid network.
Whichever way you slice it and whatever ‘thing’ you’re talking about deserving, always ask yourself why? The quality of the answer to that question usually reveals the most useful answer.
When you say you deserve something without having to work for it, you’re trying to manipulate the world into giving it to you.
Let’s say you want to make a better living. Ask yourself, why do you deserve to make a better living? Do you have the skills that warrant a better living? Do you have a unique set of rare and valuable talents? Can you create something that reaches many people at once? Have you studied the process of making money?
If you can’t answer yes to any of these questions, why do you deserve more money? At this point, most people will start to rationalize and give reasons why they want more money, disguised as reasons why they deserve more.
“Every one of us deserves to make ‘x’ amount of money” Why? “Because it’s fair” According to who? “Income inequality is out of control.” Sure, it probably is, but you still haven’t answered the question of why you deserve more money.
When it comes to other areas of your life like your general well being and relationships, ask yourself why you deserve contentment in these areas in the first place. Because you want contentment? Ok, but what have you done to deserve contentment?
“Contentment isn’t something you should need to earn.” Ok, but what’s the reality in your life? “The right people should want to be in my life.” Ok, but what if they don’t? What are you going to do about it?
Ultimately, with all of these questions, if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit that you don’t have some of the things you want in your life because you haven’t done what it takes deserve them or you subconsciously don’t feel you deserve them.
Let’s talk about ways to tackle both.
“Despite a voluminous and often fervent literature on “income distribution,” the cold fact is that most income is not distributed: It is earned.”
― Thomas Sowell
In some cases, the reality of the situation at hand determines whether or not you’ll get what you want, regardless of your feelings about the situation.
Here’s a classic example. “Teachers should get paid as much as pro athletes.” In terms of the value they provide to the community, you could make the argument that teachers deserve to make as much as athletes. But when you look at the economics of it, they don’t.
Take someone like LeBron James. Is it fair that he makes hundreds of millions of dollars? Does he deserve that money? Well, he just happens to have a skill that many, many, many people will pay to see. He also spent the past three decades honing his innate talents.
Mathematically, it’s impossible for a teacher to make as much as an athlete. Also, no one forces anyone to become a teacher. That’s a choice. A choice people make knowing the financial rewards, or lack thereof, upfront.
Money is the easiest area to make this point, but it applies to a ton of other areas too. You have to play the deserving game based on the rules the market sets, not the rules you make up. Not the idealist rules. Not the way things should be.
You also have to understand that your choices help create your outcomes. Everything comes with a tradeoff. You can choose routes that are safer yet less rewarding or riskier paths with higher payoffs.
You can choose to work from your starting place or get upset that you started further behind than others, which keeps you stuck. Fairness isn’t a useful word in this game. You don’t get to choose whether or not you’re in the game. I hope you get that. You can only choose how you want to play.
Think of the ways you might not yet deserve what you want from a more objective point of view based on what the market wants. When I say market, understand there are many markets — financial markets, social markets, career markets, etc.
If you don’t play the right game, a game with high rewards that you can also win, and put yourself in a position to win that game, you won’t get what you want, period.
Sure, but it will be hard. You know this, but you want to avoid the hard part, so you live and tend to die with your rationalizations.
Which is more likely to work? Bending the rules of reality itself to fit your definition? Or doing whatever you can with your own self-improvement to become more deserving of what you want by playing the market’s game?
Again, you know the answer. You’ve known the answer since the beginning of the article. I could’ve just posted the quote and called it a day. But I want to hammer this home so you’re left with no excuses moving forward.
“Success is something you attract by the person you become ” – Jim rohn
Deep down, you’re not going to get what you want in this life unless you feel like you deserve it. See, when you rationalize away the things you want by saying you should just have them, you’re really admitting you think you’re not worthy of these things in the first place.
Often, you sabotage yourself out of the things you want because you don’t feel like you deserve them. You don’t want to work on yourself because you’re afraid that you’ll still fall short. You feel like you’ll still fall short because you lack some inherent worth.
It’s one thing to not try at all and live under the spell of your own lies. It’s another thing to put your effort into something and have the outside world confirm that all your insecurities are true. Tough to deal with, to say the least.
So you fight this paradoxical battle — working on yourself to get better outcomes in real life to ultimately feel more deserving of yourself which attracts opportunities into your life much more easily. It’s a strange process, but it works.
I’ll tell you this. Odds are, you’re wrong about that deep-seated belief in your inherent lack of self-worth. It’s just a dumb, super irrational, deeply wired mind-fuck thing we all have.
You could just snap out of it and realize your inherent worth, which would draw the things you want into your life, but it’s hard to trick yourself without some evidence.
So, you do the work just enough to give you more confidence to do more work until you eventually come full circle and realize that you could’ve gained all those skills without all the extra emotion added on top.
Then, you get the rewards, which teach you the ultimate lesson.
One of the great insights of psychoanalysis is that you never really want an object, you only want the wanting, which means the solution is to set your sights on an impossible ideal and work hard to reach it. You won’t. That’s not just okay, that’s the point. It’s okay if you fantasize about knowing kung fu if you then try to actually learn kung fu, eventually you will understand you can never really know kung fu, and then you will die. And it will have been worth it. – The Last Psychiatrist
Is the point of life to keep chasing the things you want, ultimately never being fully satisfied, only to go through the loop over and over again?
I think so.
Stoicism is boring. So is a never-ending ascetic life of mindfulness where you sit alone in a room and meditate all day. I’ve waffled back and forth on this over time, but going through the process of wanting something and then getting it is way better than never trying at all.
Sure, you come to find out that success isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, but, it’s still pretty damn good.
Money isn’t everything, but having enough money to have the freedom to do what you want is huge. You shouldn’t live your life for validation and status, but it feels good to have other people, the world, appreciate you for what you bring to the table.
You won’t feel whole after achieving your goals and getting what you want, but you’ll know yourself at a deeper level because you’ve gone through the process.
Look, you can BS yourself and say you don’t want what you want, or that you already deserve what you want and the world is unfair, but you know where that leaves you, nowhere. And you know it. Stop lying to yourself.
You could admit that you want it, develop a plan to get the skills to deserve it, and have it.