What the World Owes You

I have always been perplexed by the phrase, "The world doesn't owe you anything."


This phrase is often uttered by someone who has experienced hurt or tragedy and sees the world as an unforgiving, inhospitable place that doesn't cater to the whims or desires of those that inhabit it. It's often connected to a severe sense of pessimism towards humanity and their intentions. It's a cold and dark view to have of the world.


And yet, I agree with it.


If you have ever met someone who believed that because they are kind, or generous, or gracious that the world should somehow return that sentiment, you most likely didn't enjoy being around them. It comes down to our intentions. Being just and kind for the sake of justice and kindness is one thing, but doing it so that justice and kindness is returned in favor is completely missing the point. This is sometimes called the bankers view of life, believing that if we don't get as much out as we put in, we are being cheated.


This mindset can lead to a "why me" attitude, leaving us unhappy with our circumstances and constantly comparing to those we believe got dealt a better hand, even they didn't "earn" it.


Author Seth Godin points us towards a healthier, more sustainable mindset in his book What To Do When It’s Your Turn (and it’s always your turn). He tells us that our worldview is much healthier by internalizing the following two truths:

  1. Nobody owes you anything (no, not even a thank you).

  2. It is actually you who owe the world.

It may sound harsh to say the world doesn't owe us anything. But the result of believing and embracing this mindset results in a more joyful and altruistic existence.