Sheer Willpower Isn’t the Problem—Entitlement Is

Willpower Isn't the Problem—Entitlement Is

The more I study ultra-performer business founders, the more I’m convinced of one thing. 

I believe that 98% of success is the sheer result of one’s ability to keep pressing forward with a high degree of intensity regardless of the challenging circumstances. In a word, it’s perseverance. But the reason why most people don’t persevere is different than you might expect.

It’s not because they lack willpower. It’s not because they’re destined to quit. And it’s not because other people are more capable.

It’s because most people struggle with entitlement. Entitlement is the belief that things shouldn’t have to be so hard—that it’s unfair for me to encounter so many challenges. Entitlement is the mindset that I’ve already gone through enough difficulty, and things should be easier.

Somewhere along the journey of building a successful company, every entrepreneur must conquer this disgusting disease. Entitlement destroys our ability to reach our dreams because it erodes our ability to activate our discipline.

We are all capable of continuing in the midst of the most difficult circumstances. We’ve all heard true stories of survival—people hiking to safety after a plane crash, cutting off their own arms or drifting helplessly at sea for weeks until being rescued. A Navy Seal friend of mine always says, “the human body can survive damn near anything. It’s the mind that needs conditioning.”

The reason most of us don’t endure is because of a much simpler reason than we often realize: We think we shouldn’t have to. We incorrectly assume that if someone else has something, it should be simple for us to have it too. In the worst cases of entitlement, we feel we are owed something and it’s someone else’s fault if we don’t yet have it.

 But no matter the cause, we know for sure that the moment our entitlement engages is the exact moment our self-discipline disengages. Thus, our inability to persevere.

The power to persevere comes largely from realizing there’s no other option. It is not only understanding, but embracing that life is a series of struggles—a repeating set of difficulties no matter who you are. And it is knowing that each individual obstacle will either make you stronger or weaker.

This brings us to the most important mindset that separates ultra-performers from everybody else. Ultra-performers know that success is never owned; it is only rented, and the rent is due every day.

Ultra-performers are not afraid of the idea that life is a continuous set of challenges. Instead, they are empowered by the notion that they have overcome in the past and will continue to overcome in the future. The best entrepreneurs don’t subscribe to the lie that, once they’ve achieved a certain amount of success, they have made it. They know they aren’t owed anything. They don’t waste time or energy complaining or being frustrated that things are hard.

They know it’s inherently part of the process because success is never owned; it’s only rented, and the rent is due every day. When I first published this rent axiom in my book Take the Stairs, I wondered if people would find it defeating because it erases the idea of a finish line. But it’s been embraced and shared by some of the highest performers in the world, including people like NFL megastar J.J. Watt.

In any field, the greats thrive on knowing that how successful or unsuccessful they were yesterday makes no difference. In either case, the only thing that matters is how you show up and what you do today. So if you’re a low achiever, your past does not matter and you must get started right now. If you’re a high achiever, your past does not matter and you must keep going right now.

All that matters is the choice you make today—to keep going, to persevere.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Photos by Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

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