Foster an Earning Mentality

Kyle Lamb discusses the idea of Fostering an Earning Mentality in his book Leadership in the Shadows.

This goes not just for leaders seeking to develop their subordinates, but for individuals in striving toward becoming, and abiding as, as high performers. While high performance is it’s own reward, there are many dividends in having earned that place among one’s peers.

Not everyone seems to think this way…



tr.v. earned, earn·ing, earns

1. To gain especially for the performance of service, labor, or work: earned money by mowing lawns.
2. To acquire or deserve as a result of effort or action: She earned a reputation as a hard worker.


earn (one’s) spurs/stripes

To gain a position through hard work and the accumulation of experience, often in the face of difficulties.


“The definition of entitlement is: the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges). A sense of entitlement complex is linked with narcissism and borderline personality disorder.”
Now some will say that there is a decided lack of the former – an earning mentality – and a surplus of the latter feeling entitlement, amongst Millennials.
I beg to differ. While I personally do see it with some Millennials, they are simply following in the footsteps of certain of my own cohort that share the same personality traits. Indeed, some of the more credulous Millennials seem to find like personalities among older people to serve as mentors, coaches, and stepping stones to ensure that their careers, their positions, and their self-centered self-esteem are ensured and assured.
Reputation, and the idea of earning one’s place, be damned.
There are some who feel that such people need to be “learned,” that is, that they should be taught through blunt language and hard example that the only real position, status, or esteem is that which is earned.
It’s more likely that these people cannot learn. It is a matter of personality, nothing more and nothing less. “Learnin'” them would be akin to talking someone out of any number of other personality traits. Maybe long term professional counseling can deal with the manifestation of the entitled personality, but it won’t change the fundamental wiring. In many spheres, it works: public service is one which caters to a lack of earning mentality simply because every step of the way is controlled so as to be inclusive, to remove barriers, and to control for the negative effects that being incapable, being incompetent,  having earned a poor reputation, or simply never having ever really done anything – or done anything yet – have on careers in other fields. These personalities tend toward public service for exactly that reason. When one no longer has to earn anything, or to prove themselves through actual performance, there are a whole lot more opportunities available.
It has been said that “champions are not chosen from the ranks of the unscarred.”
Is it worth noting that it seems now that in our games we still feel that pride of place should go to those who have earned it, but in our lives, sometimes literally with lives in the balance, we no longer hold to that ideal?

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