“Never stand begging for what you have the power to earn.”
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
“Remain hungry but do not start begging.”
Life will keep you on your knees if you let it.
Begging is hardwired into our DNA. Everyone is born a begger. When you were a newborn, the only thing you knew how to do was beg. You begged for milk, sleep, attention and comfort. As a toddler, you continued to beg. You begged for toys, friends, candy, and television. In school, you begged to be popular, make the team, and to get good grades. Then you begged to graduate and get into a decent college. Then you begged for a job. That’s when the begging really began. Please give me a job. Please give me a good review. Please give me a promotion. Please don’t fire me. Please like me.
The effects of constant begging are gruesome. I saw these effects first-hand in Graduate school. M.D.s and Ph.D.s who managed University laboratories would spend 80 hours a week writing grants, begging for enough money to stay afloat for another year or two. As government funding continued to drop, many of these labs were forced to shut down. Worst of all, the people running these labs had no idea what to do with themselves afterwards. They were so dependent on a single skillset and a lone career path that they didn’t know how to do anything else. As a result, most of them had to beg the University to keep them on as a part-time professor or a research scientist in someone else’s lab. Even though these people were highly educated, they had no idea how to make something happen for themselves. This phenomenon occurs not only in science, but also in other advanced degree career tracks. For example, last year the fraction of new J.D.s finding a full-time job requiring a state bar license dropped from 74% to less than 60%. More J.D.s than ever are out of work. These people are begging for jobs, not because they lack value, but because they’ve become dependent on a single skillset.
The Dependence Paradox
Sooner or later, everyone gets tired of begging. The problem is that it’s impossible not to beg when you’re completely dependent on another person, project, or company. If you only have one thing going for you, you are dependent on that one thing. This is especially true in in business and entrepreneurship. Too many people get one job using one skillset and spend the rest of their lives begging to keep that job. They become beggars because they don’t have anything else to offer. Making money by begging for it is not sustainable.
Dependency develops over time. First, your employer hires you because of your unique qualities. Then, you become comfortable in your new position and stop developing new qualities. Finally, you become dependent on your position and have to beg to keep it. This begging often comes in the form of constant worry, gossiping with colleagues, or trying to find out how much your boss likes or dislikes you. When you waste your time engaging in office politics instead of being productive – you’re begging. This dependency sequence occurs not only in business and entrepreneurship, but in personal relationships as well. At the start, two people grow close because they are attracted to each other’s qualities. Then, one person becomes too comfortable in the new relationship and stops developing their qualities. Finally, that same person becomes dependent on the relationship and begs to stay in it. Dependency always results in begging for more, getting less, and eventually falling short.
The first sign of being dependent on something is being overly concerned about losing it. The reason it’s so easy to become completely dependent on a person or a career path is because we are taught to make a choice and give everything to that choice. We are led to believe that loyalty can only be achieved through dependence and begging. Being loyal and committed to your job is critical advice but it’s not the complete picture. Your goal should not be to better an organization by giving everything to it; your goal should be to better an organization by giving everything to yourself. The best way to improve something else is by improving yourself first. Always start with your own entrepreneurship development.
Dependency is caused by a paradox. At first glance, it seems that dependency would strengthen the bond between two parties. The paradox is that being dependent on someone or something else makes both parties despise each other. Dependency breeds resentment. An employer doesn’t want to pay you just because you’re dependent on your job and you don’t want an employer to pay you just because you’re dependent on your job (or at least you shouldn’t). Instead, you want to be paid because you have something valuable to offer. You want to be paid because you are valued. And your employer wants to exchange value for value, not value for dependency. Complete dependency has no place in business and entrepreneurship. It also has no place in your personal relationships.
The Begging Cure
Make something happen for yourself. The only way to stop begging is to start bringing more to the table. Understand that one skillset will not get you to the top of your profession anymore. Being really great at teaching, selling, building, or networking is not enough. You have to be really great at teaching, selling, building and networking. Today’s world is too fluid and connected to allow anyone to ride a single skillset to ultimate success. This means that no matter your profession, you have to start developing an entrepreneurial mindset. You have to learn how to make something happen for yourself. An entrepreneurial, or can-do mindset will help you improve confidence and find good ways to make money.
Make time to climb and connect. In Graduate school, the M.D.s and Ph.D.s that I admired the most were the ones who had 2-3 side projects. Instead of just beating their heads against the wall by writing and rewriting the same grant proposal, these doctors collaborated with biotechnology companies, formed partnerships with other doctors, and created their own online consulting services. There’s always time to make something happen for yourself. The key is making your own entrepreneurship development a priority. This means making time to work on yourself and work for yourself.
Strive for independence and loyalty over dependence and begging. Making something happen for yourself shows initiative, ambition, and creativity, three skills that are highly magnetic to employers and other people. Nothing is more empowering (and attractive) than the ability to force an idea into existence. Stop wasting your time worrying about keeping your job and start developing yourself. Connect with 3-4 likeminded people and form a mastermind group or partnership. Start a blog or build a website and offer your consulting services. Write a book or create an online product. Take a hobby to the next level or attend a conference that’s completely outside of your field. You can do all of these things while maintaining your loyalty and comittment to your current career track and relationships. Making something happen for yourself is the quickest way to expand your skillset and increase your value. And valuable people don’t have to beg.