This post is the result of my experience of a juxtaposition of giving food to poor young children in India vs. my behaviour when eating in a restaurant, as well as a conversation on a bus. This experience and the conversation that made me realise how unknowingly I (and perhaps we) can fall into a sense of entitlement.
I used to believe the world owed me. Growing up, I often felt hindered. Friends had more money, nicer houses, bigger networks, more charisma, more talent.
I used to believe the world owed me. My success was my own. I battled adversity to become who I am.
Over time, I have realised that that none of this is true. Not even remotely true. The real story is that I’ve been given gifts – many, many gifts. I’ve been given an incredible platform from which to do things, a platform built by those around me.
By whatever genetic quirks, I’ve been given an ability to think about things in a way that many others do not. I’ve been given a natural disposition that allows me to face the world in a way that is relatively detached. I’ve been given a healthy body (albeit one that I’ve neglected!).
I feel blessed to have a family support network that starts with my parents and brother but extends to uncles, aunts and cousins. My parents instilled in me values and encouraged me to study above all else. My aunts and uncles have always been there, have provided a home when my parents moved abroad, have shown me ways to interact with the world. I have never felt a shortage of love.
I feel blessed to have found my wife. Her energy and enthusiasm for life are a wonder to behold. Her ability to think through all of life’s problems from the highest philosophical perspective down to the tiniest detail consistently amazes me. She supports all of my crazy ideas and loves me for me. I am so grateful for our honest, fully vulnerable relationship. As an additional benefit, I now have the strength and support of not one but two families. My mother- and father-in-law and sister- and brother-in-law are wonderful examples of how to be, but the whole extended family is nothing but loving and supportive.
I am not someone who naturally connects with people, but I am so grateful for the friends that I do have. Some I’ve grown up with, others are new. I’m constantly learning about myself and the world, and the progress I make is in no small part down to the varied and insightful discussions I have with the people in my life.
I feel lucky to not want for food, drink, shelter, comfort. I’ve made many, many poor financial decisions in my life, but I’m lucky enough to have everything I need to satisfy the lower bits of Maslow’s hierarchy and much, much more.
I feel lucky that I got an education in how to work at some of the world’s best companies. I’ve had inspirational colleagues with many different skills and strengths. I’ve been given opportunities to work all over the world, with so many interesting people. My career to date has given me the opportunities to interact with people from all walks of life.
I’ve travelled near and far and seen some of this amazing world. I’ve spent time in nature and in cities, with people and alone. I’ve been subject and witness to acts of kindness. I’ve experienced many aspects of humanity. I’ve had experiences that I never dreamed I could have had. I’ve eaten in the best restaurants and had wonderful street food. I’ve had adrenaline rushes, contemplative moments, crazy jokes and everything in between.
Chance would have it that I was born into a country with a high GDP, elements of freedom and cultural influence. Chance would have it that I was born in a place with high-quality free education and healthcare. I’m lucky to have grown up in and to continue to be part of a globally connected city that quickly opened my eyes to new opportunities, trends and ways of thinking. I’m lucky to be born in a time which allows me as an ethnic minority to not face (as much) prejudice and in a time when violence in this world is at the lowest level it has ever been (let’s hope it stays that way).
Through it all, I’m grateful to have had mentors and teachers that have believed in me and helped me grow.
I need to ensure that I never take any of this for granted. I want to make sure I’m thankful every day for the things I have been given.
There are of course things in my life that could be better. There are things that have not gone my way. Even things that have not gone my way have led me on this path.
I used to believe that the world owed me. Nothing is further from the truth. Any success I have is not my own, and any challenges I face I do not face alone. I owe the world – and surely it is my duty to pay the world back.