Chew On It: Privilege, Entitlement & Responsibility

I’ve been very fortunate to travel extensively and as I’ve explored the world, it’s highlighted to me what an incredible privilege it is to live in the beautiful, multicultural city of Sydney.

I’m proud of the fact that I chose to become an Australian citizen, but I often feel that my fellow Australians don’t realise just how fortunate they are to be living in a country that is safe (speak to any South African who has emigrated here) and orderly, offers free first world healthcare, and has few natural disasters, good seasonal weather, an abundance of different cultural cuisine and the best coffee in the world! Yet, with so much to be grateful for, many seem to find so much to complain about…

Last month, for example, one of the lifts was out of order at Elixr’s building in Bondi Junction. This minor inconvenience resulted in a disproportionate amount of moaning and complaining as tenants were upset about having to wait longer than usual and because the lift was so full. Some were so impatient that they kept pressing the button as if this would somehow speed up the lift. Me, I was just grateful that one lift was still working, so that I didn’t have to climb 20 flights of stairs to my office!

Another thing we like to complain about is having to wait at hospitals for free world-class healthcare, when what we should be focusing on is the quality of service we are receiving. When friends of mine needed emergency care after a cycling accident, one of which resulted in a brain injury, the level of service and professionalism they received was exemplary. We need to realise that our free healthcare and subsidised medication are not rights but massive privileges, and be mindful that millions of people who don’t have access to decent healthcare.

I mentioned that we live in a relatively safe country, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take care to avoid ending up in dangerous situations. When I teach self-defence, many of my students expect to learn self-defence techniques and it upsets me to see so-called ‘experts’ claiming to teach self-defence and then teaching their students useless techniques that leave them with a false sense of security. I teach people to avoid putting themselves in risky situations before teaching them a few simple and effective techniques.

Similarly, while we live in a fairly law-abiding country, never take it for granted that people will always follow the rules. As an example, while vehicles are required by law to stop for pedestrians at pedestrian crossings, stepping onto one without first checking that approaching cars are slowing down, is pure stupidity. Take responsibility for your actions; you may have the right to do something, but make sure you also have the sense to know when to take advantage of your rights.

Finally, Sydney may be expensive, but making money here isn’t difficult. Immigrants tend to do well in Sydney as they are prepared to work hard because they realise that there are many more opportunities available to them here than in their country of origin.

I have been a poor student who went on to do very well in my first business and then lost it all in a divorce and failed business. At that point, I could easily have developed a victim mentality and languished in the land of self-pity (I would probably still have been there). As that option was totally unappealing to me, I chose instead to find a way and make my way to where I wanted to be. And while life’s challenges and adversities continue, the joy of overcoming them enriches my life.

My suggestion: Stop complaining and move your mind from a negative space to one of contentment and appreciation. You’ll find that life becomes far more rewarding when you do.