Brian Russell's new book Stop Moaning, Start Owning: How Entitlement is Ruining America and How Personal Responsibility Can Fix It addresses the ways in which Americans lack personal responsibility and what needs to be done in order to be happy, emotionally and psychologically healthy.
This book, which I got a chance to review, was sort of preaching to the choir for me. I think people need to own up to responsibilities, especially people in my generation and younger. There are a lot of people with a lack of accountability, and Russell looks at what people blame for unhappiness, why we are in an age of entitlement, and what it really means to assume personal responsibility.
This Q&A with the author helps explain even more.
What are the 3 biggest "moans” of Americans in 2015?
They're unhappy, they want lots of nonessential things, and nothing's their fault.
Why is there so much moaning in America in 2015?
It starts at home. Some parents overindulge their kids, try to spare
their kids any disappointments, treat their kids like friends instead of
kids, and foster a grandiose narcissism in the kids, while other
parents get wrapped up in their own narcissism, have affairs, divorce,
start new families, and foster an angry narcissism in the kids. Then our
schools reinforce the narcissism by relaxing academic and behavioral
expectations, promoting self-esteem over self-efficacy, giving every kid
a trophy or canceling recognition ceremonies and banning holiday
parties so no kid has to experience not being
included in something. Meanwhile, churches, which tend to focus us on
things larger than ourselves, are increasingly absent from kids' lives
these days. Then our popular culture, from advertising to social media
to the idolization of miscreants in sports and entertainment, reinforces
the notion that life is all about me, that I deserve to have what I
want, to be happy, to be excused if I behave badly and that I'm owed
these things by others. And lastly, our public policy, from tax policy
to no-fault divorce laws to lax criminal penalties, too often rewards
entitlement instead and irresponsibility.
What does it mean to "own” instead of moan?
Owning is taking personal responsibility for one's happiness, for
fulfilling one's needs and wants in life, and for one's behavior, which
components: first, accountability, for behavior that's been unproductive
in the past, and second, obligation, to behave productively in the
What enables people to stop moaning and start owning?
Ultimately, when we really think about what's best for us, individually
and collectively, it's owning, not moaning, and there are multiple
influences that can help people arrive at that conclusion sooner rather
than later in life. Again, it starts at home, with parents who work to
foster personal responsibility. Then schools and churches play roles in
reinforcing what those parents are doing at home and teaching kids to
buck the cultural trend toward entitlement. And finally, the right
public policy rewards personal responsibility instead of entitlement.
What's your prescription for personal prosperity?
Eight simple steps that any able-bodied, able-minded adult – poor,
rich, white, black, female, or male – can implement: 1) Don't commit any
crimes, 2) Don't get addicted to anything, 3) Don't quit school, 4)
Don't make a baby out of wedlock (these four "don'ts” alone will keep
virtually anyone out of poverty in America, but those who want to not
just stay out of poverty but actually prosper in America can add these
next four "do's”), 5) Do delay gratification, 6) Do take personal
responsibility for fulfilling your needs and wants, 7) Do be
accountable, and 8) Do make a uniquely positive contribution to
something larger than yourself.
What's your prescription for
living a more grateful life?
Adopting a grateful perspective on life acts as an inoculation against
entitlement and a booster of personal responsibility, and all that's
required are four simple steps which, here again, anyone can implement:
1) Get your priorities straight, 2) Count your blessings, 3) Give
thanks, sincerely and often, and 4) Be generous.
About the Author:
Brian Russell is a clinical psychologist and an attorney who also holds
an MBA. Among the major media psychologists, he has an incomparably
well-rounded perspective on what inhibits productive behavior and
facilitates destructive behavior at the individual, family, and societal
levels in America. As a therapist, Dr. Brian has spent countless hours
treating adult and child clinical and relational problems, as well as
representing both high- and low-profile clients as a lawyer, explaining
the root causes of destructive behavior as an expert in courtrooms,
classrooms, boardrooms, and to the general public via speeches, radio.