Deserve vs Earn: Lifters versus Leaners

People want a lot. They think they deserve a lot. Hardly anybody wants to work for what they get. A long time ago, an Amway distributor said, from the stage, a great phrase: “Everybody wants the results; nobody wants to do the work.”

It’s still true, that there’s a paucity of Those Who Lift, and Those Who Lean. This old John Maxwell principle says that for every 20 people who Lift, there are 20 who Lean. Lifters bring up the mood, help you get somewhere you want to go, elevate the professionalism and tone. The Leaners simply find the stable person, or fencepost, who holds things together….and they place their heavy burdens on that person. They feel lighter, and you feel heavier.

Lift vs Lean

Everyone Just Needs a Hand Up

This is a very PC idea – if people receive help, later on, they will give help. If you just trust in them and believe in them more than anyone has ever done in their lives, they will bloom and blossom and grow into olive trees who produce amazing fruit.

…..Is Not Always True

Sadly, this isn’t borne out by everyday observation. You can pour a great deal of time and effort into a thornbush – water it, dig around it, apply fertilizer – and it will produce an amazing crop of …. thorns. Briers. Things that stick like small burrs in your socks and make life horribly uncomfortable. A bush that is only fit for burning.

Good Trees Produce Good Fruit

Good Tree Bad Tree

Only olive trees, pecan trees, or grapefruit trees (pick any other tree that produces something worthwhile) produce something worthwhile. If you dig and fertilize and water these types of trees, they will produce. Amazingly.

Thornbushes vs Fruit Trees

What’s the problem? Sometimes, olive trees are straggly and ugly and look like thornbushes.


Here’s the answer – after a year, you should see some small, tentative fruit peeking out. If you don’t see anything new after a year, give up and leave the tree to languish in the wilderness.

Business Application

Think of all the clients, employees, and ‘helpers’ who have either offered something helpful or turned into bigger weights on your mind. If you had known that these people would either produce or sap energy from your life, after a year, would it have been worthwhile to include or exclude them from your life? Would it have been worthwhile to pay someone over $500 to get rid of a Leaner?

False Guilt

There’s a very Biblical idea that people have forgotten how to apply in the business world: “If a man does not work, neither should he eat.” This means that a co-worker who is not pulling their weight, after a few warnings, should be fired. The strategically shabby person on the street-corner, holding a latte, should not be rewarded with a few more dollars for another latte. A person who lazes their way through life should be highly uncomfortable.

If you are a small business owner, you probably feel just a twinge (or a big jolt) of resentment against people who get benefits that you will never get, for not working. This is quite a natural resentment. Our screwy society would rather be ‘nice’ to leeches – Leaners who have brought Leaning to a fine art – than to admit that these people should have to suffer a little. Complain a little about life. And then, go get some work done.

Deserve vs Earn

Deserve vs Earn

People who think they deserve everything out of life, without contributing anything, should learn that they don’t deserve much. If you set the expectation in your business and in your family, to ‘change your blueprint’ to something reflecting the value and satisfaction of a job well done, the Leaners will drift away. You will be much less burdened. You will allow a lot less crappy illogical ideas to float around you, unchallenged, like ‘it’s just been hard times for me right now’. Because you will look those Leaners in the eye, refuse to pity them for their bad excuses, and say, “You’re just not working that hard.”

Overachievers – This Doesn’t Apply to You

Overachievers, please do not apply this to yourself. This applies to people who are always going to do something, who never get anything quite finished, who always seem to think that someone or something is their meal ticket to somewhere. They don’t offer to help, they don’t volunteer to fold newsletters, they just genially slouch and moan and complain through life.

If you can, learn to identify those who Lift, those who Lean, and spend time with the Lifters. Refuse to spend time with Leaners who sap your energy to no purpose, and you’ll have more energy to put into your business and your life. Hopefully, you’ll also no longer feel guilty for completely ignoring the people who act like you ought to be their therapist for free.

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