No One Owes You Anything: A Letter from Harry Browne to his daughter.



“Everything you want in life has a price connected to it. There’s a price to pay if you want to make things better, a price to pay just for leaving things as they are, a price for everything.” — Harry Browne

During the darkest part of the night, who do you blame?

Do you know who Mr. Browne is? According to Wikipedia, Harry Browne (1933 – 2006) was a free-market libertarian writer and investment analyst who was the Presidential candidate of the United States Libertarian Party in 1996 and 2000. He was also Director of the American Liberty Foundation.

I don’t know what these characteristics translate into or even the kind of person Harry Browne was. I did, however, come across this letter he wrote at Christmas to his then nine-year old daughter. The letter was dated December 25, 1966.

I have shared Harry’s letter over the years with circles of friends and family. The responses have varied. Some have whole-heartedly agreed with Harry, yet some reacted with defensiveness, even contempt, not only for Mr. Browne, but toward me for sharing. Some felt the letter was cynical, harsh, even cruel. There were also those who thought that Harry’s words to his daughter offered them a new perspective on life.

For me, the letter was a great reminder of the expectations we attach to people, outcomes and situations, and the potential blame we assign when we don’t receive what we have desired.

Who is responsible for life’s outcomes? Who is responsible for our experiences?


Harry’s letter to his daughter:

It’s Christmas and I have the usual problem of deciding what to give you. I know you might enjoy many things — books, games, clothes.

But I’m very selfish. I want to give you something that will stay with you for more than a few months or years. I want to give you a gift that might remind you of me every Christmas.

If I could give you just one thing, I’d want it to be a simple truth that took me many years to learn. If you learn it now, it may enrich your life in hundreds of ways. And it may prevent you from facing many problems that have hurt people who have never learned it.

The truth is simply this: No one owes you anything.


How could such a simple statement be important? It may not seem so, but understanding it can bless your entire life.

No one owes you anything.

It means that no one else is living for you, my child. Because no one is you. Each person is living for himself; his own happiness is all he can ever personally feel.

When you realize that no one owes you happiness or anything else, you’ll be freed from expecting what isn’t likely to be.

It means no one has to love you. If someone loves you, it’s because there’s something special about you that gives him happiness. Find out what that something special is and try to make it stronger in you, so that you’ll be loved even more.

When people do things for you, it’s because they want to — because you, in some way, give them something meaningful that makes them want to please you, not because anyone owes you anything.

No one has to like you. If your friends want to be with you, it’s not out of duty. Find out what makes others happy so they’ll want to be near you.

No one has to respect you. Some people may even be unkind to you. But once you realize that people don’t have to be good to you, and may not be good to you, you’ll learn to avoid those who would harm you. For you don’t owe them anything either.

Living your Life

No one owes you anything.

You owe it to yourself to be the best person possible. Because if you are, others will want to be with you, want to provide you with the things you want in exchange for what you’re giving to them.

Some people will choose not to be with you for reasons that have nothing to do with you. When that happens, look elsewhere for the relationships you want. Don’t make someone else’s problem your problem.

Once you learn that you must earn the love and respect of others, you’ll never expect the impossible and you won’t be disappointed. Others don’t have to share their property with you, nor their feelings or thoughts.

If they do, it’s because you’ve earned these things. And you have every reason to be proud of the love you receive, your friends’ respect, the property you’ve earned. But don’t ever take them for granted. If you do, you could lose them. They’re not yours by right; you must always earn them.

My Experience

A great burden was lifted from my shoulders the day I realized that no one owes me anything. For so long as I’d thought there were things I was entitled to, I’d been wearing myself out —physically and emotionally — trying to collect them.

No one owes me moral conduct, respect, friendship, love, courtesy, or intelligence. And once I recognized that, all my relationships became far more satisfying. I’ve focused on being with people who want to do the things I want them to do.

That understanding has served me well with friends, business associates, lovers, sales prospects, and strangers. It constantly reminds me that I can get what I want only if I can enter the other person’s world. I must try to understand how he thinks, what he believes to be important, what he wants. Only then can I appeal to someone in ways that will bring me what I want.

And only then can I tell whether I really want to be involved with someone. And I can save the important relationships for those with whom I have the most in common.

It’s not easy to sum up in a few words what has taken me years to learn. But maybe if you re-read this gift each Christmas, the meaning will become a little clearer every year.

I hope so, for I want more than anything else for you to understand this simple truth that can set you free:

No one owes you anything.


What do you think? How did this letter make you feel? Leave your comments below.



Indulge in more Rebelle cha-cha:

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10 tips for how to keep an open heart from breaking every day.

11 tips to help your creativity explode.



{Life’s going nowhere without you.}


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Tanya Lee Markul
Co-Founder and Chief Editor of Rebelle Society (you are here). She’s convinced that she once swam the depths of the deepest ocean and in the next round, grew over two hundred feet tall. In this life, she’s a vulnerable creation in process. She has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism & a Master’s in Business. In 2009, surrendering to the good fight within, she became a certified teacher of yoga. Now a full-time devoted student to the sacred art of self-discovery and creative expression, she spends her days on her yoga mat, in wellness experimentation and tilling the fertile soil of Rebelle Society, sharing bouts of black sheepish rebellion, self-acceptance and the beauty of darkness and well-being. Tanya is the creator of and She is also the co-founder and Wellness Alchemist at Rebelle Wellness. Get to know her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and at Sign-up for her free, weekly Newsie and contact her via email:


  • FeistyAmazon commented on July 30, 2013 Reply
    There’s some very selfish aspects to this interpretation, such as the following: ” I’ve focused on being with people who want to do the things I want them to do. That understanding has served me well with friends, business associates, lovers, sales prospects, and strangers. It constantly reminds me that I can get what I want only if I can enter the other person’s world. I must try to understand how he thinks, what he believes to be important, what he wants. Only then can I appeal to someone in ways that will bring me what I want.” It almost smacks of USING friendships to get what you want because ‘nobody owes you anything’, so you gotta manipulate to get what you want, and to only associate with those who want to do the things this person wants them to do….that to me is NOT the basis of friendships or intimate relationships. It may be that way in the cold world of business and salesmanship, but take that philosophy into personal relationships and there will be much devastation. Everyone out for their own self interests and what THEY can get out of the relationship because nobody owes them anything, and they owe nobody else anything, so they’ll take what they want and manipulate to GET what they want. What a cold selfish philosophy. I’ve wanted to tell a few folks who whine and whine about not having things, and who do manipulate to get what they want by guilt tripping others and the whole emotional ‘woe is me’ thing. I feel so much I want to tell them ‘nobody owes you ANYTHING, and your manipulation and expectation that I should pay your way when I can barely afford things myself, is using me…I owe you NOTHING.” Other cultures are far more sharing than Western or American culture and people are brought up together and share what they have so noone is left without. They are brought up that everyone comes up together, and the collective is more important than the individual and individual success which is AT THE EXPENSE OF THE COLLECTIVE WHOLE. I think this is a big hole in American society, where folks are becoming more and more selfish. It’s uncharitable, unkind and makes folks more and more competitive and willing to manipulate each other TO GET WHAT THEY WANT AND NEED. And the whole ‘nobody owes you anything’ means exploiters can USE everybody else (the rich, company owners, CEO’s, Boards of Directors, ect.) can cut salaries to the bone, get rid of benefits, work people parttime, and make their wages basically unliveable while they make fat profits cuz they don’t owe anybody anything, nor do they feel they have to pay for employee healthcare, damage to the environment, or have any sense of social responsibility, because they don’t owe anybody anything while others starve and suffer. A very, very selfish way to live….that could and has lead to much destruction. Not a world I aspire to. -FeistyAmazon
    • Tanya Lee Markul
      tanya lee markul commented on July 30, 2013 Reply
      Hey Feisty Amazon – I agree with you about the American context (there’s only 1 winner, etc), however, aside from that, how does your view correlate with who is actually responsible for the experience of the individual? Are you saying that the community is more responsible than the individual for the individual’s experience? Is it truly self for the individual to not go around thinking that the everyone else owes them something? Thanks for sharing your points! A good discussion!
      • Skeye commented on June 21, 2014 Reply
        Feisty Amazon, that is what stood out for me as well. And what the writing lacks is a recognition of Connection….it operates from a total perspective of duality and separateness, and this is what is driving the Corporatist world domination ‘Manifest Destiny’. Yes, while there is truth that no one is owed anything (which also means no one has to earn the right to be here, to live), there is the responsibility that is inherent in our connection (if by nothing else than by scientifically verifiable means) to live in a manner that considers the whole, not just the individual. The ‘whole’, when recognized, can be called the ‘grand individual’ perhaps, it is the recognition that the limited personalized view of ‘self’ is not the whole and primary reality, but rather the expanded interwoven BEing that is all of Life itself. Whatever happens in this life for the individual, is made possible only by what happens through the whole…when this is recognized, there can be a natural gratitude and seeing that the individual is not in control of life, but alive only by the grace of the whole. For infinite potentiality beyond the ability of the individual to see, plan or act can happen at any time to end the being of the individual. This is what individuals are usually in fear of and acting from, to be ‘safe’ from Life…but once there is the recognition ‘I am Life’, there is nothing to fear and the actions open up to encompass life as a connected whole, as ‘self’. You can hear this in the wisdom of the ancient and alive native cultures the world over. This is what the ‘conquerors’ have feared and sought, and continue to seek, to erase from the world. This denial and ignorance is what drives and rationalizes the agenda of Corporate Globalization. Every ‘(hu)Man’ out for themselves. There has been the ability to poeticize this denial and all the rationalizations for it, but we are seeing the ramifications for this in the world. He says no one owes you anything, but he acted as if he was owed to do what only he wanted to do, and no one is….but the mind has a hard time understanding this when it’s perception is based in the limited idea of what ‘one is’…and when it is recognized that all ‘is One’, then this will inform the living of life together. No ideal, no ‘utopia’, no homogenization, just open potential and perhaps the ability to release the sense of ownership and control with Life…the potential of freeing up of all the energy of fear and hoarding and an allowance for all to live in health and well being. Peace _/|\_
        • Kaitlyn Fae commented on July 9, 2014 Reply
          In absolute love with this response.
    • flc2009 commented on January 17, 2014 Reply
      i heart your Comment because you’re 100% right.
      • myfreakinopinion commented on January 19, 2014 Reply
        Feisty it seems you cannot bear the truth no one owes you nothing; and you have no obligation to no one but yourself. you just cannot face the facts Mr. Browne is right.
    • RobinJane commented on April 27, 2014 Reply
      I completely agree with your comments. Not a world I aspire to either. Crappy self-centered gift to give a nine year old.
      • Deena Day commented on May 11, 2014 Reply
        How can a person be anything but self-centered? You observe the world thru your eyes only, thru your experiences, thru yourself – you are the center of your own world. We all do thing that are good for us – we even help others because that makes us feel good. Feisty, the sentence you used at the beginning of your comment states: ”I’ve focused on being with people who want to do the things I want them to do.” – well, we all want to spend time with people that want to do the things we want them to do. We don’t have to make do the things we want them to do. They want to do them :) it’s a funny concept actually. And it goes both ways. The concept of being self-centered is socially unacceptable all though we all live by following it… I do not thing Mr.Brown talks about manipulation. He talks about recognizing that there are those that can and those that can not give you what you want, or need. He gives his daughter a head start in admitting to her self that some people and some relationships are just wrong because they do not provide things she will need. It is much easier to skip all unnecessary steps in admitting ”this just isn’t what I need”. Point is in finding people and relationships that can (and want to) give you what you need. And it works the other way around as well. If you are giving something to a person and the person doesn’t need what you have to give, then your giving is in vain, and somewhere out there is a person that needs just that what you have to give (or there is a person out there that can give you just what you need…). I find the letter most motivating. There are some truths that are hard to hear. I believe this is one of them…
        • Melanie commented on June 22, 2014 Reply
          I think Mr. Brown is easily misconstrued because of the language he uses and your comment is an excellent clarification. The truth is that culturally, “selfishness” is a Bad Thing and we simply don’t have the language to adequately express it as a healthy necessity and something we *already do*. We don’t like the idea that our lives are just a series of trades and barters, and that we only interact with others in exchange for what we can get from them. That is a truth, even if what you get is emotional satisfaction or charitable credulity. I have, in recent years, begun to truly understand and live this way and it has transformed my life. I am actually able to give more freely of myself and my time and resources, without resentment or defense, when I am making sure my needs are met first. And they are not met by manipulating others into doing what I want nor by allowing others to manipulate me. They are met by me figuring out what I need and seeking out and surrounding myself with the right things and people, finding others who are offering what I need and who need what I offer. And maybe they choose not to let me in or offer me what I need. That’s ok; it’s not their job to make sure my needs are met just because I want them to. So I continue seeking out ways to meet my own needs. It’s *my* job. Manipulation and greed have no place in a healthy understanding of what “no one owes us anything” means. Those just waste energy, and like he says, we can wear ourselves out trying to collect what we feel is owed to us. Thought-provoking!
          • Chris commented on June 17, 2015
            Well said Melanie!
        • Tina Marie commented on May 21, 2015 Reply
          I absolutely agree with Deena comment. It’s the way people misinterpreted it. I couldn’t have found a better way to describe what he may have met Good job!
    • Skeye commented on June 21, 2014 Reply
      Hi Feisty Amazon, I replied under Tanya’s reply. :)
    • misc commented on January 24, 2015 Reply
      This idea that nobody owes anyone anything completely goes against the entire point of even having a society in the first place. If society doesn’t owe an individual person anything, then the individual owes society nothing either, so don’t be surprised when they take their frustration out on the world. There is absolutely NO GOOD reason why, in the 21st century, every person shouldn’t have their basic needs met. That means food, shelter, clothing, and transportation for all
    • Keegan commented on January 26, 2015 Reply
      Sup Feisty amazon! I was just googling random things and stumbled upon this. I really enjoyed your response, but when you discuss the relationship aspect of ‘no one owes you anything’ concept, I think you have to look at the duality of it. I don’t think he is trying to say manipulate to get what you want then discard the person because they now provide you with no resources. If you decide to give me love and affection and do things for me that I want, then that is on your own regard. The duality comes in in what I want to do for you. I don’t owe you anything, but if something you have done or something in your character sparks an interest in me I will give you my love as well. I will do things you want me to do. Not in a manipulative way but in a symbiotic way. You are compelled to go out of your way to give me what I want because you love me and I the same because I love you. That’s why you’d want to find someone with common interests (of course) because you want to feed both your passions and the other persons and if they are parallel to each other it becomes more about both of you than the individual. Now I totally agree in terms of business it creates an individualized view that I will conquer and step on everyone’s feet to get there, but relationship wise, I think it creates for a more happy person in the singular because you come to terms with understanding the right people will come because the love will be mutual. Chea! That’s just what I think. I love reading things like these, picking the mind and probing thought. Thanks for the intelligent thought and good read!! -Keegan
    • Jenn commented on March 31, 2015 Reply
      When you respect and honor a person as free to choose whatever they like then it opens up the opportunity for true connection, intimacy and love. You give them the space and freedom to simply just be themselves instead of making love obligatory or a demand and then trying to make them change and conform into something or someone they are not. This is NOT a Western mentality . . . VERY FAR FROM THAT “Remember, freedom is a higher value than love. That’s why, in India, the ultimate we call moksha. Moksha means freedom. Freedom is a higher value than love. So if love is destroying freedom, it is not of worth. Love can be dropped, freedom has to be saved; freedom is a higher value. And without freedom you can never be happy, that is not possible. Freedom is the intrinsic desire of each man, each woman – utter freedom, absolute freedom. So anything that becomes destructive to freedom, one starts hating it. Don’t you hate the man you love? Don’t you hate the woman you love? You hate; it is a necessary evil, you have to tolerate it. Because you cannot be alone you have to manage to be with somebody, and you have to adjust to the other’s demands. You have to tolerate, you have to bear them. Love, to be really love, has to be being-love, gift-love. Being-love means a state of love. When you have arrived home, when you have known who you are, then a love arises in your being. Then the fragrance spreads and you can give it to others.” Osho
    • Anna Bolic commented on June 18, 2015 Reply
      I think some people are misinterpreting what was being said here, in great part because of the clumsiness of the man’s writing. A better way to express this would have been say: do not waste time and energy trying to FORCE or manipulate people into agreeing with you or giving you something you want, be it love, protection, marriage, a job, etc.. Better, and you will be much happier, if you devote your time and energy to cultivating relationships where there is *already* inherent mutual agreement and desire for the same things. Seems very sound and loving advice to me.
  • Kelly commented on July 30, 2013 Reply
    A good Article, but Feisty Amazon makes an excellent point.
    • Tanya Lee Markul
      tanya lee markul commented on July 30, 2013 Reply
      Hey Kelly — do you think it’s because we’re afraid that if we have the belief that no one owes us anything that we’ll become too self-absorbed and not consider others? It makes me think… 1) when we do the best for ourselves, aren’t we doing the best for others and 2) when we don’t attach ourselves to the outcomes of our efforts, doesn’t it set us free (at least a little bit)? Just trying to explore all angles. :-)
      • Tracy Wisneski
        Tracy Wisneski commented on August 6, 2013 Reply
        I agree with Feisty Amazon, as well as Merit below (so far). It is not so much against accepting personal responsibility, for which I am a proponent, but because of the reciprocal implications of his letter, his tone and the context of his social ideologies. As mentioned, this is a very young girl (on Christmas morning), not even a young adult on the way to college or a European tour. Even in the context of the latter, I wouldn’t like it, but its recipient and occasion give it an extra layer of cold creepiness. I believe the concept of social responsibility, in itself, engenders a much stronger sense of personal responsibility than this lesson in selfishness and manipulation. We are social animals who share a planet that gets smaller and smaller as our population grows. It’s the focus on personal gain (at the expense of the greater good) that is at the heart of most (if not all) of our ails. That is not to say that the exact opposite is true: that one should rely heavily on others and not have a sense of personal responsibility. As I mentioned, a strong sense of social responsibility creates a stronger individual, as well as a stronger society. As usual, fabulous, thought-provoking work, Tanya!
        • Tom Foolery commented on December 7, 2013 Reply
          Tracy I am just curious as to what you think the “greater good” is? I would bet that you and I have completely different ideas to what that may mean, and we are just two among many. I guess what I am trying to get at is if there truly is a greater good that we can all agree on, that would mean we all thought alike and would be acting as a group and not individuals. Can you see this happening? I personally cannot. I do agree there may have been a better moment in his daughter’s life to teach her this incredibly valuable (in my opinion) lesson.
  • Merit La Freniére commented on July 30, 2013 Reply
    It’s hard for me to finish reading this, as I live in a U.S. Southern state where I bump up against Libertarian perspectives every day. It makes me queasy, imagining this little girl being indoctrinated early in life into an extremist ideology. I also knew something of Mr Brown’s bizarre views due to his presidential runs. For just one example, his party is against any sort of environmental regulation, seeing them as oppressive to individual liberty. He saw no connection between what people in Los Angeles did to people in San Francisco, and therefore statewide environmental laws were unnecessary (another example of being willfully ignorant of science). In short, he was a dangerously deluded ideologue. Libertarianism is a faulty political ideology, and when applied to human relationships, values not only selfishness but narcissism. I often find truth to reside where there is balance. While I accept that happiness is my individual responsibility, I also acknowledge that as a thinking, feeling human being I have responsibilities to my fellow human beings. As a mother, I have a responsibility to my children and future generations by leaving them a livable planet. As a woman, I feel kinship and connection to other women, and am responsible by voting and acting to counter the global cultural/political war against women. None of this contradicts my first statement, that I am ultimately responsible for myself; but to ignore the great value of our collective life–as Libertarians do–not only squanders a massive amount of human potential, it creates socially and emotionally stunted human beings.
    • Tanya Lee Markul
      tanya lee markul commented on July 30, 2013 Reply
      Hey Merit – is the notion ‘no one owes you anything’ a philosophy of being a libertarian?
      • Tracy Wisneski
        Tracy Wisneski commented on August 6, 2013 Reply
        I also live in the US South. The concept of “no one owes you anything” is wrapped up in every-man-for-himself, buyer-beware and nothing/no one is more important than personal wealth and privilege that is often achieved by taking advantage of others. I had a front row seat to the credit debacle. People were roto-dialing day and night to talk people into loans that they knew were bad for the recipients, inflating home values by insider sales/comps, perpetrating fraud, selling hedge-funds…and it all came tumbling down, but not before most of them sent money to offshore accounts and got away with it all. Now, workers (who are fortunate enough to still be working) are suffering under paycuts and few benefits, some retirees have even had their earned pensions stripped, while the top dogs who weren’t caught still pull in record profits.
    • francisco lane commented on December 5, 2014 Reply
      @Merit La Freniere: You have the (usual) distorted view of libertarianism and, assuming you are sincere, it’s very frustrating to hear this repeated over and over. It’s the same kind frustration that a liberal feels when he or she is accused of being in favor of allowing black criminals to rape and murder at will, simply because they point out (correctly) that there are other dimensions (and societal responsibilities) to this problem, not just right or wrong applied to one black person. Its a blind exaggeration, intended to incite people who don’t wish to understand what the liberal is saying. What I am saying is that you are repeating a description of libertarianism which is intended to incite people who don’t wish to understand what the libertarian is saying. To put it in a nutshell, the accusations against libertarianism stem from an attitude of “if the government doesn’t do it, it won’t get done”. And it follows that if you are against the government doing it, you are against it being done. This attitude is not accepted by libertarians, and so the conclusion is simply wrong. Yes, libertarians are against most environmental regulations, not because they enjoy damaging the environment, but because they believe that the free market can almost always offer better solutions. And here again, if you view the free market as a lunatic free for all, no rules, then you have fallen for the blind exaggeration of what the free market is all about. There are hard and fast rules for a truly free market, and the most important is that fraud and theft are illegal, and it’s the government’s job to see that it does not happen. That means that if I am polluting your air and you did not sell me those rights, then let’s try a free market approach to solving the problem before calling the politicians in, who are really only interested in getting your or my vote, not in solving our problem. Libertarian is not selfish and narcissistic. It simply says that selfishness and narcissism should not be monitored and punished by the government. That power should rest with the people and their private interactions and transactions with each other, and libertarians are sure that is the way to go. Again, simply being against giving the government the authority to punish selfishness and narcissism is not the same as saying you are in favor of selfishness and narcissism, it’s simply saying that vote-obsessed politicians are less qualified than the people themselves to deal with these problems. I’m not asking you to agree with the libertarian viewpoint, I don’t entirely agree with it myself, but at least try to really understand the libertarian viewpoint rather that being a “useful idiot” of the extreme left and falling for their propaganda.
  • Scot commented on July 30, 2013 Reply
    Thanks, Tanya, for sharing Harry’s letter. I recall reading it many years ago and had forgotten the clarity (and charity!) of his thinking. I did not know him either, except through his writings which were insightful, thought-provoking and honest. I would hope Feisty Amazon gives him (and themelves!) another chance. The truth is sometimes harsh but nonetheless true for being so. We all want something: love, happiness, money, friends, an authentic life, gardens, to run, to play….and the list goes on forever! It is our nature, and the great driver of all accomplishment and joy. Harry’s point is simply that no one OWES us these things. They are our own individual wants and desires and it is our own responsibility to achieve them or not. There is no manipulation; in fact, the contrary. He suggests that we “enter the other person’s world”, to seek what they find important, how they think, what THEY want. This strikes me as the very antithesis of manipulation, and goes rather to the very core of caring and open-hearted relationships.
    • Tanya Lee Markul
      tanya lee markul commented on July 30, 2013 Reply
      Thanks, Scott! This is similar to the perspective I was taking as well. I thought of it more from a nourishing perspective for all vs. every man for himself. Perhaps the interpretation is, as with everything, tainted by our own experiences, views and desires for what type of world we are striving to live in and shape and at the same time being confronted with the perceived challenges of doing so — if everyone isn’t going to think in a certain way, then why should I — type of thing. Thanks for the comments!
    • Shay commented on April 18, 2014 Reply
      Thank you SCOT – I agree with your perspective! Love the letter.
    • Jewel Mari commented on May 12, 2014 Reply
      Thank you, Scott! You made it very clear and simple. Thanks to Tanya for sharing such intriguing letter. All the best!
  • Terry Kennedy
    Tee commented on July 30, 2013 Reply
    All politics aside, I agree with you Scot and with the simple ideology to teach our children (and especially our daughters) the concept of self sufficiency. Terrific discussions, thanks Tanya!
    • Tanya Lee Markul
      tanya lee markul commented on July 30, 2013 Reply
      Self-sufficiency — yes, there it is! Thank you, Tee!!
    • Tom Foolery commented on December 7, 2013 Reply
      Tee I am somewhat familiar with Harry Browne so this letter did not surprise me. I know he had his political views, but I was not thinking of politics whatsoever when reading this letter. Maybe that is because I am familiar with him in a non-political way. I find it interesting that some people make that connection instantly, and come across as genuinely offended. I was relieved to see the posts written by Scot, Tanya, and yourself.
  • feralgypsydragon commented on July 30, 2013 Reply
    I am fascinated with how often when I wake, my morning musings and feelings are reflected on this page in such a beautiful way. I woke briefly before the sunrise and was hit with a strong thought: No one deserves anything. The act of assuming or believing so has been a huge affliction of the human race and devastating to the earth. I understand that people might assume I would be saying that I don’t believe in human rights. What I am saying is as a human you are not promised anything. Not tomorrow, not water, not love. When we receive anything it should be understood as a blessing, when we receive more than we need we should share. When one hoards and steals and manipulates to the point of excess and hoarding, then they should be made to return what is not theirs, not because it is owed but because it is not theirs. I appreciate the message that was trying to be made in the letter. I agree however, it took a selfish turn. If the section Feistyamazon mentioned were omitted I would find much more inspiration.
    • Tanya Lee Markul
      tanya lee markul commented on August 1, 2013 Reply
      Thank you so much for sharing!!
    • Janet commented on April 8, 2014 Reply
      I am sorry but I do not see this as selfish or connected to greed or hoarding. We come into the world alone and everything we perceive is filtered through our own relative reality. You control nothing except yourself and your own behavior, reactions and feelings. You are responsible for your own happiness. The expectation that others will give you feelings of joy and esteem is what makes many think they have been “let down” by others and as a result these people often become bitter and unhappy.
  • Javier commented on July 30, 2013 Reply
    Hi Tanya thank you for sharing I agree with this letter. As a minority I have been discriminated against and yet never have I allowed that to hold me back. As a business man I share through donations yet this government never stops finding ways to try and make businesses feel as though they owe through fees and laws passed, never is enough enough! I feel as if those who pay and pay feel what this letter is trying to say ” No one owes you anything ” I agree. Americans have always contributed and even more so when they do it with love and not through mandates. Our lawmakers, their spouses, children and staff are examples of feeling entitled and this is why in todays society we have an inefficient government.
    • Tanya Lee Markul
      tanya lee markul commented on August 1, 2013 Reply
      Great points! I believe it is also very American (a stereotype perhaps) to believe that there can only be one winner or a small group of people who profit therefore everyone else must suffer — we tend to believe there are only a few spots for success, for leadership for respect which is something that we need to truly work on to change. There’s more than enough to go around. Thank you for being here!
  • Alyssa commented on July 30, 2013 Reply
    I absolutely agree with this. It’s something I’m learning more and more each day. I’ve found that I subconsciously expected people to like me, to do things for me, be friendly and trustworthy, etc. As if I didn’t need to put in any effort for that outcome. I would get angry when things didn’t go my way, take my friendships and my love for granted, expect more out of people than they could possibly give, expecting to be given second chances even when I was an outright bitch. Since realizing NO ONE OWES ME ANYTHING I’ve been much more open with my own kindness and affection. I’ve been so much more appreciative of the relationships I do have in my life because I truly value them. I have some friends that would do ANYTHING for me, not because they ‘have’ to because that’s what ‘friends’ do but because they WANT to. And that’s a true blessing. I share my life with an amazing man who chooses every day to be loving and faithful to me. He doesn’t owe me that. Realizing that I’m owed nothing and yet I have so much, I feel so truly blessed. It’s a fundamental perspective shift from lack to abundance. Also focusing on nobody owes me anything, the opposite is true – I don’t owe anybody anything. I’m more able to stand up for myself, to do what I need to do, for myself, without apology. I am not responsible for anyone else’s feelings or reactions. What I give to others is out of choice, not obligation. And that is absolutely freeing. That said, I do think this letter comes off a little self-centered and goal-oriented (gaining friends, respect, etc). But let’s be honest, we all want to be liked. We all want friendship, respect, affection. Instead of going about life grasping, demanding, clinging, fuming, and throwing tantrums when we don’t get what we’re ‘entitled’ to, this letter proposes a better way to get what we all want: love. Love being what we want and the action we take to get it. Give love to get love, no one owes you anything! I think it’s great, sound advice from a father :)
    • Tanya Lee Markul
      tanya lee markul commented on August 1, 2013 Reply
      Thank you for sharing all of this! I really appreciate this: “What I give to others is out of choice, not obligation. And that is absolutely freeing.” —- it is a choice and it’s also a choice to be shut down by what does or doesn’t happen as a result of what we give, in my opinion. :-)
      • Dawn commented on November 30, 2013 Reply
        We are all, each and every one of us, a direct result of the decisions we have made throughout our entire lives. If we are unhappy with our current status, all we must do is make different decisions. While I agree with Mr. Brown that “nobody owes you anything”. I have to acknowledge that we owe it to ourselves to make the best decisions you can make. If we are unsure, we can decide to ask for help. Pride often prevents one from asking for help, and it causes us to make hasty, rash and often poor decisions that directly affect our lives. Because nobody owes us anything, we owe it ourselves to make the best decisions we can make of ourselves to insure our own survival.
    • Shay commented on April 18, 2014 Reply
  • kim commented on July 31, 2013 Reply
    I think this letter is simply common sense and speaks to life through the mind set of any successful business person. You have to be strong for yourself, evaluate what is good and bad about your personality, and present yourself in the best possible light so people will want to network with you. If you are focused on what others should give to you instead of looking at life unbiased, seeing the possibilities for trade with others, then you will never truly be successful in any aspect of your life. People who think they are entitled to just take emotionally from others, with the expectation that they deserve it will never rise above mediocrity.
    • Tanya Lee Markul
      tanya lee markul commented on August 1, 2013 Reply
      This is an interesting perspective, Kim! Thank you for reminding me of the ‘trade’ that takes place — we often forget this when we can only focus on the outcome and/or expectation we want to achieve. There IS an exchange and often times we forget that when we demand, even take people’s energy, time and focus. Thank you!
  • Kumar commented on July 31, 2013 Reply
    “I can get what I want only if I can enter the other person’s world. I must try to understand how he thinks, what he believes to be important, what he wants. Only then can I appeal to someone in ways that will bring me what I want.” Ah, the summary reduction of all human emotions, relationships and values to means of “bring(ing) me what I want”. This Browne man was a psychopath, or at the very least, a sociopath.
    • Tanya Lee Markul
      tanya lee markul commented on August 1, 2013 Reply
      Hey Kumar – does this really reflect the extreme of being a psychopath or sociopath? Have you ever not considered what was important to someone else when presenting an idea, concept or negotiation? :-) Thanks for the comment!
  • Neil commented on July 31, 2013 Reply
    I didn’t see this as ideology but as human nature. Whenever we deny our nature individually or socially we take a step backwards. We all want things, and are “selfish” to varying extents, and no one lives your life for you. I’m 30 and I have the best mother on the planet, and even she will only go so far as to make sure my stomach is full and no bones are broken. I read “the ‘things’ you want from people” as friendship, love and respect. We earn those things, and they cannot be taken for granted. It’s not about manipulation, so far as if you meet a new friend, connect over, say, comics, and lend the new friend your favorite one, have you bought/coerced him into liking you? This is about the nature of genuineness. Just because you are aware of a “transaction” doesn’t make it in-genuine.
  • Neil commented on July 31, 2013 Reply
    Kumar, what about the growth that can occur with that attitude? You quote this: “I can get what I want only if I can enter the other person’s world. I must try to understand how he thinks, what he believes to be important, what he wants. Only then can I appeal to someone in ways that will bring me what I want.” Think about it this way: You meet someone romantically or platonically who blows your mind- you just have to be near them. That’s the “what you want”. You find that they are interested in things that you have never explored before so you explore them in order to connect, and end up deepening and enriching yourself regardless of whether or not you achieve your original goal. Is this “changing for someone”? No. This is enriching yourself, and is as exciting and dangerous as any other ambition.
    • Tanya Lee Markul
      tanya lee markul commented on August 1, 2013 Reply
      Ah – great example! This is part of that spectrum! We don’t always relate to what we believe people like with ill intentions in mind, but because we want to celebrate them, offer them an act of kindness and show that we care. Thank you!
  • Linden commented on August 1, 2013 Reply
    What a disappointment for a little girl, if she got nothing for Christmas but this letter. I suppose it would be a good object lesson, however. Perhaps she’ll try harder to enter her father’s psychological world so she can “earn” a toy next time.
    • Tanya Lee Markul
      tanya lee markul commented on August 1, 2013 Reply
      Hey Linden — would be interesting to understand her response and feelings toward this letter. I’m not sure I’d be disappointed with a letter from my father vs. a toy, but it’s all so individual, isn’t it?! :-)
  • Ben commented on August 1, 2013 Reply
    While I agree that striving for self sufficiency and independence is a good thing, the problem I have with the viewpoint expressed in this letter is that its far to easy to internalize and project the inverse of this view on the outside world. If I don’t deserve anything from the world, then the world deserves nothing from me. If I need to improve myself as much as possible so people will love and support me then those people without love and support obviously haven’t worked hard enough to improve themselves and deserve what they get. Without compassion and empathy it can all to easily turn from self-empowerment to self-interest and self-centeredness. Plus a father writing to his 9 year old daughter about deepening his relationship with his lovers is just creepy.
    • Tanya Lee Markul
      tanya lee markul commented on August 3, 2013 Reply
      Thank you for taking the time to comment Ben and thank you for the compassion and empathy reminder! :-) The self-empowerment reference reminded me of a conversation I had today with a friend about the fine line between confidence and cockiness. Glad you are here!
  • Carl Dunlap commented on August 2, 2013 Reply
    Every personal situation has grey area. It is not always so cut and dry. I think the writer wanted his daughter to not behave entitled. Over the long haul it might lead to a long less happy life experience. He claims to have figured out over time that thinking of others and serving can really make a person feel good if they are predisposed to serve or shown this in their formative years. It may not work well for someone that is wired up to receive rather than give. MAYBE? Entitled behavior is very difficult to be around. Eventually most people catch on to that person. It is never that entitled person’s fault. To get what they want they become adapt to blaming and so forth to get to their goal. They become the victim, withhold communication, avoid,, or sometimes angry, revengeful, high conflict, critical and more. They think. ” I want and deserve this and I had better get it or else”. The base of this entitled behavior in my subjective opinion is fearfulness on the part of the entitled person and not knowing how nice life could be if they did not walk around thinking everybody owed them. I have probably said to much but hey I am and always have been a rebel.
    • Tanya Lee Markul
      tanya lee markul commented on August 3, 2013 Reply
      Hi Carl – thanks for your comment. ‘Entitled behavior’ – that’s my interpretation as well. And, thank you for the reminder of the grey areas. It is very important for all to recognize that we each have an individual experience and interpretation. Glad you are here, rebel!
    • pwlsax commented on March 12, 2014 Reply
      “it is never that entitled person’s fault.” But is is their responsibility. That is why entitled people need to be broken spiritually. And that can only happen once no one in society is entitled to anything – not through need, not through mere existence, not even through the direst of circumstances.
  • Nabi commented on August 2, 2013 Reply
    I completely agree. Ever since youth, we are told to always “Do the right thing” and “Be kind to others,” but WHY? How about this well-known cliche: “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” That’s the heart of it all. We’re nice to others because we want them to be nice to us. In essence, it’s quite impossible to be entirely altruistic. If someone does something nice for someone else, the recipient favors him for it. If he doesn’t know whom to thank, he may turn around and do something nice for another, etc., thus making the world the benefactor lives in a little nicer. Even if the recipient does nothing, the giver has the satisfaction of feeling like a good person. In the end, everything we do is about us. A point that I feel has been overlooked in all of this is that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The extreme version of the above example is everyone being kind to one another, is it not? The pitfall is in the extrapolation that if someone cannot give me anything, than I should do nothing for them. This is not true. Do you not respect and admire those who volunteer their time, talent, or money to aid in the less fortunate (and shun those who take advantage of others)? While the beneficiaries are able to provide nothing more than the “warm and fuzzies,” the giver DOES get something from his donation– the respect of others, a tax refund, or even a college acceptance or job offer after putting his good deeds on an application! In the end, we’re all wired to self-preservation. The mindset that “Nobody owes me anything” will save one from disappointment and the feeling of neglect. It encourages one to make his own way, while being cognizant of his effect on others. I don’t know you. Just because I have two cookies doesn’t mean I owe you one… but I may share in hopes that I make a new friend.
    • Tanya Lee Markul
      tanya lee markul commented on August 3, 2013 Reply
      I really appreciate your point of view and I love the last few lines of your comment. I truly honor that thought – I may have something, I don’t owe it to you, but I can share and alter the energy, communication and connection I make to the life around me. Thank you.
  • Tabatha Kirke
    Tabatha commented on August 6, 2013 Reply
    I feel much like Tanya about this letter. I love it and wish I would have read or known about it from young adulthood. It is life changing, or can be. It is harder the older we get, to change the way we think. My brain says YES! No one owes me anything and I have to earn the respect of others. Entitlement is seen in lots of places these days and I believe it is a flaw. Beyond that, I have always been taught that no one “owes” me anything along with the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have done to you”. Over simply put, if I want some one to be nice to me, I must (should) be nice to them. I like what Nabi has to say. It rings true to me. I was about to try to articulate the very things articulated above. Great article and one that I will save and share for much time to come.
  • Tracy Wisneski
    Tracy Wisneski commented on August 6, 2013 Reply
    Kudos, again, T! You absolutely rock and starting conversation! (Among so many other awesome talents, of course!)
  • Sarah commented on August 7, 2013 Reply
    No one can explain attraction between people. Trying to make yourself more attractive to others as recommended is futile in some cases, in my experience, and may drive self blame and lowered self worth. Surely we need to accept that others will simply not like us at times and learn to feel deep inside that we are ok despite their dislike. Then perhaps defensiveness can be lowered and people can live and let live more effectively. To me an Australian and unfamiliar with American philosophies, the letter seems aligned to Protestant work ethic
  • Achim commented on August 7, 2013 Reply
    A simple ‘philosophy’ set up to avoid personal problems. Not very considerate and way too ambiguous IMO, accompanied with rather indistinct terminology. I agree that we should not act led by expectations. The next level would be to act in the spirit of love, which means to be led by the wish (!) that every being (not only humans) will be in a state of happiness. Everything else is selfish.
    • pwlsax commented on March 12, 2014 Reply
      The important thing is NOT that we “not act led by expectations.” The important thing is not to be considerate. The important thing is that no one should ever have to act in the spirit of love – only in accordance with the simplest possible realities. Everything else is selfish? Maybe selfishness is almost everything. Have you considered that?
  • Kane commented on August 15, 2013 Reply
    This is perfect advice. I believe if it was phrased better differently, or in the context of a self help book some of you would see it in a better light. I get it, and this is the same advice in so many words that I gave my children growing up. It is full of the truths of life. They are both very loving to those that deserve it and they are very loved by so many others as well. It is not about possessions or being fake to get things. It is all about the love you give yourself and to those that love you, and giving and receiving love and gifts graciously and with love and not an air of entitlement. He tells her to be cautious of those that do not love but want to take advantage of her and make her feel she owes them something. All great advice. A bit like the book “The 4 Agreements” in a way. Thanks Tanya
  • Pinopan commented on August 23, 2013 Reply
    I’m glad you posted this. I am trying to figure out where I stand on issues like this, and want to give this perspective some thoughtful processing. My initial doubts/thoughts: While I agree that we can only experience the pure/loving/not-manipulative relationships with others that we truly want when it is freely given and participated in due to a genuine interest rather than a sense of obligation that creates co-dependent/needy/burdensome interactions, at the same time…here I am reflecting on my familial relationships and struggling with the fact that they are degrading/denying our significance with their lack of honest/intimate communication with each other and with me. So, part of me concludes that they do owe themselves and, yes, me the courage and follow-through it takes to foster relationships that are more real-time – you know, relationships that honor the significance we all value deep down. I sense a widespread great injustice, and that is the disillusionment of wasted years that could otherwise be more alive and true. Do we not owe ourselves and our ‘loved’ ones actual, real-time love/honesty/integrity? And is it not an injustice when that is not taking place? To stem off from that, I am faced with the following conflict: If I am to have conviction and hold myself to certain standards, does it not follow that I hold others to the same standards? And, therefore, if I hold the conviction that I owe others my integrity, does it not follow that others owe me their integrity? I find it difficult to accept the principle that no one owes me moral conduct. It sounds like an oxymoron created to spare us the frustration of when things do not go as they should ethically. I suspect it is a defense mechanism that allows for life to be more tolerable but may prevent us from experiencing fully the fruits of virtue and solid conviction, which correlates to whole-hearted self/other-love/respect. It comes back onto itself, however. If we are to conduct ourselves this way (living by the standard that nobody owes us anything), then what we receive in life is freely given and we can own it fully. Thus the fruits of this perspective are precisely the fruits we cling to when we suffer through any sense of injustice of being denied something we think we are owed. Perhaps there is another way to look at it. Perhaps we can maintain a sense of being owed, say, moral conduct, but be active in discerning when we are being given this, therefore taking responsibility for our well-being without having it be dependent on things we cannot control. I don’t think we necessarily must conclude that we are not owed what our intuition tells us we deserve in this life. We just must take people’s actions at face-value: when someone teaches us they will treat us a certain way, we should believe them, and then make an informed decision regarding whether to have this person in our life. (This can be unspeakably painful.) I’m not sure. I do trust that there is something we can confidently call ‘truth’, and I aim to discover that truth to the extent that I can. I want to live in truth, just as the man who wrote this letter did.
  • Tom commented on September 25, 2013 Reply
    At first, I couldn’t find anything wrong in the letter. On the contrary: First of all, expecting that others own us something lies at the origin of conflicts and frustrations I witnessed many times. Accepting Browne’s principle would help people in such situations to avoid this negative experience. I think that everyone saw such situations where people have naive expectations and if unfulfilled, end up frustrated. Secondly, I came across a few people whom I admired for their skills as team managers. Looking back at them, I realize that they followed the Browne’s principle as well. So why I do not vote Yes, Yes, Yes!! My answer is simple. To me Browne’s view is missing something and is as extreme as the contrary view according to which “others own us something and they know what it is”. Browne is cynical and the opposite view is naive. The truth I would teach my daughter is that such things as sharing, unconditional commitment, duty to help others to become better (i.e., things missing in the Browne’s letter), are beautiful and make our life worth living. The issue is not to remove such things from our life but to be able to spot the right people and situations where they are applicable and to avoid situations where sharing means being exploited, unconditional commitment means investing in bad people or following wrong ideas, and duty to help others to become better persons means addressed people not willing to get better. And one learns how to do it throughout the whole life.
    • pwlsax commented on March 12, 2014 Reply
      Yes, Browne is cynical. Yes, the opposite view is naive. What you fail to understand is that it is a simple choice: cynicism or naivete. How can you moderate them, combine them, mix them? You cannot. Cynicism leads to evils, but it has a much better track record. And at least it owns those evils. Naivete disclaims all responsibility. Now to “avoiding situations where sharing means being exploited…” You turn your back on human nature. If one shares, one will always be exploited. If one commits, one will invest in bad people and bad ideas. If one helps others, one “addressed” (wtf does that even mean?) people unwilling to get better. My point: The more one helps, the more one is hurt, and the more one degrades and enables others. Give the weak as little succor as possible. If they are worth saving, they will save themselves. The rest can go to hell, and take the helping and caring idiots with them.
    • samantha commented on December 29, 2014 Reply
      I agree tom, i spent my entire life attempting to please others, forgeting about myself in the process, spending long nights in service to others problems to endure a mental breakdown because everyone took off me and gave nothing back and when i came out of it nobody was there but myself. I see two sides of this letter i felt like i at least should have been given the decency of friends left after all i did to help them, on the other hand i gave them my time and attention without checking their character or judging them first so in turn its been a valuable lesson to me to learn the true normal mind (recently found to be mildly autistic)
    • MollyBloom commented on January 30, 2015 Reply
      Tom, You have articulated the problem with the Brown letter!! Thank you. When we rise to our higher natures we enter contracts and make social commitments to one another – parent to child, partner to partner, spouse to spouse, congregant to congregant, communal commitments large and small. And thus we become better people and the world a better place. When we commit to these obligations, the sick and the disabled are cared for, the environment is protected, parents love and nurture their children, spouses care for and are faithful to one another, we build society this way. And maybe Brown might have given his young daughter a present that would have delighted her.
      • MollyBloom commented on January 30, 2015 Reply
        And in society we do owe each other something.
  • Safa (@stliba) commented on September 30, 2013 Reply
    I actually totally agree with him and don’t see anything selfish about it, in the contrary. I believe that once you understand that anything “good” you do or others do for you give self satisfaction somehow, all relationships become simple. It relieves you from the selfish part of you that wait for a repay for anything kind you do! It isn’t about profiting from others, it is about not taking people’s kindness for granted neither let your self enslaved by it. Most of relationships’ problems are due to wrong expectations. I love you not because I am a wonderful person but because you make me feel wonderful about me and you are the wonderful one! Why not admitting this. Why should we make people feel that they owe us anything as a payback for our love or kindness! I don’t think Brown wanted his daughter to be a selfish person, but just to save time and care just about what is essential in her life once she decides what is it.
  • Lea commented on October 18, 2013 Reply
    I didn’t like this at all. When parents make the choice to bring a child into the world, as far as I’m concerned they owe that child a loving home with enough food to eat etc. If we’re lucky enough to become wealthy, we owe it to the world to try and use our good fortune to make it a better place. And the bit about if someone loves you it’s because there’s something special about you? Then by contrast if someone doesn’t love you, eg. a parent, that’s because you’re not special enough? Does a child have to EARN the respect of a parent? The whole thing was sad and misguided.
    • liz commented on January 10, 2014 Reply
      i dont think he meant it in the point of view of children more in the point of the world of business and making freinds..ect.
  • Deepika commented on October 25, 2013 Reply
    I found the Letter the simplest way of making you understand the bitter reality of life. But what is to be understood here is that initially his daughter might not have been able to understand or rather connect with the teachings, but after a few hardships in life, it would reach out easier than before. To me it is astonishing to realize that this fact is so very true and there are great people on this earth that want to imbibe the facts onto their children. But we only learn with our own experiences. Had we been able to learn with the Holy prose’s we read every day we would not be making the mistakes we make each day in our lives. So learning comes the hard way, and understanding comes after passing through hard ways!
  • Tomica commented on November 25, 2013 Reply
    I wholeheartedly agree with this letter! I think it should be passed out to everyone. No one owes you anything. Today’s society is full of too many people who have an over-inflated sense of entitlement. You can blame the media, Hollywood, parents or any other person/group but the bottom line is that people, especially the younger generation, think they deserve the newest Iphone and the latest fashion or even the corporate expense account. The reality is that we, as Americans, are no longer the hardworking force that once drove the global economy. I came from nothing, worked hard, had a little luck along the way but have only succeeded by my on volition. I just bought my first home and I put 20% down. I get the money from anyone else, I didn’t get a co-signer or a loan for my down payment. I worked and saved and bought a house that was within my price range all on my own. I take great pride in the fact that I didn’t need help because the reality is that no one owes me anything. I am a proud, single woman and am 100% self-sufficient because I firmly believe that hard-work and perseverance come from understanding that no one owes me anything.
    • Tomica commented on November 25, 2013 Reply
      I didn’t proof my response – I meant to say that *have only succeeded by my own volition* and *I didn’t get the money from anyone else*.
      • pwlsax commented on March 12, 2014 Reply
        We declined as a nation when we reached a hand out to the weak among us. We became humane. You can’t be human with that “e” on the end.
  • Johanna Applegate commented on December 16, 2013 Reply
    Fascinating. For me especially so because my birth father and I have a written correspondence relationship. I was personally curious to see what another father may say to their daughter with the intent to share life advice. I think this letter is beautiful because it captures where this man was in his life (how his life experience had shaped him) like a photograph can capture a moment in time. He had some good wisdom and some obvious wounds. He obviously loved his daughter to take the time to write this however…I recognize some obliviousness on his end towards his audience of a nine year old girl. Did he truly consider his audience when he wrote this, I wondered. On one hand he encourages self-worth and on the other hand manipulation of others. But overall my comment is this: Extraordinarily captured slice of life.
    • pwlsax commented on March 12, 2014 Reply
      I think it is an excellent lesson in the fundamental lack of caring that we must cultivate to allow others to grow and prosper as individuals. And it is good that it came at a time of tender age and goodwill, so it might cause the most shock and vulnerability. Like most moral imperatives, it needs to hurt to work, and the more it hurts, the better off you are in the long run.
  • OnSecondThought commented on January 2, 2014 Reply
    Could be that you are projecting what YOU would’ve meant if you’d chosen the same words. But maybe not. I’d like to point out that it doesn’t say “I’ve focused on being with people who want to do the things I want them to do BECAUSE I WANT THEM TO DO THOSE THINGS” as opposed to the other party having the desire independently. This, and the rest of it, viewed from the standpoint that the writer is looking for an alignment between his own desires and the desires of those with whom he interacts, would indicate a attitude that would better the harmony of involved parties. I think some of the best writing I’ve seen on the philosophical foundations of an individual have enough room to be interpreted in at least a couple of ways. It is as if the writer is creating a ‘test’ to see if the reader will ‘pass’ – i.e. infer the intended meaning. I’ve alluded to the interpretation I subscribe to here. Wonder if I passed.
  • OnSecondThought commented on January 2, 2014 Reply
    My above post was intended as a response to FeistyAmazon. It probably doesn’t make as much sense without that. I clicked the ‘reply’ button under that post thinking the thread would be hierarchical. Sorry.
  • flc2009 commented on January 17, 2014 Reply
    This so freaking true you have a lot of people whom thinks world owes them something. “Once you learn that you must earn the love and respect of others, you’ll never expect the impossible and you won’t be disappointed. Others don’t have to share their property with you, nor their feelings or thoughts.” that’s my favorite quote.I most people would realize that i would have not cut them off, this was mostly family. I agree 100% thinking about my deceased grandmother made come to this article it has touched me.
    • pwlsax commented on March 12, 2014 Reply
      That is a fine first step but you need to go further. You need to earn from others not only their love and respect, but your own SELF-respect. You need to cultivate the gratitude that is just this side of guilt for just being alive. And maybe it needs to go full-on into guilt, too, as often as it takes to impress the moral reality of this world onto the disobedient soul.
  • myfreakinopinion commented on January 19, 2014 Reply
    If i knew this 15 years ago ago I would be a lot happier. Now that I realize people don’t owe you nothing and I don’t owe them nothing either. I do what I want because i wanted to do it but once I see you’re taking advantage the favors and friendship is over. Before I do something for someone they must earn my love and respect first then that’s when the gifts are given. my time is my most valuable resource I can give anyone. Have no expectations live a happier life. I’m not going out of my way anytime soon because don’t owe people shit and have no remorse about that.
    • myfreakinopinion commented on January 20, 2014 Reply
      I’m not going out of my way anytime soon because I don’t owe people shit and have no remorse about that.
  • Ash commented on January 28, 2014 Reply
    Am I the only one wondering why this letter doesn’t say “I love you” anywhere????? I understand that he doesn’t think he owes his daughter love, but obviously he thinks she’s special enough to spend his time writing the letter for her benefit. If nothing else makes this letter sad, that omission does, in my opinion. Perhaps you or someone who reprinted it omitted an “I love you” in the signature,Tanya? Just hoping….
    • pwlsax commented on March 12, 2014 Reply
      The purpose of this letter is not comfort. It is to point toward eventual promise and reward, yes, but in the present moment it is meant to inculcate and instill – to brand a crucial moral principle on a soul of arrogant innocence in such a way that it cannot resist, cannot escape, but must be bound.
  • amy commented on February 7, 2014 Reply
    For me, that phrase – no one owes you anything – really boils down to ridding oneself of a sense of entitlement on an individual level and taking personal responsibility for your own well-being and happiness. But his method of delivery seems somewhat crass. However, the author himself as a child lived through WWII and rationing and frugality, His generation had a very different experience of the world, so this should be remembered when reading his text. Even though he means well, in his attempt to explain why he feels this way the basic message gets convoluted with the how tos which some parts seem to imply manipulation and selfishness, which seems to be his view of people in general.
  • Andrei commented on February 7, 2014 Reply
    I found myself agreeing with him at: “I’ve focused on being with people who want to do the things I want them to do” and disagreeing at “you must always earn them”. On one hand a simple and freeing way of thinking and relating and on the other an enslaving game of competing for the gifts of others. My approach is to relate to people who choose to interact with you as a matter of their choice and not as a reaction to what you bring to the table. I noticed other comments relating to this as well. I think it can be summarized as a “We’re all in this together” vs “Everyone is out for themselves” Well written, great ideas, thank you for the article but a rather different Christmas gift(a celebration of connection – healthy or not), don’t you think?
    • pwlsax commented on March 12, 2014 Reply
      The answer is simple. Moral beings compete. Noncompetitive beings are immoral. This is a kind of enslavement, yes, but only because it is reality, which enslaves us utterly, and if you defy it – even with the best motives at heart – it will crush you. “We’re all in this together” is a pap to the individual and the death knell to humanity.
  • WISERNOW commented on March 13, 2014 Reply
    I do not remember ever hearing of Mr Brown. In the years that he was involved in politics my life was a wreck and I had already attempted or close to it ending my pain filled life; yes suicide was at the top of my list of things to do. Politics and anyone involved, even my own brother locally, was the furthermost thing from my mind. I read every comment posted here about the letter and could actually understand everyone’s perspective. That is after all, how it is with anything and everything right? Our perspective — is how “we” see things based on so many things – our own childhood, life experiences – belief systems etc. I really liked PINOPAN’s reply (Aug 23) and probably resonated with that post more than any other Some people look (but do not see) with their eyes through their rose colored glasses Some see with wisdom and compassion through their heart – I love you Some look & see with limited knowledge and indifference through a very hardened or “guarded” heart It all depends on what you choose to use and what you are equipped with based on where you are spiritually and what emotions may be influencing you at the time For the past couple of days, oddly enough, I had been thinking about my deceased dad and had even written some things about the fact. I wonder; is it a coincidence that I am reading this letter and I also wonder if it had any influence in my perception of the father’s “intent”?? Interesting thought. Where ever my mind was and for whatever the influence – my first innocent thoughts were – WOW – what a letter – and it sounds like something that I would write ( and I am none of those terrible things that were said about Mr Brown) Mr Brown wanted to give something very special to his daughter – something that would have a lasting “value” and lasting effect on her – Not only all of that but he sincerely hoped it would in some way “enrich” her life and prevent possible pain for her in later years. Would not any of you want to give such a gift? Further on he attempts to explain how important it is for her to accept responsibility for herself with a good degree of independence but maybe a balance of kindness, compassion, and humility to not become totally self sufficient to the point of not realizing the importance of other human beings – What I saw here (first and only reading) was the intent of a possible lesson of the importance of independence – to avoid co – dependency and hopeful attainment of “inter dependence” I “feel” he gave some very strong and valuable insight into how life IS – and just because you are nice to others does not mean they will be nice back – Just because you love someone does not mean they will love you back I wish I could have had a letter like this when I was 20 yrs old – I suffered and endured a lot of pain over the years doing all the things that I did that I was told were the “right” things to do but no one else was doing – My life turned out okay in spite of it all (smile) and I am exactly who I was meant to be and doing exactly what I was meant to do and be exactly where I was meant to be at this time BECAUSE of all the experiences — Sure I would like to have had a less painful life and still be who I am but it did not happen that way so I continue to press on and appreciate the blessings that do come my way and did come my way because of who I am and the empathy & sympathy that I feel for others. I did not “choose” to perceive he ever meant manipulation at any time to get what he wanted in life. I feel that he was preparing her to realize that things do not come free, but can come easier by ways of giving and doing for others – I do not see that as manipulation – “He that insures the needs of others has insured their own” or something like that – I wonder if he would have used different wording and approached that differently had he written that letter to an adult? It is my thinking / feeling that everything in life comes with a price. What price and what consequences are we willing to pay? I also believe that when your intentions are for purely selfish reasons that you will pay heavily; sooner or later – one way or another. When you enter into a relationship with a mindset of what you can gain from it the relationship is doomed. He who controls the most — loves the least I feel he wanted his daughter to understand people and that they may not all have the best intentions and to be aware and okay with not nurturing the relationship – Don’t make someone a priority in your life if you are only an option in theirs — something like that I am seeing that he is most sincere in his giving & sharing of his life lessons and insightful wisdom – Writing this down for her and giving it to her was a priceless gift — (imho) one that she might not realize for years to come – but there it is, in ink, when she is ready to embrace it – If I ever knew anything as a child it was that NOTHING was free – and if I wanted it I got it on my own – My parents would not even as much as tell me the meaning of a word or how to spell it !!!!! It was a hard life but it sure paid off when I left home at 17. I have struggled every step of the way but the nuggets of wisdom I have gained have proven worthy of the price – To the extent of my pain & suffering I have experienced in equal if not more to the opposite degree in joy & happiness from the most unusual ways – One nugget of wisdom is that no matter how many you tell or show a way to do something that is better in a 100 ways – 99.99999% of the time they will still do it their way Your truth is your truth and it may never be accepted or embraced by those you love for their truth is their truth I have come to “my truth” by living outside the tiny box that I was forced to live inside for so many years – (if I was to be accepted by the family) My truth has served me well Thank you for sharing the letter and providing the venue as well as allowing me to share my thoughts, my feelings, and my perspective of the letter. Few will read …. less will heed Few will look … less will see Few will listen … less will hear Few will hear … less will understand Few will understand …. less will care Few will be touched … less will feel Few will feel … less will care WISERNOW
  • WISERNOW commented on March 13, 2014 Reply
    I really am not happy with the formatting – it is so difficult to read and I spent extra time to make sure there was adequate spacing to make for easier reading – So Sorry folks .
  • mbl commented on March 16, 2014 Reply
    Looks like this is an old thread, so I hope it’s still accepting comments. Just came across this site on a search. I think the idea that “no one owes you anything” suggests rugged individualism and selfishness. It suggests that we owe nothing to each other. Yes, I can see where in some situations it may be beneficial to say to yourself, “no one owes me anything,” so as to motivate yourself toward self improvement and toward seeing life from the other person’s point of view. However, what would our world look like if we all decided collectively that we owe each other nothing? Knowing that no one owes me anything, I recognize it is a dog-eat-dog world, and I need to focus on myself ’cause no one else is going to help me out. If I’m rewarded for working hard then I might just become devoted to self-improvement and this kind of thinking might help me to become a better person. But what happens when I’m not rewarded? When, in spite of all my hard work, I’m still struggling yet fully aware that no one owes me anything, that no one’s going to help me? Then I might become selfish, incredibly selfish. This is what we’re seeing today in the US. Selfish people who don’t want to give back. No one owes them anything and they owe nothing to anyone else either. They don’t want to pay taxes or contribute to that thing called “society” because all that really matters to them is “me.” And guess what, in a sense they are correct. A bunch of selfish people who don’t want to help each other and can’t cooperate is perhaps a former society or maybe a dying society but it is no longer a healthy, functioning society. Sadly, that’s what we have here in the US. And as more and more people realize no one owes them anything we’re going to see more crime, violence, more social deterioration. But in countries where people do feel they owe something to their community, their family, their society, etc., there is significantly less crime, violence and, while they may suffer economic difficulties too, there is the ability to rise above the difficulties. Their societies won’t die as ours has.
  • mbl commented on March 16, 2014 Reply
    I would just like to add that the notion that “no one owes you anything” is true in some circumstances but not all. That explains why people have different interpretations of it. I believe that your parents do owe you a reasonably good upbringing, guidance, and decent quality of life, for example. Your teachers owe you the best education they can provide. Your friends owe you support when you need it. In turn, you owe your family and society for all they’ve done for you and should give back to them just as they gave you life and support. I think we all owe each other some things but not all things. For ex., if I walk into the room full of strangers, I’d like it if they were friendly and nice to me, but they don’t really owe me that courtesy necessarily. But if someone punches me in the face for no reason I would argue that isn’t fair and they did owe me more courtesy than that. I can’t accept responsibility for their behavior. Nor am I responsible for my own unhappiness. I wouldn’t be human if I felt “happy” after a stranger punched me for no good reason. I have reason to be unhappy at that point in time and the reason is that person’s behavior toward me. I believe that person owes me an apology–at the very least, and that people owe me a certain amount of respect (not that they’ll give it but that they should) as a fellow human being and so no one should just go around punching (or abusing) other people for no good reason. On the other hand, if I walk into that same room and start provoking another person, taunting them and hitting them and THEN that person punches me in the face, I can say that I am partly responsible for my pain (as well as theirs), though I would still say that person is responsible for his/her actions (just because someone provokes us doesn’t mean we have to punch them.) I would also say that I’m partly responsible for that person’s unhappiness because I provoked them, taunted them, hit them and thus motivated them to hit me back. Americans like to think they live in this rugged individualist’s bubble. But we don’t. We can’t be responsible for everything that happens to us because there are other people in this world besides us. Our happiness and well being are impacted by the actions and choices of other people (as well as our own) whether we like it or not. We owe each other kindness and respect because we share this world together, so we need to cooperate and recognize how our actions affect other people. Try as you might, it will be pretty difficult to be “happy” when you’re in intense physical pain, starving, or living in poverty. Most people who are big on “self responsibility” and no one owing them anything have led very comfortable, relatively easy lives. Yes, I know, everyone has problems. But some people have it pretty good compared to the rest of us. So it’s easy for them to live inside their little bubble where nothing matters but “me and my thoughts.”
  • Basma Yousry commented on April 14, 2014 Reply
    I can’t imagine that such timing I have read this article…I have read it when I really was desperate feeling alone…why?? because I have expected to much from other..I rely on some one which is something wrong because as it is said before even ur shadow leaves you one day..yess I owe happiness to myself and no one owe me anything..that’s really make feel great
  • Ann commented on May 22, 2014 Reply
    Garbage. I would have prefered a doll.
  • DiscoProJoe commented on May 30, 2014 Reply
    Harry Browne is my favorite author of all time, and this is one of my favorite articles. His book *How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World* is amazingly enlightening, and is the inspiration that I have built my life upon. Five years ago I moved to the lovely city of Chongqing, China (from the U.S.), where I plan to spend the rest of my life. And when teaching English here, I presented this article to my students twice per year during Conversation Class. The response was always overwhelmingly positive, with many saying that their parents had always taught them these ideas. To demonstrate it further, I’d put a lot of dots on the board, and would draw a bunch of lines connecting all of them. I’d tell the students, “Each dot is a person. Each person is a unique, self-interested *trader* — exchanging value for value with others — in an *inter*dependent network of relationships. Your task is to *find your place* in that network where you can have the best relationships.” Since very few of my Chinese friends and former students were raised with Christianity, and since they have little or no firsthand memory of the Mao Zedong era, most of them are very receptive to individualist ideas — especially interdependent individualism. This helps me feel right at home here. Since 2012, I’ve been studying the Chinese language full-time at a local university, and plan to write a translation of this wonderful article sometime in the next year or two, and publish it online. The late, great Harry Browne might start gaining a lot of brand-new fans as a result! Anyway, here are a few basic concepts of individualism in the way I understand them: Individualism involves the concept of emotional and inspirational *profit* in friendships, relationships, community, charity work, etc. This means that each person is receiving warm feelings, satisfaction, joy, inspiration, etc.: all of which he/she values *more* than the time, energy, money, and other activities given up to make it possible. Otherwise, it’s not a good relationship or activity, and should be fixed, modified, or deserted. This philosophy is also about sharing in the things you have in common with people, and leaving the other matters alone (or arranging the relationship so that your differences are the least bothersome to one another). You can’t make a stone catch fire, but you can use it to build something. The more traits you have in common, the closer your friendship (or deeper your community involvement) can be. Do you have friends or family members who have different beliefs, hobbies, and tastes than you? Chances are…you probably already practice this method when dealing with them. Otherwise, you’re going to have a lot of bad relationships. Individualism does not champion “unconditional love,” but instead, promotes love based upon ***needs being met.*** (For example, what if you had a child who tried to murder you *three times* — on three separate occasions, using three separate methods, with three separate motives? Would you still love that person? If so, then I’d say you deserve to win the Darwin Awards. Your need for basic safety obviously couldn’t be met with a vicious creature like that.) Moving on, individualism also involves understanding the differences between wise self-interest (good), and self-centeredness (bad). It also involves clarifying one’s values (hopefully with your health, integrity, and inspiration at the top of your list), considering the consequences of one’s actions (in the short-term and long-term), and respecting the nonaggression principle. The individualist golden rule goes something like, “Treat others the way ***they*** would like to be treated, but in a way that also meets ***your own needs*** as well.” I can’t think of any better golden rule than that. And to conclude, I’ll leave you with an article I wrote a year-and-a-half ago about abusive manipulation tactics, entitled, “If I Wanted to Hurt You.” (In it, I present the practicing of individualism as a powerful antidote to clever abusers and manipulative jerks. The text of the article also includes a link to Harry Browne’s “A Gift to my Daughter,” which we are discussing here.) Anyway,…thanks, Tanya, for posting Harry Browne’s wonderful wisdom on your blog! Keep smiling. :-)
  • bodhibrother commented on June 21, 2014 Reply
    “No one owes you anything”, yet we live in a society in which power is gained over others (including whole nations) through debt. To meet the requirements for the job you want, you will have to go into debt to receive the education that your coveted job demands of you. Unless, of course, you are fortunate enough to have wealthy parents. If not, then you are given a loan in which the interest will amount to more than the loan itself and you may well be paying it off for the majority of your lifetime…because no one owes you the job that you worked so hard to qualify for. Of course, if you have wealthy parents and they have good connections, your job is pretty much guaranteed even if you are less qualified then others. Because no one owes you an equal opportunity or a fair chance. So, if you can’t get that job you qualify for and you settle for something that pays the half the wages, you STILL OWE on the student loan and STILL no one owes YOU anything. One wonders if you will be owed a decent funeral once your unsatisfying life is over and you’ve died still owing others. Here’s the point: we are all born to this world, yet some have access to resources while others do not. If you want water, you will have to OWE to those who claim rights to that water; if you want a small piece of land to live on, you will have to OWE to those who claim rights to that land. So, tell me – why doesn’t this philosophy work both ways? Why do we OWE for natural resources that, in reality, “belong” to everyone? Why is our society set up to OWE so much to those who OWE us nothing?
  • Lesley commented on June 21, 2014 Reply
    I certainly hope he gave her a doll as well. I imagine that a lot of the negative reactions to this piece come from the connotations and background of the libertarian movement, not what is actually written here. While I do believe that we all ought to help and support each other, who am I to force that on others? (in my personal life, that is. I believe one of the main jobs of government is to stop us from screwing each other over) To me the most selfish person is not the one who wants to live her life her own way, but rather the one who tries to control the lives of others. Please try and see this separately from your political system; I don’t have the same background. In my own life I think I would be healthiest, happiest and most useful to others going around with an intentional double standard: No one owes me anything. But my ethical and religious beliefs tell me I owe others all the help I am capable of giving them, whenever they need it. (A bit hard to live up to of course!)
  • mhusch commented on June 22, 2014 Reply
    no one owes you anything
  • Ellen commented on June 28, 2014 Reply
    Life is two-way street. If no one owes you, then you owe no one. I learned this at a very young age (concretely), however, there were a lot of mentoring people who lied to me about needing to be more giving, i.e. letting the other person go ahead of you, that kid play with your toys (even if he might break them), make sacrifice so that they can get something (even if I don’t). In all that time, no one ever told me that I had a right to say “no” to people, that I should be putting my needs or interests first. So, throughout grade school and high school, I learned that life was not fair, but along with it, if something went wrong due to back advice or guidance, I was holding the adviser and wrong doer accountable, even if it was directly or indirectly my decision. This probably doesn’t make much sense, so I will clarify with an example, “If someone at church would ask me to do something, and I told them “no”, they would go to my mom to have her ask me or demand that I say yes and accept. I felt that in cases like that that I was not responsible for consequences because I was coerced by my own mother to kiss-up to a church that I don’t even go to anymore. The reason why I would say no in the first place is because they were to demanding of my time and resources. I rarely had a chance to do anything that I wanted to do. This church did not benefit me at all in any way. I do have another example that brings up morality that concretely demonstrates why I don’t owe people anything because it’s a two way street. When I was 10, a girl, I will call Michelle, in the neighborhood hit me with her bike (I was on the grass). She broke my leg. There were two other kids who were siblings (who I thought were my friends) who I know for a fact saw what happened. They lied about it to cover for her. I remember that Michelle was even laughing some when it happened. At the time, other people in the neighborhood seemed to be on my side, but there was no way to prove anything. So, Michelle got away with it. Then, maybe two or three weeks later, there were some bikes stolen. The three bikes that were stolen belonged to the two kids who lied about not seeing the incident and the girl who broke my leg. In the entire neighborhood, NO ONE else’s bikes were stolen, how ironic! In the back of my mind, I always wondered if someone either knew what happened but didn’t come forward, or someone in the area wanted to pull revenge because Michelle got away with someone that she acted so damn proud of doing. I just feel that it was an interesting coincidence. I guess Karma does work in some cases. The reason that I mentioned this is because I have always wondered if the time were to ever come, would I owe these people anything. I never had a real opportunity to speak my mind about what happened, or how the situation made me feel toward them. In spite of these neighborhood kids being my friends, in the three months that my leg was in a cast, they only came by the house once. So, as far as I am concerned, they were never there for me. So, even though people have always preached that I should always do for others, it needs to be a two-way street. The way I feel is the way people treat me, is how I treat them. I mean, I am not going to break Michelle’s leg with my bike, but I just feel that if our paths were to ever cross again someday, I will never owe that person anything, NOT EVER! That is between God and me, and as far as I am concerned, HE understands why I feel the way I do. I have moved on, I just want to point out that people do not forget things that effect them. Even the person who did would know why if our paths were to cross, and I declined to help her in some way.
  • N commented on July 9, 2014 Reply
    I strongly agree with the comment before mine (by Ellen) and also the one by MBL (which sounds like it could have been written by me!). I also really liked the comment about earning love and that it will only lead to taking it personally if you are unloved no matter how hard you try (social ostracism, anyone?). I also like the comment about social and personal responsibility, because it seems to me that the author of this letter is advocating that it is okay to ignore others when you don’t feel like being there for them because you don’t owe them anything. We do have a general social responsibility and we DO OWE a much stronger one to people that are closer to us! The level of love and attention I owe to a stranger vs. a neighbor vs. a close friend vs. my mother are all different, and it is perfectly acceptable to expect the same from them! Not tit-for-tat, but generally! If I’m there for you through a crisis now, but you ignore me during my own crisis two years from now, you can’t tell me to shut off my emotions like a robot and to not feel offended! The big disagreement I have with this letter is that it seems to contradict itself when it says you must earn things like love and respect. Of course I agree that you do! But then what if it is not given to you? For example, what if (like Ellen said above) you have friends that don’t support you? I would say that they’ve lost the definition of “friend” to begin with, but that the point is that they DID owe you that goodness. I have always been there for my friends because I cared about them and wanted to help, NOT because I thought “If I do this now then they will do it for me later.” However, if later I am in need and they ignore me, then I feel used and find it is unfair to be so unloved by them. It is a two-way street. According to this letter it would be wrong of me to think and feel that way. I’ve been told that it sounds like I’m trying to buy people’s friendship by doing things for them, but it seems to me that if I go looking for people who will give me what I want then I am trying to buy their friendship instead of really loving them for who they are. I think this sets people up to be walked on in the long run, and become bitter and closed off because of it (since they would then think, “well they didn’t owe me so I should cut off the friendship because these are not people who want to give what I want, and I should just look out for myself.”) I understand not expecting more from someone than they can give (some people just are selfish or don’t know how to be good friends). But this all just screams of fair-weather friends and brainwashing yourself into thinking you don’t deserve much at all from the people closest to you. Someone once told me that the only thing you have a right to expect from your friends is basic respect. No, that’s what you have the right to expect from STRANGERS! And that if I was there for someone it’s because I wanted to be and they don’t owe me. The way I see it, being ungrateful is very rude and it would be fair for me to be hurt by it, especially more if our relationship is closer.
  • Dave commented on July 12, 2014 Reply
    This man’s letter to his daughter disgusts me and makes me want to puke. This is exactly what is wrong with the world. For one, it assumes no one likes or respects anyone else, unless there is a benefit to the self. This selfish view of life makes me sick. How about being nice just for the sake of being nice? I do owe other people love, respect, care, and concern – because they are HUMAN BEINGS made in the image and likeness of God. And people really should show me the same love, respect, care and concern. Until we discover the sacredness of human life – and that yes, we DO owe others something, and others DO owe us something – we are bound to be self-centered, godless swine. Of course, on the other side of the coin are those spoiled people who think they are owed everything, who never take individual responsibility, and who think they are royalty that everyone should bow to (e.g. those who have bumper stickers that say “Princess” as an example). Somewhere between these two sickening extremes is a healthy, balanced, kind and Christian worldview. Do good not because it brings you self-satisfaction, but for the sake of doing good, and out of love for OTHERS !!!
  • CorporateWelfareRecipient commented on July 25, 2014 Reply
    Fair enough. Nobody owes you property “rights”, nobody owes you fair trials and debtors don’t owe you money. Nobody owes you anything. I certainly don’t owe you a military or a police force, and I definitely don’t owe you lawful treatment. I don’t owe courts respect, either. Think about what the word “entitlement” means – it can mean social & legal justice. I’ve often found that those who say “you’re not entitled to anything” are the first to complain when their own “entitlements” are trampled upon. Sometimes, entitlement can save you from a life of slavery to landlords and/or the state.
  • CorporateWelfareRecipient commented on July 25, 2014 Reply
    I don’t owe you tolerance, I don’t owe you freedom of expression and I don’t owe you a wage. Contracts are entitlements, and there is nothing worse than state-backed entitlement. Someone “stole” something off you? So what? No one owes you justice. I suppose if a huge military power or a group of extremely wealthy people backed by the state stole your land off you, rewrote laws to make their otherwise illegal actions lawful and then wrote further laws stating that you’re now the landowners’ property, you’d say “suck it up – you’re not entitled to justice anymore as that’s what the rules say”?
  • CorporateWelfareRecipient commented on July 25, 2014 Reply
    I was once told by someone, “I deserve more money than those on welfare, as I work for a living and pay taxes.” I ask, “Why?” They respond, “As I’m working and putting something back in the world.” To which I reply, “if you really were putting something back into the world, you wouldn’t be earning less than doing nothing. That is the market telling you that your job is less efficient than doing nothing. Those welfare recipients who scam the system, work illegally on the side and sell drugs are fulfilling market needs and are more efficient than you. They know how to hustle.” “But my taxes help fund their lifestyles.” “Good – that’s because they’re more efficient than you. Your job is not worth doing. Get some proper skills – learn how to game the system. Bernie Madoff did it, Jordan Belfort did it, LIBOR riggers did it. Markets are not ‘natural’ – everyone wants to rig it in their favour, and as such are a set of arbitrary, state-sanctioned rules. Where there is no demand, create it, even artificially so if necessary. You’re a failing insurance company? Start committing crimes and create the demand for your services. Then, when the house of cards collapses, blame government/regulators/the nanny state for your own failings, and find a way of socialising losses whilst privatising gains. NEVER take personal responsibility for your actions – get others to fall upon swords for you. You don’t rise to the top by taking credit for failure..” Shocked, angry, confused, the worse-than-nothing “worker” walks off, having learned that the whole concept of “personal responsibility” is a sham.
  • Life is short, here are some words. commented on August 16, 2014 Reply
    This entire letter seems like he’s conning his daughter into thinking and or believing a certain way for something he wanted. Why write a letter to his daughter for Christmas in the first place?He should not have done anything for her since no one owes you anything . A country without a strong cultural norm will cause people to think this way, it’s inevitable for someone to have these thoughts cross their minds because there is so many ways and expectations in life. Surely thinking as if no one owes you anything in simple daily life could spare some sensitive emotions and possibly being offended, redirecting the ego in a more self guided direction. Obviously its less of a burden for others around them when one believes that no one owes them anything, possibly respecting the person for sparing their efforts, worries, and involvement. Does this apply to everyone? No one has the answer but possibly a general idea. Someone can say the mind is stronger than the body, but if that’s the case then why can’t we heal our wounds as quickly as they appear? Some things take time and assistance to heal, assuming if its guided to heal properly. No one owes you anything is just another way of saying you are the pursuit of your own happiness. Happiness will always come and go, it can never truly stay. Believing that Happiness can stay forever is like believing that everyone owes you something forever. No one owing you anything should not be a substitute for personal law or culture but obviously when one hits a brick wall and is willing to learn to climb over it with pursuit. Being able to practice picking your self up when your down in ways described in the letter. Based on individuals, this method might not be able to work determining your age and circumstances obviously. Everyone lives through the nature vs. nurture concept, the truth of the matter is, it is hard to receive nurture in the world not with survival and human wants/needs being so predominant. Perhaps for a child, sticking with something like “life is like a box of chocolates, you’ll never know what you’ll get” could have been more appropriate instead having to contemplate over “no one owes you anything” for the rest of their developing years.
  • matthew commented on August 24, 2014 Reply
    so let me get this straight basically we create children and then tell them that I’m f*** you you can’t have things whatever you know the way you want maybe I can understand you now that that is kind of a bratty concept I think that we should have but at the same time I’m in I don’t know I just I find it a little weird it out I f*** your mom made you but somehow you can f*** off I mean that’s sort of the message it sends right! bullshit what is anybody’s motivation for really giving a f*** honestly if you ask me that should be the true philosophy of this world is really what is your motivation to care I don’t give a f*** why I mean why would I really care did you give me a reason! so if young people are the one that are you know trying to be happy all the entitled of this mask then explain to me why old people are ordering penis pumps and not available to get it via you know Medicare have you seen these at it seriously 3 in the morning and well probably other time today I’m sure but at the same time I mean I know its bullshit yeah you get old people at the store it’s very sad and you look you’ll see him, droves especially you have to do is put up something like free sunday special they will be right there!
  • Trisha commented on October 8, 2014 Reply
    I think it depends on your individual interpretation. I wish this letter had been given to me. It is an awesome way to save a child the future pain and disappointment of believing everyone owes them something they didn’t earn. We have 2 generations today who were not taught this truth and boy are we in a mess.
  • Kellen commented on October 16, 2014 Reply
    Frankly, anyone willing to instill their moral principles in someone else with the equivalent of a branding iron should be viewed with considerable caution: they have a sense of entitlement to control other people’s development that might lead them to have a go at using a real branding iron. And anyone who finds it necessary to instill their moral principles in other people with the equivalent of a branding iron should rethink their moral principles.
  • Rose commented on October 27, 2014 Reply
    Has someone asked Harry Browne’s daughter how she felt about the letter? It sounds like he was conversing with himself because a 9-year old would not be capable of either understanding the letter or reading it through ’til the end. I think for a 9-year old, this letter spells REJECTION in huge, neon letters.
  • Rose commented on October 27, 2014 Reply
    I’ve actually looked it up. His daughter’s name is Autumn Browne, and apparently she is alive and reasonably healthy. Her father died in 2006.
  • Andrew Burgon commented on November 5, 2014 Reply
    An interesting post and I have sat here for an embarrassing amount of time trying to digest it all. The fact that he was an investment analyst and into politics helps to explain the mindset that’s evident in the letter. Obviously, he was a ‘portal opener’ and influencer. If I was a businessman or politician I’d be taking notes. “It constantly reminds me that I can get what I want only if I can enter the other person’s world. I must try to understand how he thinks, what he believes to be important, what he wants. Only then can I appeal to someone in ways that will bring me what I want.” In the friendship realm though I haven’t found this kind of advice in the paragraph above to be particularly useful. I prefer to gravitate toward people I have chemistry with or who I just happen to get along with very well. How these friends of mine think, what they believe or want was something I did not need to study or be manipulative about. Good friends I find announce themselves early before they ever truly know you. We are glad to be in each other’s lives. We spend time together simply for the joy of it. I’d prefer not to look under the hood of friendship to see what’s really going on according to Mr. Browne. Having said that, the sentiment, “No one owes you anything” may be of some help in that it lowers expectations right down to the floor and negates disappointment…in theory. We have, for example, expectations that we are oblivious to till a friend trips the wire. A partial adoption of the sentiment might be worth a test run though. My expectations have always been on auto-pilot. In reality though is lowering our expectations to the floor what we really want? I go to the buffet restaurant expecting a mouth watering selection of food not empty plates and glasses. If a friend stops showing initiative, warmth, enthusiasm and interest in my friendship there’s no point continuing, Are realistic and healthy expectations the way to go then? Thanks for the post, Tanya. It was thought provoking.
  • Vanissa commented on December 30, 2014 Reply
    Read each sentence twice over, rolling it over in my mind. Came across this article on an utterly random search, and since I’m down in the dumps now and going through a tough time; I’ll admit it made me a feel a tiny bit empowered about my current situation. It gave off the impression that, “Since no one owes me ANYTHING, I have to take care of myself and I have the power to choose whichever direction I adopt, henceforth.” But then, it also underlined a very cynical, crude way of the world, which is, at the very least, nasty. True, we all need to be self-sufficient and not rely on others to sail our boat. We all need love and attention, and go about our myriad subtle and overt ways to get it. But when letter emphasizes on this part” “No one owes me moral conduct, respect, friendship, love, courtesy, or intelligence”, it actually makes me a little queasy. I’ll explain why it makes me feel so, in the following paragraph. Way back in law school in 2004, I happened to befriend a batch-mate of mine (who also lived in the same wing as I, in the dormitory), who wasn’t particularly liked by anyone. Adding to the fact that she was suffering from a kind of disability, she was labelled as snoopy and very caustic with her remarks, and the entire batch had only labels for her, literally dismissing her as an entity. She was sarcastic and sometimes mean, I would not deny that. I had been on the receiving end of her baseless meanness towards me, for no reason and so, was avoiding her in the initial days of the first semester. I dont know what exactly happened, but during one of the night-outs with the others in the batch, something she said about a fellow batch-mate’s sister caused a furore and everybody literally ganged up against her. The consequences of this late-night drama was there for all to see the next morning, because everybody had pretty much boycotted her. No one spoke to her, shared notes with her, looked past her, walked past her even when she greeted them, didnt go down to the mess to dine together, no shopping outings happened. Nothing. Basically, she was a social outcast and was crying every single day, and up until then, I knew nothing about the so-called night-out drama. One day, she just happened to come and knock on my door (we lived right opposite each other) and I opened it to see her dishevelled hair and face. She had clearly been crying for a good amount of time. She burst inside and hugged me and ranted off to her heart’s content. Told me everything. I had not forgotten what she’d done to me or said about me, and yet, there she was standing, vulnerable and broken, crying. I owed NOTHING to her at that moment. For the way she had behaved with me, she obviously had not earned my respect, loyalty, friendship, a comforting shoulder from my end, NOTHING. And yet, I sat her down and had a heart-to-chat with her. Told her she had really hurt me by acting nasty for no reason. She admitted to it. And believe me, to this day, we are good friends. Whatever happens, I’m still her closest confidante. She isn’t the best person in the world and neither am I. We both have our own issues. But we still continue to bond, irrespective of whatever issues face us. Not every relationship is forged on the basis of what You owe someone, or what THEY owe you. This letter’s contents aren’t applicable everywhere, to every person. In a dog-eats-dog world so much detachment and cut-throat rat race can actually kill the zeal to live a decent life. I didnt ask my parents to overburden me with THEIR notions of how much responsibility I should undertake, what career paths I should choose, what haircut I should have, who I should marry, where I should live, how I should plan my baby so that it turns out to be boy, rather than a girl. What does it mean then? I should’ve started working my arse off to EARN their common-sensical knowledge that I am a person of my own, right from when I learned the alphabets? Or should I have toiled endless nights and pandered to their over-flated EGOS to EARN their unconditional love and support, which I should’ve had, rather than the unfair comparison and differential treatment as regards my younger sister? We all have our own baggage. To try and deal every problem with that magic wand of “No one owes me ANYTHING” makes it seem I am not a person deserving of respect and love. Rather it reeks of competition and ENDLESS days of strategizing and planning WHAT works best with whom, and how I could improve my tactics, so as to keep myself afloat? Where is the motivation to be myself, then? And to present this cynical view of life to a young daughter, is stupidity. She obviously needed to learn to be independent, self-sufficient, balanced. But she ALSO needed to learn compassion, humility, acceptance – of herself first, so as to be able to accept others. If we receive friendship, loyalty, love and kindness from the world, we owe it EVERY BIT to give it back what we received. Even if we EARN something all by ourselves, its never without the fleeting stroke of luck, one kind word, one kind gesture, one helping hand, one heart that believes in you despite not seeing the end of the tunnel. So in a sense, we are all alone, but not alone.
  • misc commented on January 24, 2015 Reply
    This idea that nobody owes anyone anything completely goes against the entire point of even having a society in the first place. If society doesn’t owe an individual person anything, then the individual owes society nothing either, so don’t be surprised when they take their frustration out on the world. There is absolutely NO GOOD reason why, in the 21st century, every person shouldn’t have their basic needs met. That means food, shelter, clothing, and transportation for all
  • Tisha commented on February 14, 2015 Reply
    Well put, sir, well put. I’ll certianly make note of that.
  • Maddy commented on February 21, 2015 Reply
    Just…despair. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to earn it, not getting it and moving on to new people whose affection I still can’t earn. No, of course I am not owed anything, but I am still disappointed, despite the promise that “Once you learn that you must earn the love and respect of others, you’ll never expect the impossible and you won’t be disappointed.” Possibly, what he means is that you will be disappointed once and for all.
  • E commented on February 25, 2015 Reply
    I think it’s important to realize he was talking to a 9-year old in the 60s. I don’t know about his 9-year old, but my 8-year old thinks everything belongs to her and that people should hop through their bums to please her at the drop of a hat too. I think the point he was making is that nothing is guaranteed in this life and that you make your own destiny by shaping it and avoiding the behaviors/things/people/experiences that lead to your unhappiness. Personal responsibility is key. That’s a choice we all have and the earlier we learn it the better.
  • Ellen commented on March 22, 2015 Reply
    I learned a lot of this the hard way in my life. I was the youngest of three, and my mother was single because my dad died. I was always picked on and even left out of things when I was a child. My brother and sister never, ever stuck up for me. That behavior followed suit with people in our neighborhood, school and even extended family. As a child, I have always tired myself out trying to be friends with people, I did make some friends, but at the same time, there were a lot of kids who were mean spirited and always made a horrible environment for me. When growing up, I never asked anyone for anything, only that people be caring and respectful. In the American Society, those two things seem like tall orders to some people, to have someone be nice or be a helpful guide is like pulling teeth. I believe that every person I have been around was a teacher in some way. The way each and every person has treated me is how I treat them back. I don’t go out of my way to be mean or harsh in any way, but if a person has never showed me how to respond to a situation whether it be helping someone in need or defending someone, I won’t know how to help or defend someone. That is probably why I am selfish when it comes to other people. For the times when someone has helped me in various situations is fewer than the times when people have done nothing. So, I do appreciate it when someone does do something caring or helpful. It helps in many ways. It helps with a situation that I am in, and it has also taught me how to take charge myself if no one is around to help. There was a time when I was 10 years old, I broke my leg. While I understand that there sacrifices made by everyone in my family, my family made it clear that I was a burden to them. My brother even told me that I should still be doing things myself instead of acting helpless. This happened in the 1970’s when they had ceramic casts and I had to use crutches, so for the most part, I did not have any free hands to do anything. In a nutshell, these examples is probably why I am not a very helpful or giving person in random situations. So, I am not sure if Harry’s intent was to not have his daughter depend on anyone for anything, or to not expect any material things from people. I do think that it is a bad intent to only form relationships because you will get things for it. But the way I read it is Harry said that when looking at relationships and what you get out of them was not so much materialism, but the value systems that each person holds. There is good and bad in just about all people. I had a friend from school who wanted me to go to church with her and her family. Long story short, I wish that I had never gone to church with her. Since I started going to church with her, I had seen sides of her and her family that I did not like. They were judgmental and condescending, and held some extreme prejudices towards people who were different from them. And they were very vocal about it. They would lie to justify their means behind matters. My friend would always ask me for things or to do things for her. When I would say no at times, she would go to her mom and complain, and then her mom would call my mom. So, that would be an example of a friendship where I did not get anything in return, but I bled me dry in many ways. Funny or ironic, my friend was a different person when in school. She was smart, and her behavior was different than when she was in church.
  • Freeman Q. Li commented on April 28, 2015 Reply
    I am reconsidering my attitude of life, for my part, before I really felt somebody owe me something, because I a good person, so I suppose to be treated this way, because I am a talented person, so I suppose to be treated like this. I am asking myself now, If I make myself behave like a Rock, just don’t bear fruit, why I still want people to water me? isn’t it nature, that people waters a tree just because the tree will bear fruit for them? or protect them from the sun? or just make their yard looks beautiful? or even worse, if I make myself like a black hole, energy just goes in and don’t goes out, do I still have the right to ask people to transfer energy to me? the difference is, is a person sick and cannot bear fruit temporally, or is he intentionally don’t want bear fruit for return?
  • Angie commented on June 10, 2015 Reply
    My thoughts when i read this letter are really quite simple….When we expect people to behave in a certain way and they dont “come through” for us, its a huge let down. We think to ourselves “I would have done such and such for them, why dont they feel the same way i do” So if we let go of expectations we can never be let down…its that simple. What good parent doesnt wish for their child to live a life of few disappointments? We need to come to the understanding that we are all different and you cant control what others do….just let it go and live the life that makes you happy. Nobody owes me anything and the only obligation i have in this world is to make myself a better person and in that process all my family, friends and associates will benefit…if thats selfish, then so be it!
  • Laura commented on June 18, 2015 Reply
    Can you tell me who is the photographer or artist of the girl at the window image here?
  • Anna Bolic commented on June 18, 2015 Reply
    I think Browne’s point here is that we can’t FORCE anyone to honor, respect, or love us. To that, I would add that “No one owes you anything” UNLESS they have *voluntarily* committed themselves to a debt to you. If someone borrows money from you, do they have an obligation to pay you back? Damn straight, they do, and you have every right to try to get it back! When we have children, we owe them love, security, hugs, kisses, respect, listening and teaching; IOW, our best efforts at good parenting, because we chose to bring them here. On the other hand, our children do not owe us anything; they didn’t choose to be here, nor did they choose us as parents. We can only hope that the choices we make in parenting them will contribute to the growth of a child and then an adult who *voluntarily* honors us and loves us back. Likewise, when we *choose* to get married, we owe it to our spouse to make every effort to bring the best version of ourselves to the relationship.
  • Chia commented on June 19, 2015 Reply
    I agree with the idea that no one owes you anything. No one is obliged to do anything for you, and if you live your life appreciating what people are doing for you or with you, you would be more thankful and happy. However I do not agree with the author’s belief that everyone only does things for another for something in return. I do think that is a bit cynical and I like to believe in the good in humanity – I believe that there are people who give without wanting anything in return, that some do things purely because they want to help others. I believe in the kindness and generosity of people. And I think you would live happier believing in that. This letter seem to imply that getting everything you want is what you should pursue in life, and though it suggests that the way to achieve this is to give people what they want, the whole method just seems to be too calculating and cynical. So overall, I will take away from this letter the need to constantly remind myself to be more appreciative of what people are doing for me. but instead of striving to get everyone do what you want them to do, Why not strive to be a better person, a kinder and more giving soul, someone that is able to help others, to add value to the society and bring happiness to those around you – which will naturally attract people to you – this should be the natural outcome, not the objective.
  • Suzy commented on June 24, 2015 Reply
    As a parent, I am trying to understand him through this scope. But then that brings me to the realization that I am thinking about him and why he wrote what he did. Thus pointing out that I personally think of others before myself. So this letter must go in the DISREGARD pile. Now, let me return to this beautiful place called life and go for the and be a blessing to all things living!
  • Andrew commented on July 1, 2015 Reply
    I think this is hard for people to hear, because the idea that people don’t owe us anything can make us feel alone and worthless. If nobody owes us anything, then all our relationships are conditional. If relationships are conditional and based on what I give to others, then I have no inherent value. My existence, my being, is worthless to the world. THIS IS TRUE. You are inherently worthless to the world, as in everything outside of you. The problem is when we try to get value of our existence from the world. We can earn our worldly value from our actions from the world, but the value for our being must come from within ourselves.

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