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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Why a Teen Burned His Own Ferrari

Last year, a story broke in Europe that made its way across the Atlantic Ocean. In a strange episode of entitlement and distorted perspectives, a college-age young man from Switzerland set fire to a Ferrari 458 Italia given to him by his dad.

Why, you ask?

It was a ridiculous scheme to use the insurance money to upgrade to a new model. That’s right — he just didn’t like the gift his dad had given him. Evidently the Ferrari wasn’t up to his standards. After all, the spoiled young man is said to have fourteen other cars (including a Lamborghini) at his disposal, not to mention almost $30 million and a monthly allowance between $5K and $10K. With possessions like that, you can bet a new gift better be very, very special.

I know. This almost seems comical and unreal. I wish it were.

But Swiss publication 20 Minutes reported this story in March of 2014. The young man visited a dealership to get his car valued so that he could trade it in for a new model. The quote he received was $193,500, which wasn’t enough to cover the cost of the one he wanted. Since he didn’t have the funds to make up the difference and didn’t want to wait for two more months of allowance, he schemed with the dealer to find a secluded place to set the car on fire and collect the insurance money. When they tried, the plan backfired. Between security cameras and cell phone call records, the plot was discovered and the young man was sentenced to 22 months probation and a fine of $33,000. In court, he said he just didn’t have the courage to tell his father he no longer liked the gift he’d been given. What a pity.

A Picture of a Spreading Mindset

I’ll be the first to admit this story is an exaggerated picture of the sense of entitlement we see too often in our generation. Frequently, both adults and students have caught this repulsive sense of entitlement: the feeling that we deserve more than what we currently have, that we are “worth it” and should have choices when it comes to luxuries and lavish lifestyles. We merit perks and rewards at every turn. I hate it when I spot this attitude in myself. Where do we get this idea? I see it coming at us from almost every angle:

  • Marketing ads, all of which constantly tell us we deserve more.
  • An affluent culture where we enjoy more luxuries than ever before.
  • The media that tells stories of rich and famous people enjoying more than us.
  • A new parenting report card that demands we get our kids the latest toys.

Eight Warning Signs We Can Look For

My guess is, you see this sense of entitlement too often as well. But how do we spot it? Below, I offer a few “cues” to look for that signal a drift into a sense of entitlement, inspired by the story of the son and his Ferrari:

  1. Beware when you assume a gift automatically entitles you to a better one.

You know you’re living high on “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs” when you’ve grown way past concern about food, clothing or a roof over your head. While the son had all of his needs met and more, he was still dissatisfied. This young man felt entitled to something more than what he’d been given. That’s repulsive.

  1. Beware when you believe you should always get a choice.

It’s almost unbelievable that this young man assumed he got to choose when it comes to gifts given to him. He felt he had the right to accept or decline the gift. Our world offers many choices, but it’s healthy once in a while to realize that sometimes, there’s only one choice, and we must learn to live with it.

  1. Beware when others endorse your sense of entitlement.

We’ve stooped pretty low when we see others displaying a sense of entitlement and don’t call it what it is. Someone should have said, “Hey man, do you realize this is a Ferrari? Millions would love to have this thing. Why don’t you give it away?” Instead, others merely emulated this rich young man’s attitude and plotted to burn the gift.

  1. Beware when your intoxication suggests you deserve your every desire.

This one is huge. My parents grew up during the Great Depression, and while dad ended up making a huge salary throughout his career, he made sure his kids were grateful for having their basic needs met. Anything more was a luxury, a bonus, a cherry on top. The young man was intoxicated by his greed and didn’t see it.

  1. Beware when you’re so narcissistic you don’t recognize immoral pursuits.

Evidently, the young man was so caught up in what he wanted that he wasn’t able to see how immoral and illegal his plot was. He’s now serving a sentence and paying a fine for it. Selfishness can be blinding. Robert Heinlein said: Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing one.

  1. Beware when you care little that your attitude will be noticed.

The young man plummeted to an even lower level of scum in my opinion. He didn’t seem to even care what his behavior looked like. He had to know his dad would see the new car if the plot worked, yet it didn’t bother him. He was careless, and now he is car-less. He was reckless, and now he is recognized for his immaturity.

  1. Beware when you can only see what you don’t have instead of what you have.

This one is omnipresent in modern America. We are far more apt to notice the possessions or perks we do not enjoy, rather than recognize the ones we do. We are reminded at every turn that there’s more out there in cyberspace or the shopping mall. Ben Franklin said, “If all but myself were blind, I should want neither fine clothes nor fine houses.” The young man felt he was “less” until he got more.

  1. Beware when you feel entitled to make whatever use of others you want.

When we are inebriated by a sense of entitlement, we become utilitarian. We will use people and love things, rather than loving people and using things. Like a king intoxicated with power, a person suffering from a sense of entitlement will begin behaving in ways they’d never dream of if they had perspective.

A final caution. Beware when you’re blind to how these acts end up costing you. In the end, the young man paid dearly for what he thought would be a free car of his choice. A sense of entitlement almost always costs you.

Released Today: The 5th Anniversary Edition of Generation iY!

Discover the Secrets to Connecting With Teens and Young Adults

See the New iY Here

This new edition includes bonus chapters. new research, and recent stories that help adults:

  • Adopt education strategies that engage an “i” generation
  • Employ their strengths and styles on the job
  • Correct crippling parenting styles
  • Repair damage from (unintentional) lies we’ve told students
  • Guide young adults toward real success instead of superficial “self-esteem”
  • Understand the generation following Millennials: Generation Z


  1. Ken Shepherd on September 2, 2015 at 7:49 am


    As usual, great stuff Tim! As we discussed before at last years leadership forum, the young people today have so many problems but the $64,000 question is how do we get to the root of the problem and get to the parents? In this case the young man was very entitled, but that attitude did not happen overnight and was fostered by the dad himself.
    Instead of giving his son the Ferrari, the real CAR he needed to give him was;
    C-Challenge him
    A-Hold him accountable and
    R-Give him Responsibility

    Boy, if we could all be more concerned about teaching our kids more about servanthood rather than how to be served! Including me, on my refrigerator sits the article you did about getting out of my little box, that one’s tough! Keep up the good work!
    Ken Shepherd

  2. Kevin on September 2, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Tim, first off, big fan. I share many of your posts with my colleagues and students and attempt to implement an environment that I boil down to C.A.R.E (commitment, accountability, responsibility, and effort). In reading this post, the wording struck me a little… While I would hope that these behaviors could be noticed by the perpetrators so they could corrected (“Beware when you…), I doubt if they have the self reflective tools necessary to make such a change. Rather, the red flags in this instance might require the attention of a viewer who can then challenge the offender. And to the one who notices, best of luck with getting through to the misguided youth…

  3. Theodore Redlich on November 18, 2015 at 12:37 pm


    I always enjoy reading your letters that come through my mailbox addressing so many concerns that I share about where the future of our society and nation are going if we don’t start addressing some very fundamental issues. I often forward the e-mails I receive to friends and family. Especially those who are teachers and/or have kids.

    I have to agree with Kevin on this one that some of the wording threw me off though. Now perhaps it was just my interpretation but this is what I took away from reading the post and where my concern lies.

    I am in complete agreement that there is an unjustified sense of entitlement that exists in society today. I used to see it only in children but now I see it in adults as well. Although, some of those children have grown into what I justify as an adult (18 years old and up). A good example is the all too common statement of, “I deserve [insert desire] and someone needs to force someone else to do something that will ensure I get it.” A good example would be the young lady who wants to tax the 1% to pay for college education. While I agree that free college would be a wonderful concept. I find it grossly selfish to say, “we deserve a free education and someone else should pay for it.” I myself worked three jobs when I wasn’t taking classes and two while I was taking classes. I also passed on the parties and vacations that my friends were going on so that I could afford an education that would advance my life. I find there is no appreciation for things that are not earned.

    Where I disagree is within the statement, “Frequently, both adults and students have caught this repulsive sense of entitlement: the feeling that we deserve more than what we currently have, that we are ‘worth it’…” I find that it is perfectly healthy to feel that we are worth more than what we currently have. It provides the driving force to achieve beyond the average. I guess my view point is that I like to think that I am worth it and my family is worth it. Therefore, I will strive to provide more. As I said it is a matter of perception when reading the statement but I got the sense of discouraging people from thinking they are worth more, which I disagree with. I just think people should be encouraged to know they are worth more but with a healthy reminder that they have to earn more not just be given more.



    • Tim Elmore on November 24, 2015 at 3:21 pm

      Hi TJ.

      You make a great point. I meant for that statement to communicate exactly what you’re saying, and not to say that we should believe we aren’t “worth it”. Your last sentence nailed the idea on the head. We should use the belief (that we are worth it) to motivate us to reach a desired goal and not merely sit back and say others should simply give it to me.

      Thank you for continuing the discussion.


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Why a Teen Burned His Own Ferrari