It’s Still The About People, Right?

I think we as a society have forgotten something here. It’s not about the task in front us. How fast can you finish your spreadsheet? Are you a democrat or a republican? We sold more doohickeys than you. Is it about the people? Is it about the job? Is it about the thing?

Most jobs at their start were about helping, or at least solving a problem. Nutrition. Water. Disease prevention. Somewhere along the line they lose their focus. It’s easy to forget. If you’ve ever worked in a daycare with more than five children, you know how that feels. Children whine, they cry, they poop, and they need. It’s constant. You forget that you cared about these noisy, fussy children. At one time, you wished to nurture them. Now all you want to do is stop the noise. Suddenly it’s about the thing. The diapers.

The squeaky wheel problem

It seems to make sense to prioritize in order of priority.

Do the urgent stuff first. Deal with the cranky customer who’s about to walk out, the disenchanted and difficult employee who hasn’t had the right sort of guidance (lately), the partner who is stomping his foot.

The problem with this rational prioritization is that it means that the good customers, the valuable employees and the long-suffering but loyal partners are neglected. And they realize that they should either get squeaky or leave.

If the only way to get your attention is to represent a risk, people will figure that out.

(The other problem is that you end up spending all your time with cranky, disenchanted, difficult people who are stomping their feet.) – Seth Godin

I think it’s important to check ourselves and ask it’s still about the people, right?

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Expectations vs Reality

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.

Expectations are just that, expectations. They aren’t promises or guarantees. We assume we know how life will go. I have heard that women tend towards forecasting in relationships more so than men. We meet a man, and in our mind we’ve got our house picked out along with the names of the two adorable children we will have. When the relationship crashes, we wonder what went wrong. Maybe nothing went wrong. It could be that it wasn’t as perfect as we’d thought. It’s difficult to process the difference between our imaginary relationship or imaginary job versus the one that really exists. We need to be careful to pay attention to what really is happening around us, then we approach life face to face.  Where were you looking when the roof caved in? Did you notice the first drops of rain? Or the buckets on the floor to catch the dripping roof leak? Maybe you were were visualizing life in another town.

So what are we to do? I love to redecorate my house in my mind and our imagination has its purpose. How would we ever make any progress, whether scientific or mathematically? Visualization gives us our map of how it could be. We need to remember where we are right now.

Avoiding magical thinking

But while your intent is pure and your goal is to create magic, the most common mistake is to believe that the marketplace will agree with your good intent and support you. More specifically, that media intermediaries will clearly, loudly and accurately tell your story, that this story will be heard by an eager and interested public and that the public will take action (three strikes).

Or, more tempting, that ten people will tell ten people to the eighth power, leading to truly exponential growth (some day). Because right now, you’ve told ten people and they have told no one…

Only count on things that have happened before, a funnel you can buy and time you can afford to invest. Anything more than that is a nice bonus. – Seth’s blog

 

Piecrust Promise

English: Screenshot from the trailer for the f...
English: Screenshot from the trailer for the film Mary Poppins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well what did you expect to happen?

There’s something both wonderful and  scary about expectations. It’s just a dream, a wish in your mind. It floats there taunting you and teasing you making you believe it could happen. It really could. The rainbow’s end and the sunbeam through the window. Like the kitten that is chasing the flashlight beam, we crouch and then pounce. After a while of chasing after the illusive dreams we become cynical if our hopes have been out of reach for too long. We hear of people who have put their hands into the heavy pot of gold. Surely it’s real. Right? What about true love? Is it as false as the Easter Bunny?

I get aggravated when I’m watching a television show and the character – who is definitely in charge – instructs everyone to trust him. Just trust me. I’ll handle this. And it’s always in the high crisis moments and you can tell that he/she expects everyone to blindly follow his sage advice. I cry foul!

I want to know which direction we are going. Yes, it’s scary and potentially deadly, but just let me know. I might want to just jump out of the moving train. Especially if it’s heading for the cliff. Trust me. I won’t let anything happen to you. It reminds me of the chivalrous days. The knight on the white horse shows up at just the right moment,  last desperation. He saves the day. The damsel in distress prettily wipes her brow. She knew he’d be there to save her. She expected it. She trusted him with her life.

What kind of game is this? Do you walk out to the edge just to see if they will save you? What did you expect to happen? Would the town be saved and the big scary monster die a bloody death, then we’d all live happily ever after? No more bad things?

If you’ve been around me any time at all, you know that I love a  good drama.  Movies, books, around a campfire, I don’t care. I want to get lost in the drama. But life is not a movie. It’s not a game that we can play and get to reenter at our last saved spot. There’s no pause or no rewind. We would all like to rewind. And there were some moments that I would love to have just lingered in the euphoria.

I’m probably looking at this whole process wrong. It’s possible I am missing a key ingredient. If I’ve missed something, feel free to email me or leave a comment. I do want to see this all through clear eyes. Are there those you can just blindly trust? Is that a realistic expectation? What about expectations? Can we blindly walk towards the rainbow without looking for the cliff? How do you follow your dreams? Do you keep your expectations in check or  let them run wild? I don’t know if I have all the answers now. I want to hear what you say.

A little further on….

I love it when movies do a funny twist. You know what I mean? You might have watched a movie or two like that. The usual story is going along and poof! The story line took a sudden turn. The Sting is one of the older ones, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.  And did you expect The Sixth Sense? But I guess we should have. The little boy kept

Cover of "The Sixth Sense (Collector's Ed...
Cover via Amazon

saying “I see dead people.” If you haven’t seen it, well now you must.

The expectations we hate the most are the ones that leave you flat lined  You’re walking along, maybe taking in your groceries, like I was doing one afternoon, then boom, you’re face down on the ground. Speechless. You just lay there for momentarily, your lip bloodied. How did that happen? And even, what just happened? It’s the unexpected phone call in the middle of the night. Your daughter was in a car crash. You need to come to the hospital right away. The look on the doctor’s face. You know the surgery didn’t go well. the call from your boss telling you there’s not enough work for you. Can you clear out your desk? These are the moments that you’d like to fast forward through. Not at all a Hallmark moment.

What do these moments have in common? Interrupted expectations. You got ready for work and expected to do project A and make a few phone calls. Life happens. Doesn’t it. There’s no way to plan or foresee any of the events. Some wonderful and some not so much.

I read in Psychology Today  that our anger and disappointment comes from your unfulfilled expectations. You can read about it here Psychology Today. I expect traffic to flow smoothly. I expect good weather. I expect for my children to go to bed without a fuss. So when I’m angry at the creeping car driving in front of me, it is because I expected it to flow at my pace. That’s an unrealistic expectation.

So do I expect anything out of myself? If I lower my expectations about life then I will always be happy, right? I think that would be a pretty pathetic way to live. Low expectations are worthless. My way, I let my dreams float up there in the ether of my mind. Yes, I’m blonde. They are like beautiful butterflies. Not all dreams are flights of fancy though. Growing up is real. Going to college is believable. You can put some feet to your dream of a good paying job, writing a book, and  traveling to Europe.

So what makes a dream or a promise just a pie crust promise? Can you take a step towards it? An action you can make? Dreams are wonderful. There are those that I really do trust. You cannot help unexpected events. And you surely can’t stop traffic on the freeway on Monday morning. What’s a girl to do? Dream.

See also: Burnside Writers Your Wonderful Powerful Imperfect Story