Tempered Expectations

When I go out to eat, I have certain hopes for the experience.

We will be greeted soon after walking into the establishment. We will be seated soon or told to the length of the wait. We will be given menus when we are seated and our drink order will be taken without too much wait. Our drinks will arrive without too much of a wait, and generally the drinks shouldn’t be empty for too long or ever. I hope to make our food order not too long after getting our drink order and any appetizers should show up sooner rather than later.

Once the food order shows up, I hope it is cooked to order, all arrives at approximately the same time, and delicious. Must be delicious. The server will usually check in once or twice after the food has arrived to make sure we have everything and it all tastes good. Then eventually show up later with the check and pick up the check without too much delay.

I try to temper my expectations. A fast food establishment isn’t going to be as delicious as a high end establishment and a high end establishment is not going to be as focused on huge portions as the fast food establishment.

However, we have one place that breaks all the rules. I have come to expect them to break the rules.

Servers are generally ambivalent, slow, and varying degrees of friendly ranging from not friendly to non-existent. The food is always good. Which is why I keep going back. But I know better than to ask for anything other than what I am being given. And if I need anything, I know I can get it myself. And I do. I have seen where they keep most of their supplies and if I need something, I go get it myself.

This might seem extreme, but truly, they do not care. Servers have watched me get up and grab a high chair for my toddler, extra napkins, and refill my own water, get condiments, utensils, and menus. They all watch and say nothing. They are completely ambivalent to me and my resourcefulness.

Previously this establishment has frustrated me to no end. But now, I have tempered my expectations to know, I do it myself and I am better for it.

How do you temper your expectations? Do you prepare yourself for the moments when you know your expectations are too high? When you are consistently dissatisfied with an experience, do you change your expectations to be ready for dissatisfaction and take action?

Shouldn’t you be able to do better than silently suffering?

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Finders Seekers

Have you ever notice we find what we are looking for?

When we go to the grocery store looking for milk and there it is. We go to the mall to find new shoes and there they are. We get on amazon.com to order toilet paper and there it is.

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We go to one coffee shop to find rude baristas with burnt coffee and there it is. We go to the other coffee shop to find perky baristas with sugar coffee and there it is.

We go out to the restaurant that has good food with bad service. And? Every time we get good food and bad service.

We show up to work expecting the same people to be frustrating and the same people to be a pleasure to work alongside.

What if the problem is we keep looking for the same thing and finding it, not that the thing we’re looking for is always present every time we go looking for it? What are you looking for? What should you be looking for?

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Unexpected Problems

Every day has problems. I do not mean this in the negative fatalist view. I mean this in the pragmatic view. Every day has some sort of problem or opposition in it. Whether it is your boss telling you, you did not something the right way or running out of gas on your way to work. Something goes wrong every day.

Now, I do recognize things go right every day too. I do not want to get lost in the negative.

However, I have to plan on things going wrong. I have to plan that I will face opposition. I have to visualize and process failure and shortcomings. I have to do this so I am ready for it. So when things do go wrong, I am not stopped and derailed all of a sudden. I am able to take it on the cheek and move on to the next thing. I am able to own my part of it, correct my mistake, and move forward.

It is only when I do not prepare for something going wrong that I am defeated it. I am slowed down and stopped in my tracks.

The opposite is true when I mentally prepare. When I visualize myself taking the bull by the horns and reacting appropriately, I am so much better. I am so much better at taking a failure or a mistake when I have already processed my reaction and moved forward from the moment. When I preprocess a failure, I process the self doubt, disappointment, and frustration before it ever gets happens and then I it has almost no effect on me when it actually happens.

The next thing I know, my mistake has turned into a success because I was ready to push through it and not let it take me down.

How mentally prepared are you for something going wrong? How do you handle it when life throws you a curveball? What can you do to mentally prepare for a mistake or misstep?



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Stress is too common in my life. The stress comes from inside me and outside of me. Sometimes the stress is real and other times the stress if fictional. However, stress still affects steals years of my life far too easily. The worst kind of stress is the kind originating from inside of me. The worst kind of stress is the kind of stress spawning from assumptions I have made about a situation or assumptions I have made about other people.

This stress is built on me assuming it is my responsibility to fulfill the unspoken needs and expectations of other people. But there-in lies the problem. The needs are unspoken and assumed. First, I am making assumptions I know other people as well as I know myself. Second, I am guessing what their expectations are for me, which means I am putting myself into shoes I have never walked in and under hats I have never worn. Third I am then trying to fulfill these imaginary expectations and they have never spoken a word about any of it.

Quite literally, I have started telling complete stories and fictions about what they are thinking about me and what they want from me. All they are doing is trying to have a conversation with me.

It is so funny how quickly it went from trying to have a friendly conversation in a group or one on one, to me being solely responsible for keeping the conversation going. The whole thing ends up with me being underneath a pile of imaginary stresses that all started inside my head and ended by shaving years off my life. How different it could have been if I had stopped, took a deep breath, and asked about the expectations? How different could I be to set said the expectations and focus on the value of the person across from me?
What stresses do you have in your life? Where do they originate from? Have you recently asked others about these stresses? What do they think about your stresses?
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Life has compartments to it. I do not get to stop that. I cannot stop teething. I cannot stop puberty. I cannot stop cannot prevent myself from growing hair on my chest any more than I can prevent the times when I have to fill my perpetual need for food. However, life has other compartments too. 

There is a preschool phase, a kindergarten phase, a elementary school phase, middle school, high school, college, post college for some, and maybe even some version of professional compartment. All of these then followed by retirement.

As I listed these compartments I think of myself in each compartment. How I might play on the playground or watch the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in kindergarten. Learning to write in cursive and learning my multiplication tables in elementary school. Even learning how to format a computer hard drive or play the bass stick out to me from middle school. 

There are many more memories to dig into; but, with each passing compartment, comes a certain set of expectations and allowances.

In the kindergarten compartment, you are only allowed to go so far from the house and cross the street under certain circumstances. The middle school compartment probably has a certain curfew. 

The high school compartment has certain allowances for community development. You are expected to be able to interact with people a certain way orThe college compartment has expectations about grades and friendships. Allowances for post college include healthcare benefits, finding a significant other, some possibly children, and preparing for life after career.

Nobody ever shows up and blends the compartments.

Nobody ever shows up and says, “While you are at college you can do anything else outside of college while you are here.”

Where is that guy? The guy who encourages me to break down the walls because I can. When does someone explicitly say, “These things to the left are the bare minimum and these things to the right are considered ‘extra.’ You can do all or none of these. Your call.”

Who is the guy who gets to set the expectations for each compartment?

When did the expectation committee meet? 

How come I was not invited?

Life’s compartments are only dictated by age. I cannot stop time from ticking. I can stop my time from being wasted on the bare minimum. I can set the expectations for myself.

What are the walls of your compartment? Which ones can you move?



Measuring Up

When I was young, a mentor of mine took me out for a trip to Burger King. Nothing special there. Your usual run-of-the-mill, “flame broiled”, “have it your way” sort of place. However, we had a very unusual conversation. The conversation was about measuring up. It was about comparisons and expectations. Comparisons people make of me. Comparisons where other people would measure me and decide to deny or accept me based on how they thought I measured up to their sticks. 

I am beginning to realize I do this now. I measure other people. I say they should measure to metric 1, 2, and 3. Not because I have the golden ruler; simply, because I have developed what I think successful people do in my mind and I want everyone to succeed and therefore they need my metrics. 

I try to maintain a broad understanding of what it takes to be successful. However, that does not change the reality of me measuring people on a very imperfect ruler. My spacing is uneven, the stick curves, and it often fluctuates between Imperial Units and International Units

Who am I to be developing any sort of measuring stick for success?

I can clearly communicate expectations and direction for someone. I can develop a clear idea of who I want to be and what I want to do to succeed. However, it is not my job to develop a measuring stick to use to for others to in-errantly obey. It is my job to communicate to others a clear expectation for given situations (i.e. do not touch the stove, it is hot and will burn you most of the time.) It is my job to otherwise help others succeed in the areas they want to succeed in. 

Where are you developing measuring sticks? Where should you encouraging, not measuring?