Setting Your Own Expectations

The industrial era taught us as employees to wait around for someone to tell us what to do. Hell, the contemporary education model taught us that. We spent the better part of our lives under the pressure of other people’s deadlines, rubrics and expectations. As we get older and “treated like adults,” people tell us what to do less and less. In life, at home and in the workplace, very few people will babysit you or outline a clear path for your success. It’s up to you to do both of those things.

If no one is setting expectations for you, outline your own and hold yourself accountable. If you’re unemployed and single, you have no choice but to do this (until of course the feds knock at your door). If you’re employed and getting no love from your supervisor, take a chance on that lack of structure to build your own world. If you’re not yet buried in a bureaucratic mess of paperwork and process, build your own. Strategize your own roadmap for success.

How do you think people build huge businesses from scratch? They unlearned to wait for other people to set expectations for them and did their own thing when and how they wanted to. They found a way to give a damn on their own terms.

Writing As A Form Of Clarity

While writing will always be open to interpretation, it’s far less open to interpretation than body language, reactions, passing comments, whispers on the wind, moral values, historical precedent or anything else equally abstract under the communication umbrella. Laws are not common unspoken understandings between citizens and the courts; laws live on paper in writing. Life at home, operations at your organization or cooperation in your community often improve when words grace the page.

If you hope to bring clarity to a situation, put it on paper. Outline it on paper. Announce it on paper. Rules, feedback, expectations, values and goals all work better when written and preserved. They become real. Sure, words can be misunderstood or interpreted in many ways. The best writers learn to use this to their advantage. When it comes to clarity in writing, less is more – with fewer words (specifically adjectives), there’s less room for wandering interpretations. Memos are good. Assumptions are bad. Dialogue without recording serves no concrete or lasting purpose. It disappears and distorts. The written word by itself does not distort.

You Can’t Manage Others If You Can’t Manage Yourself

Everyone is a critic and thinks he or she can oversee others. The truth, I’m afraid, is that critics are the last people you want to work for. We all want to be treated well, have our opinions valued and respect our leaders – not get kicked around by opinionated and scattered fools. I’ve been fortunate to have great leaders in my life. But no one is perfect. The most common mistake my managers have made is setting expectations and not walking the talk. You cannot live a lie. People can smell it from a mile away. Expect your team to do something and fail to do it yourself? You lose credibility and respect.

If you want to keep a team organized, you need to be an organized person. If you want your people to lead healthy lives, you need to set the example. If you expect everyone to meet deadlines, you need to do the same. If you want your people to be frugal, you must not spend a dime more than you need to. Leaders need to have their own shit together. I’m not saying that, as a leader, you need to set all these expectations. What I’m saying is that, as a leader, you must lead by example. You must not exclude yourself from your own expectations. That would make you a dictator, not a team player. You will be ousted from the throne. Demonstrate to your team that you can follow and value your own instructions. Do that, and your team will respect you. Sit back, point fingers and do your own thing? I smell a mutiny.

Plan For the Worst, Hope For the Best

If you identify and find a way to accept the worst possible outcome of your situation, anything better than the worst will feel like a blessing. Do not lower your expectations or demoralize yourself into a constant state of negativity – that’s not the point. It is always important in planning to anticipate possible outcomes. By preparing for the worst, you will be better-equipped to tackle the actual results. If things are not as bad as you planned, then you will be relieved. Life will be good.

You must keep thoughts of failure in check by balancing them with hopes for success. Without hope, we have little room to grow and no path to follow. You must have something to believe in and live for. Otherwise, what’s the point? A true balance between fear and hope should land you in the middle – a realistic place where accomplishments are appreciated and failures become lessons well-learned. That’s a pretty comfortable place to be.

A Vendetta Against Neckties

Amedeo Modigliani [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsI have never liked neckties. They are uncomfortable, untimely to dress and useless accessories to otherwise utilitarian garb. I can appreciate style, but the necktie is impractical. Seriously, what’s the point? Scarves make sense to me. And while not fashionable, so do bibs. But not neckties. Not anymore.

The necktie, originally called a “cravat,” was first popularized by Croatian mercenaries in the 1630s (part of my ancestry). Unpopular lore suggests these garments were used by the warriors to wipe clean their bloodied swords and flaunted as trophies of valor. The bloodier the cravat, the greater the man. While other European militias struck uniform accessories from their budgets, the Croatians struck enemies with their killer fashion sense. Bloody or not, the Croatian warriors built a reputation throughout the Western world and their linen trademark caught the attention of aristocracy. Before long, King Louis XIV embraced the necktie and the rest is history.

The modern necktie is nothing more than a corporate leash and a masturbatory symbol for power and wealth. If the world’s men spent less time tying knots at their gullets and more time changing the world, we could have flying cars by now.

Loosen your tie and share this with your boss.