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.

Dreams Aren’t Real Enough

Dreams remain fantasies until you write them down. On paper, a dream transforms into a plan. With a plan, you can see it as you do your own to-do list. Others can see it as well and jump on board. Pitch your plan. Wear it on a t-shirt. Share it with everyone. After all, someone might want to help you. You may even start to believe that it’s more than just a dream.

Take your dream out of its fantasy box and put it in a place where it can become a reality. Keep calling it a dream and it will always stay that way.

Put It On Paper First

Before spending lots of money or time realizing your “vision,” put it on paper first. Unless you can afford to waste resources or fail miserably, it’s far better to outline and iterate your project in writing. Pens and paper are cheap. Payroll, equipment, and building blocks are not. That’s why people started using blueprints, screenplays, sketches, budgets, business plans, outlines, storyboards, and recipes. By mapping your vision, you liberate ideas from your skull onto a medium others can review. On paper, you can objectify your idea better and collect feedback from peers who can help you.

Yes, this may be a fundamental concept. “Duh, Craig, of course you should plan things on paper.” But it kills me how many people jump into the deep end without thinking first. And it amazes me how much time I’ve wasted getting dirty without a plan. Hours and hours of design, coding, and crafting to get me nowhere when I could have realized project faults on the page early on. Trust me, put it on paper first. It’s not a real idea until someone can read or see it – including you. Thank you, Mark Godwin, for reminding me of that.

Flexibility

Since when has everything gone exactly to plan? Plans break all the time. That’s life. Things happen. When dealing with human or natural variables, it’s simply impossible to chart an infallible plan. A true test of character occurs every time you respond to malfunctions.

While backup plans are never a bad idea, they consume a lot of time and are unrealistic to outline for every operation. I propose a blanket backup plan: be flexible. Accept in advance that things happen beyond your control. Be prepared and practiced enough to make alternate plans quickly. Those who can accept change, keep cool, and think on their feet stand a better chance at getting things done. Furthermore, an open mind radically reduces stress and can open doors to better possibilities outside the original plan.

Embrace flexibility. It may very well be the key to a more fruitful, healthier life.

Put It On Paper

Having difficulty making a decision? Map out the options on paper.

Want to make a commitment? Put it on paper.

Spread an idea? Share it on paper.

Trouble sleeping at night? Empty your thoughts on paper.

Upset at someone? Express your feelings on paper.

Worried you will forget something? Remind yourself on paper.

Overwhelmed? Sort everything out on paper.

Plan to grow a business? Strategize on paper.

Want to change the world? Start on paper.

You need to separate yourself from your thoughts to organize, prioritize, and realize them. Paper is the oldest trick in the book. No pun intended.

Do Not *Reach* for Your Goals

Be your goals instead.

We are raised to set goals and reach them. “Shoot for the moon and you could reach the stars.” The problem? Stars are really far away. Our nearest star Alpha Centauri is 4.37 light-years away (about 26,395,661,800,000 miles). “Reaching” your goal establishes a psychological distance between you and your objective, making it that much harder for you to accomplish.

Be your goal. Forget distance. Close the gap. Discard maps. Embody your mission. Speak the language. Do not hesitate. Plow all obstacles aside. You have what it takes.

Finish lines are illusions. Be who you want to be, no less, no later. Now.