A Persistent Author with High Expectations
I know an author who wrote a book that he thought had the potential to be published and sell well. His expectations high, he contacted any number of literary agents and not one was interested in handling his book, telling him that it would be impossible for it to find a public. It just didn’t have that—that whatever it takes for people to want to buy a book.
He did not give up after he had exhausted his long list of agents, but contacted publisher after publisher himself, calling them up, making appointments, pitching the book in their offices, expecting all the time that eventually he would succeed. He met nothing but failure, but still believed in his book and expected it to be published one day.
Then an editor of a small publisher called him to come down and talk. When my friend entered the office his manuscript was spread out on the editor’s desk and the editor was bent over it, reading it. The editor said, “Oh, good, you’re here” and looked up at him with a smile on his face and said, “Your book is going to be the number one best seller in the country.”
That book that he was told by experts could not possibly find a public became a publishing phenomenon and sold an astonishing twenty-five million copies in paperback alone. It became the number one best seller in the world.
Now what would have happened if my friend’s expectations of success had not been strong enough to sustain him through the many disappointments and discouragement, not powerful enough to make him persist?
The book would not have been published.
He would not have become famous. He would not have become rich.
The Impact of Your Expectations
In Part I of this three-part article on expectations of success, we dealt with expectations as they affected any type of performance.
Persuasive people expect to be persuasive. That’s one of the major differences between them and people who are not persuasive. Talk show hosts expect to be interesting, good writers expect to write skillfully, the best students expect to get an A, effective executives expect to manage well, and the best comedians expect to be funny.
There is hardly an aspect of your life that is not affected by your expectations.
People who expect to live a satisfying life are healthier, report fewer physical symptoms, have a greater sense of well-being, and are more successful and happier. They feel less stress than people who expect the worst.
People with high positive expectations are resilient because of their expectations. They overcome obstacles and aren’t deterred. They expect to be able to handle difficulties and to succeed in spite of them. When setting a goal they consider the probability of success rather than the probability of failure. “The chances are good I’ll succeed. I can accomplish this if I work hard enough.” “This is going to work out really well for me, and I’m going to be happy.” Failure-motivated people have the opposite expectations: “I’ll never be able to do it. I’ll give it a try, but it probably won’t work out.”
Artists generally are “intrinsically” motivated. That is, they are motivated to persevere–often working hard, toiling long hours, and sacrificing–by the creative side, the work itself. But they often abhor the business side—the “sales” side–particularly because that’s the side that often involves their work being rejected.
When they are working at their craft, they experience an underlying expectation of success that goes unchallenged. But then they shift to the selling of their work in the marketplace, and after enduring repeated rejections—twenty, thirty, forty, or a hundred–all but those with the strongest and most powerful optimistic expectations lose their confidence and may begin to expect future failure. They may stop submitting the work, sometimes even resigning from an artist’s life, giving it up or doing it no longer as a profession, but as a hobby. I’m sure there have been many potentially superb artists who lost the expectation of eventual success and simply quit.
I have a friend John I marvel at. He has a wonderful social manner; he has that knack for making friends. He never expects anything but that he is going to like the person he is talking to, and everyone likes him. It’s something to behold.
It is often through our relationships that we reach a richer, fuller life, and our expectations directly affect the quality of those relationships. It makes not one iota of difference if the other person is a total stranger at a party, a new manager of your department, a sales prospect, or two thousand people sitting in an auditorium to hear you speak–if you expect them to like you and you behave accordingly, you will be proven right in almost every instance.
That’s true even if the other person has a reputation for being hard to get along with or the audience is a tough one. But if your expectations are the opposite, they work against you just as powerfully. If you expect a person not to like you and you behave as if that’s the case, you’ll be proven right in almost every instance, even if the person has the reputation of being very friendly and easy to get along with.
The primary factor in human motivation is the self-perception of highly motivated people that they are doing well. Past success leads to self-confidence and higher expectations, higher motivation, greater persistence, and the drive to do even better. But of course the same holds true for expectations of failure. Expect to fail, fail, expect to fail the next time, fail, and on and on.
Let’s say you’re given an assignment at work. If you expect to do well you will work harder and increase your chances of actually doing well. Then, having done well will increase your expectations of doing well the next time. And those favorable expectations, in turn, will increase your chances of doing well again, and on it will go–high expectation-high performance, high expectation-high performance, etc.
Expectations of Others
We hold expectations of others, and they hold expectations of us. And their expectations of us affect whether or not we succeed. Many a person is being lifted to the heights of that better life on the encouraging expectations of people around him or her, and just as many are being kept from a better life by the low expectations of others.
Parents of highly-motivated people have been shown to have a distinctive style of child-rearing. They are warm, nurturing, physically affectionate, and have high but reasonable expectations of their children. Managers of high-productivity units tend to have higher expectations of their personnel and set higher goals than managers of less productive units–and their personnel tend to live up or down to those expectations, as the case may be.
Parents’ expectations of their children’s success in math have proven to be more accurate predictors of actual performance than aptitude tests. The tests say the children shouldn’t do well, but the parents say they will, and they do. But the reverse is also true. Tests show that they have the aptitude and should do well, but if the parents expect them not to, they tend not to.
Importance in Any Walk of Life
To be successful in any demanding walk of life–and in life generally–requires a common cluster of essential attributes: intelligence, enthusiasm, drive, commitment, persistence, hard work. And high expectations
If You Really Know It You Can Do It
In the next post–Part III Expectations and Success—we’ll look at turning factual information we have been discussing into prescriptions for action. And action, after all, is the whole idea.
© 2014 David J. Rogers
David J Rogers is the published author of non-fiction, fiction, and poetry. His current eBooks are Fighting to Win: Samurai Techniques for Your Work and Life, and Waging Business Warfare: Lessons from the Military Masters in Achieving Competitive Superiority.
The former has been called the best self-improvement motivational book ever written. The latter has been called “a business masterpiece.”
Order Fighting to Win: Samurai Techniques for Your Work and Life eBook by David J. Rogers
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