Sea of Hope

Cast adrift in a deep wide yonder
I bide my time with sing-song.
With too much time to wonder
‘Where has all my life gone?’

My futile paddling gains me little
But helps to occupy my hopeless sole.
The rain it falls like windswept spittle
While water currents take full control.

My boat,
Leaky.
With work,
I’ll stay
Afloat.

The sun
Has ne-
-ver set.

It stays
Up there
The whole
Day through.

I see no land and none sees me.
What could my destination be?

What I need is a bigger paddle.

Jeff Watkins 14/03/1999

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Failure, Expectations are

Following on from my previous posts about selfishness and control, I toyed with a few follow up ideas to talk about. One of these is about expectations. I have formed my own opinions about expectations and I don’t see such opinions being echoed much elsewhere, so this may be in conflict with mainstream dialogue, and that rather excites me.

Expectation is a condition of failure.

Some may disagree with this so let me give you my reasons. You can reject them after if that makes you feel better. Seriously. It’s your choice, which incidentally will be the topic for a future post.

By expectations, I am talking about both those imposed on us by others (social standards, peers, family, law) and those we impose on ourselves (personal morals, ethics, measures of success.) by proposing an expected level of performance, you are in fact establishing a lower limit of success, or the point of failure. If you fail to achieve the measure or expectation, you fail the task. So let us, for the purpose of this blog, keep that in mind; expectation equates to failure.

So if expectation is a measure of failure, then the goal or dream must be the extreme measure of success; the ideal if you like. Then we have an extreme of failure which is to not try at all, or zero. What we have here is a rather interesting scale of achievement. Ranging from zero for didn’t even compete, through and past acceptable performance and on up to spectacular success, and let’s call this 100.

20131229-190656.jpg
And you thought you’d finished with anything mathematical when you left school right?

20140104-142422.jpgGoing up the chart, let’s say that this is the number of ways to achieve the level of success. So if we’re we’re to measure something like maths or physics, in which the answer is either right or wrong, but we will include factors such as speed, method and approximation of answer, we would still see that there is a very “bottom-heavy” chart as there are many ways to get the answer wrong as compared to getting it right. With these specific sciences, there is very little difference between correct and spectacularly correct.

20140104-142430.jpgOn the other hand, subjects such as creative writing, theatre and other artistic practices, where the measure of a successful outcome is more subjective, we will find that there are more ways to a good solution then there are bad. Having done several courses in creative writing myself, both within and without university level, there is a common belief that scores of over 80% are very rare and to those that can get these scores, well done to you.

20140104-142435.jpgOn average, if we were to consider all topics at once, I think it would be fair to say that we would see something more like a “Bell Curve”, and this I will use as we go along. This basically states that most people will fall within the middle between 0 and 100 with smaller numbers of people as you get closer to eithere end.

20140104-142443.jpgOne other point I think I should make before we apply expectations to these concepts is the level of difficulty. As I am trying to average out all possible topics, I think it would be fair to say that generally speaking, the closer to stunning success a task is, the more difficult it was to achieve. Keep this in mind as we go along.

It seems to me that we perceive achievement, or set our expectations, very high along the scale of success. We want things now, not tomorrow. It needs to be done just so. Second place is not good enough. I need to be better than the Jones. In other words, we equate success with rather high standards and not always standards appropriate to who we are. Setting such high expectations also means that we are asking a lot of ourselves because the higher the expectation, the harder the task.

20140110-195230.jpgWhy do we do this? As our expectations rise, that is moves closer to 100, the amount of opportunity for failure increases. In other words, we are setting ourselves up to fail. Why? I can’t comment for you or anyone else. I know I did it because I believed it was expected of me by others, not because it satisfied a personal drive or need, but out of fear of letting someone else down. Out of fear. I find it rather incredible how most of my poor decisions have been driven by fear, but in most cases it is true.

At this point, I find myself thinking about the academic scoring system used at my daughter’s primary school. 20140110-195238.jpgThey utilise the rather familiar A B C D F grading system. All students are expected to be able to achieve a C level. This is what the education curriculum anticipates the average student to be. Students achieving above this are considered to be above acceptable where B is exceeds expectations (there’s that word) and A is pretty damn awesome. D is for students performing below expectations, and F is for those that basically didn’t really try. Now this seems to me to be a rather reasonable measure where the average student is actually considered as a successful student.

Yet what I see most people doing is equating a C and a B as also a fail. Nothing less than an A will do. Heck, I knew fellow students at high school and university who put themselves through enormous stress trying to get the top 5% of their class and even the state.

20140110-195243.jpgGive yourselves a break people. Seriously, when you first start something, you are learning, trying things out and your lack of experience will give you a chart that looks somewhat like the maths chart above, bottom heavy. Expecting to get something near perfect straight up is pretty unrealistic. Keep your expectations low and give yourself the freedom to make a mistake or two. Then, as you gain experience, your chart will change in to the more familiar bell shape and you can raise your levels to match. Keep up this gradual development, and soon your chart will look more like the english one above because you have gained experience and practice improving your chances for success. Then you could possibly consider raising your expectations.

20140110-195248.jpgFor my own sake, as I see expectations and goals as different things, I prefer to keep my expectations low even though I am aiming high. It gives me room to move and I’m not in any particular hurry. I have found that when I placed high expectations on myself, I became more concerned with those expectations and not what I was doing. It actually reduced my range for success. This may not be true for everyone as some people like to claim they work well under stress. Well my hat is off to those fortunate individuals. I don’t so I’ll keep things a little easier for me.

I may not get there as quickly as others, or in the same way, but I’ll get there all the same.