Expectations (podcast episode)
Clip from Real Time with Bill Maher

My life expectations

Last week on the podcast, we talked about expectations in (as we always do) more "general terms".  We always try to take something personal and make it more general so that it, hopefully, applies to everyone.  We sometimes succeed (arguably) and sometimes fail (usually).  But I see this as the natural process of acquiring knowledge...observing details in the world around us and then attempting to draw larger conclusions.  This is, after all, the process by which wisdom is aquired (though not always successfully because our conclusions are not always correct).

I took the basic attitude that I don't really have any expectations of people, or that they are minimum at best.   We talked about realisitic vs. unrealistic expectations.  Sofia drove home the point that the only expectations she has are having to do with herself.  I said that expectations should be kept to a minimum, though at times they are necessary regardless of whether or not we are happier in the end because of them.

Due to the overwhelming feedback we received privately since the show, I realized in the week since this podcast that we have tapped into something both explosive and important.  In fact, a loyal listener wrote to me that she thinks I do, in fact, have expectations of others.  She used the example that, when my former band Sungod Abscondo broke-up...that I had expected better of my bandmates as friends, even as musicians.  Indeed, after investing so much of my time and energy, I was disappointed in the outcome of what I saw as unrealized potential.  We were potentially great because of our songs, but the project was eventually doomed to failure by pettiness and an overall lack of expectations by the others involved.  So I admit that my expectations of us were too high and that I was, indeed, let down.

I have done some soul-searching since last week's podcast on this topic.  I have always hoped that this podcast project would lead to exactly this...and I still hope for exactly that in the future.  No, I EXPECT it.  In fact, as I have learned since last week, I probably expect a lot.

First of all, as Sofia reminded us all so eloquently last week, there is nothing wrong with expecting a lot from ourselves.  I will be first in line to admit that I am far from a perfect man.  My life can be summarized by saying that I have been everything once.  I have walked the straight-and-narrow and indulged in all of the smugness that comes along with this path...this being young, avoiding experience (as we discussed in the "mental models" episode), this having yet to deal with any of the challenges which life has in store for each of us whether we know it or not in our youthful naivity.  I have blindly and sometimes foolishly also walked a path of exploration that has finally had the effect of prying away from me my idealism just as it has given me my voice and guided me toward my firm, adult identity which I have arrived at. 

In my life, I have also been the business revolutionary who executed on a social-networking idea that is far better than Twitter in 2001 and then sadly gave up on it before the world was ready.  I have been the political revolutionary who risked my job in 2002 to tell everyone I knew, even in the next cube, that the invasion of Iraq was a lie and that I was going out on the street to tell it like it is in protest.  I have also been the "lifestyle revolutionary" who decided to move to Eastern Europe without really making the sacrifices that usually come with escaping that gray cubical...all while starting a serious music project, podcast, and having a child at the same time. 

Now today, I am the still uninfluencial guy speaking the simple truth that the world economy is on the verge of collapse (at least the economy as we know it) due to demographic trends, debt, and bubbles.  I am also the guy saying that our values, our entire idea of life, will need to change in order to prepare for the next 8-12 years of this drastically different reality.  I am also the guy saying that I have some answers for that reality, which I hope I don't give up on before they become relevant.  In each of these cases, my failure is that I have been at least 4 years ahead of my time.  My unrealistic EXPECTATION is that people can understand or care and that there is anything at all I have to say or to do in life that amounts to anything worthwhile.  This, I can say truly without any sarcasm, is an enormous assumption.  But in some sense I don't actually care.  What I care about is that I find the strength and faith to do what I do anyway.  That is my expectaton of myself.

But now I'll move on to my main point.  I do have expectations.  You can be the judge of whether they are realistic, fair, or practical.  But it is my life and my set of expectations so I'm not ashamed to share some of them.

Firstly, at this moment and as I walk into my future, I have high expectations of myself.  I expect myself to give all that I am and all that I have to the love of my life, my perfect and beautiful life partner...and to our wonderful child.  I expect, based on my words, actions...based on each moment I spend with them...that they know how much I love them with each breath.   I expect that my wife and one soul-mate is the person I can share everything with...that nothing is more sacred than what we have and that I will always honor this.  I expect myself, as a capable man, to provide for my family financially.  I expect myself to show my parents, my extended family, even my in-laws, that I love them and value them completely...that I accept them unconditionally.   I expect to make my employer more money than they pay me because it is only right.  I expect not to be a burden on anyone and to earn my own keep.  I also expect, as a talented musician and creative intellectual, to do everything I possibly can do to bring that unique voice and set of ideas only I can provide to the world.  As Sofia said, these are the most important set of expectations...the ones we place on ourselves.  Mine are huge and yet entirely realisitic at the same time.  That's because I know who I am and I am who I say I am.

But if I'm being completely honest, there are also expectations I place on others.  I expect that the one and only love of my life is 100% "in on" our love the way I am even if I've not always been perfect.  I expect that she sees me for who I am, accepts me, and loves me unconditionally because I do just the same right back.  I expect friends (current or former) to not attempt to undermine me in any way or destroy me by using what I have offered of myself to them during a moment of trust and closeness.  That moment of trust is something sacred and should never be violated, lest a person lose all sense of integrity and self-respect.  I don't expect eternal friendship, but I do expect a basic level of respect, as a human-being, from someone who you've shared your heart with.  I also expect my family to love me as long as I show a basic level of love, respect, and sensitivity back.  I expect my government to maintain a basic level of human rights and fairness even dispite the political ambitions of any particular Party or individual politician.  I expect corporations to try as hard as they can not to destroy the world as quickly as they have been.  I expect to be treated with a basic level of respect by everyone unless I have intentionally harmed that person directly (in which case I will humbly take what is coming to me).  I expect that people do not judge what they cannot possibly understand.  I'll catch my breath and stop there.   I won't even get into my hopes and dreams.  Perhaps I'll save that for better times.  The world, as it is, is surely not ready.

To conclude this post, I can say that I agree completely with Sofia.  We should only expect anything from ourselves.  To expect anything at all from others, even at the most minimum level, is completely unrealistic.  Indeed, it is natural and healthy to have expectations of others because we need to fight for those minimum standards we require.  But, in the end, we can have no expectations at all that they will be met because everything is, indeed, completely outside of our control.  So the truth is that we can only hope, not expect.

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