Archive for the ‘Expectations’ Category

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We’ve seen this past week the impact of what happens when expectations are not met for something to happen quickly. In the rush of last-minute buying and shipping of Christmas presents, untold numbers of packages went undelivered by the “guaranteed” delivery dates. As a result, people either had to do without presents on the intended day, or they had to rush out and buy something else. I saw on the news one lady who was upset that her shipment of live lobsters didn’t arrive in time for the family get-together and meal (definitely a first-world problem – poor, poor lady). I’m sure starving children around the world will weep for her inconvenience.

Fingers are pointing everywhere in the aftermath. Retailers are blaming shippers. Shippers are blaming last-minute shoppers, fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, and capacity that was simply overwhelmed. Consumers are blaming retailers and shippers. I don’t think I’ve seen people or organizations yet raise their own hands and take responsibility.

In the case of Christmas shopping, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for last-minute shoppers, although a guarantee is a guarantee and the buyer should be able to trust those guarantees to be honored. Hopefully there is a lesson learned: shop earlier next year. It’s not like December 25 is going to pop up out of nowhere on you regardless of when Thanksgiving comes. Get it done earlier and quit your whining.

But the expectation of immediacy isn’t limited, of course, to shipping presents (in spite of the interest in Amazon immediately shipping things by drone beginning in a couple of years). We expect pretty much everything when we want it.

  • We expect news and immediate details of unfolding events, and news organizations feel obligated to be the first to report, even when they don’t know the facts, making their so-called news mere speculation.
  • We expect to get in touch with whomever we want whenever and wherever we please regardless of the intrusion that causes for the receiver or rudeness displayed by the receiver in taking such messages in other settings.
  • If we have a customer service issue, we expect a call, tweet, or other social media post to yield immediate resolutions as if we are the only customer for that Fortune 100 company that actually has millions of other customers.
  • If we see an ad for something we like, we expect to go online on our portable device and get it right now.
  • We want fast food, fast transportation, fast profits, fast credit, fast weight loss, fast beauty, fast ownership, fast training, fast relief, fast satisfaction, and relationships that are perfect quickly – none of this waiting or working for decades like our parents had to do for the same results.

I certainly have nothing against some things happening quickly. It’s convenient. It meets a need and then we move on to whatever is next. But something is amiss when the big story of the week is a package ordered on Monday not being delivered by Tuesday to a home on the other side of the country. Something is out of whack when the social media channels of businesses are clogged with complaints from people who tried to do something at the last minute and then expect the staff levels and processes of established businesses to wildly fluctuate to accommodate their tardiness.

Is our culture of immediacy a symptom of a growing self-centeredness in society? Is it a consequence of enabling technology that has slowly morphed our expectations? Is it both? Is it something else? I’m not sure. Whatever it is, it isn’t always healthy or reasonable to expect whatever we want now.

There is value in learning patience. There is value in contentedness. There is value in planning ahead to avoid the need for so much to happen at the last minute. There is value in leaving room in our schedules for the unexpected. There is value is wanting less.

We are blessed as a society with many advantages, conveniences and opportunities, but I think we have a lot of room for personal growth and maturity. Less dependence on immediacy will be one indicator of that maturity.

I recently blogged about starting a new class at my church and having the less-than-impressive beginning of nobody showing up the first Sunday.  I continued to study and was likewise prepared for the second date of the class today. Again, nobody came.

The first empty class was disappointing, but I still had confidence to move forward in hopes that things would turn around.  I have to admit that the second empty class today caused my attitude to go from disappointed to discouraged.

I’m not giving up yet.  It may be that for this particular audience I have a lot more I need to do to make it work.  It may also be that we just didn’t make a very good call in thinking this through and that we need to rethink the decision or the audience.  Perhaps the people involved are voting their displeasure of being removed from another class by their absence from both classes.  I’m not sure.

It would be a shame to have a willing teacher, good material, a nice place to meet, and then not take advantage of all of that, so I’m still committed to giving it a go, but I have to say it is with less confidence than I had a week ago.

Regardless of whether this ultimately turns out successful or not, what I discovered today is leap year lesson #222 – There is a fine line between disappointment and discouragement.

When watching the opening ceremony for the London Olympics Friday night, I could not help but compare them to the opening ceremony from the 2008 Beijing games.  In my opinion, the London ceremony fell far short of Beijing’s.  I still remember watching in amazement as the Chinese put on a show with a huge “wow factor.”  While there were some clever moments Friday night, it all seemed a little too cerebral and boring for an opening ceremony for me.

Since the 2008 ceremony made such an impression on me, it is the standard by which I measure Olympic opening ceremonies unless and until it is surpassed by something else.  I don’t know how many others share that opinion, but it’s my standard regardless of how many others share it.

When it comes to so many things in life and work, it is vital that we know what the standard is by which we measure.  Great managers I have had in the past become the standard by which I measure the performance of current and future managers.  Great teachers, preachers, and public leaders become standards.  Places we visit and at which we have memorable experiences become standards for future travel destinations.  Previous relationships become standards (for good or bad) that impact how we relate to others down the road.

Obviously, we don’t all have the same standards because we don’t share the same backgrounds, experiences, education, beliefs, goals, etc.  But, hopefully, we at least have standards that make sense to us, that drive us to some level of performance and quality of life, inwardly and outwardly.  To have no such standards means that we aimlessly drift along wherever the wind blows.  I can’t imagine a more meaningless and frustrating journey.  It may sound exotic to be freely carried along by the wind, but in doing so you wind up at a destination determined by someone or something else.

I can’t do much about Olympic opening ceremonies, but I can at least know those people, processes, qualities, beliefs and practices that form the standards by which I live and evaluate life.  I hope you know such standards as well.

Leap year lesson #208 is Know the standards by which you measure.

Our reliance on wireless access to the Internet is pretty much a given for most folks these days.  You can go to about any McDonald’s location or a bazillion other places and connect.  We have grown accustomed to having such access, whether in our own homes, where we work, eat, shop or hang out.   I was reminded of this several times recently:

  • When wireless access was not provided at the first hotel I stayed at in Anqing, China for four nights; it took two days to figure out I could still physically connect using a cable – something so foreign to me now I didn’t even think about the possibility until I saw someone else do it;
  • When wireless access was very conveniently provided in our Beijing hotel the last three nights of our trip;
  • When wireless access was provided at Baptist East Hospital in Louisville during my wife’s brief stay the last two days.

I admit that I was a little irritated when I did not have wireless access at the first hotel, even if it was in China.  It’s something I expect these days, especially in a nice hotel such as the one we stayed at.  To not offer it seems inconsiderate toward the guests in this day and age.  I sighed with relief when I saw how easy the access was at the Beijing hotel.  At a hospital, I wouldn’t necessarily expect wireless, so it was a pleasant and nice convenience when it was readily available in my wife’s room, allowing each of us to sit there with our laptops and get things done while awaiting test results.

The first location failed to meet expectations.  The second met expectations.  The third exceeded expectations.  Which do you think I am most pleased with?  Of course, the one that exceeded expectations.

If you run a business or organization, it is in your best interests to exceed the expectations of your customers.  Doing so will increase the chances of good things being said about you, as well as increase your customer’s loyalty to you.  That’s a win-win both for you and your customers.

Leap year lesson #120 is Exceed your customers’ expectations.

Have you ever anticipated something so much for so long that, when it finally came to pass, you were a bit disappointed? It can be quite a letdown. On the other hand, it is exhilarating when all of that expectation is met or surpassed by what finally transpires.

For the last few days I have been getting more and more excited about my coming periodic, personal, silent, spiritual retreat at The Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky. I go there for a week once or twice a year as a time to get away, to unplug from technology, sleep when my body says to sleep, eat healthy meals, read my Bible, pray, work on reviewing the 100 Bible verses I keep memorized, take walks in the woods, do a little writing, and capture a few insights and goals for the future.

Some think I’m quite odd for doing such a thing. When I tell them that no talking is allowed in the guest house, dining room and throughout most of the areas inside and out where you’ll find other people, and that there is no television or telephone or Internet access, and that the cell phone reception is so bad you might not have any connectivity, others say “That would drive me crazy.” But for this introvert who loves time alone, it is bliss.

When I consider other things I have anticipated in years past – especially material things – the reality of fulfilled expectations is at best temporary. The joy can diminish quickly.  For example, the fun of getting that new electronic gadget, the thrill of that win by your favorite sports team, even the change in a relationship or the satisfaction of that new job – all can be short-lived.

When you find, however, a reality that meets or exceeds your expectations every time, you have found something special. One of those experiences for me is my time at Gethsemani. I look forward to next Monday-Friday with great anticipation – partly because of what is known, but also because I discover there what was previously unknown.

I hope you have such a place where your expectations are met or exceeded.

Leap year lesson #83 is Reality can exceed expectations.