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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I


August 15th, 2020


It’s one thing to manage the expectations others have of you.  You think the project will take two weeks, you tell client it’ll take four weeks and to their great delight, you’re done in three.  Often we over promise and under deliver. We say two weeks and deliver after three.  Managing the expectations others have of you is mostly a matter of giving yourself more than enough time, and hustling to over deliver.


This sort of trick takes a bit of work.  It’s easy to deceive our own self into thinking we’ll have superpowers.  But this can lead to slipshod work done too quickly.  Trial and error with a little reflection mixed in allows anyone to become quite good at managing these expectations.


But what about our own expectations of the world?  How do we keep from fooling ourselves when we imagine a certain reaction from the world?


We build the business expecting the customers will show up.  We fire off the email expecting it to land perfectly.  We publish the book expecting rave reviews.  We hang the painting expecting wide and wanting eyes.


It’s a bit of a dilemma:  to make something for the world in order to have a certain effect, but to expect nothing anyhow.  It’s a bit like the theatre or the movies.  We suspend our disbelief and forget that we are merely sitting in a chair watching a story in order to get lost in the story.


A similar trick of the mind is required here: to give it your all and calmly, placidly, and peacefully expect nothing in return.


The art of expectation isn’t so much an art as it is a magic trick: one of self-hypnosis.  Why work so hard if there’s maybe nothing in return?  Nearly no one is going to logically enter that sort of agreement.


There is of course a deeper hack to this sort of magic trick.  


What if you just enjoy doing the work regardless?


This isn’t a hack so much as it is a solution to that original dilemma.  At the end of the day, you only get one go at putzing around in this life.  Now what’s a better way to spend it?  Working for some kind of potential return from others?  Expecting that?  Or expecting nothing and merely enjoying the process, because the expectation is displaced, replaced and properly in place:  the expectation is that the effort will be worth it no matter what, because it’s the experience of that effort that we are expecting.


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Podcast Ep. 853: The Art of Expectation

Tinkered Thinking

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