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March 26, 2010
Philosophy by George Carlin

I love the humor and philosophy of the late George Carlin.  He had a way at looking at everyday things with a slightly different perspective.
One of my favorite Carlin thoughts is:
"Some people look at the glass and seeing it as half-full...others look at the glass and see it as half-empty...I look at the glass and wonder why it’s so damn big."
The above adage illustrates a thought I often have regarding expectations.  We often look at our lives as a glass half-full or half-empty when in fact, perhaps the glass is just too damn big.  We often have larger-than-life expectations and then we become disillusioned when those expectations are unfulfilled. 
Expectations come in three distinct forms, our expectations of ourselves, our expectations of others, and expectations others have of us.
A Belief in Ourselves
All people are born with certain talents, intelligence and/or physical attributes.  Throughout our lives, we choose to enhance and mold our "natural-born" characteristics by continuously learning, developing physical and mental fitness, creating new experiences and developing social networks around us.
Everyone possesses needs, wants and desires.  It’s a part of our mental make up.  We create dreams of what we want and who we want to be.  Some of us may attach a timeline to our dreams which then turns our dreams into goals while other may just live their lives on a day-to-day basis hoping that their dreams will someday, somehow become reality.
Expectations of what we want to do with our lives are created by ourselves.  Most often we create these expectations unknowing of what it really takes to actually achieve them.
When our expectations in ourselves go unfulfilled, there are some people who can become disillusioned, bitter, withdrawn, depressed, and scornful.
Most of the human population, however, looks at their lives and find positive attributes and examples of where they have succeeded and made a difference and not dwell where they failed. 

Perhaps we didn’t become the CEO of GE, win a Nobel prize, or a star in the NBA, but we did raise two fine children, became a school teacher, finished a marathon, became a caregiver to our aging parents, or worked hard to help support a family.
Our expectations of ourselves should be about being a better person and a contributing member to the world.

Our glass should be the right size.  It should never be so big as to be half-full OR half-empty.
Other People
Each of us has the innate ability to control our own actions, thoughts, emotions and attitudes.  Conversely, none of us have the ability to control other people’s actions, thoughts, emotions, and attitudes.
We create expectations in others because we expect them to act or feel in some predetermined or predictable way.  These expectations can come from previous experiences or from a direct communication from the other person.  They might tell you that they are going to do something and do it (fulfilling your expectation) or not do it (creating anger, frustration, and/or disappointment).  Either way, you’re not in control...they are.
As a business owner, I’ve needed to hire people with the expectation that they would perform whatever job I hired them to do.  It is my goal to hire people who have the ability, talent and skill set to meet the requirements of the job.  If they do the job then my expectations are met, however if they are unwilling or unable to do the job, I generally need to part ways with them.  I used to feel horrible about letting someone go because of how it would affect their life. 
As I’ve gotten older, I have gained much experience and insight.  I now realize that I’m not choosing to fire someone for poor performance rather they themselves have chosen not to perform to the position’s requirements (for whatever reason).  (Now of course I share in some of the blame for not hiring correctly in the first place or not communicating my expectations...so I’m sure that they feel some resentment with me as well).
In this same way...you cannot reasonably hope to control, change or fix your spouse, your boss, your direct reports, your friends, your parents, the guy at the DMV, the person in the car in front of you who turned without signaling, or any political or religious leader.  High expectations can only lead to disappointment.

I’m sure that Webster’s dictionary has some eloquent definition of the word "integrity" but I’ve always used a definition that seems to work well with me:
Say what you’ll do...do what you say.
A person with a high level of integrity is a person who typically meets other people’s expectations.  They live by their word and their actions follow their words.  They are trusted by others.  They do not tell people what they want to hear just because it easier to do so.
There are many people who I hold in very high esteem not because they are high achievers or I appreciate their skill set but rather because they tell the truth (as they know it to be) ALL of the time...not some of the time...not most of the time...but ALL the time.  This is not easy to do.  The truth sometimes hurts.
People create expectations of us based on what they know of us and what their experiences have been with us.  Their expectations of us become their reality whether or not that reality is based on fact or their own perception.   If people believe that you will do something or think a certain way, or react in a particular manner, then this belief becomes their reality and/or expectation.
Expectations can be both positive and negative. 
Expectations allow some degree of predictability that allows us to live orderly lives (I expect the sun to rise tomorrow) and provides us with a certain amount of comfort.
Other times expectations cause us grief when our expectations are not met or when it causes our paradigms to shift.
I like the idea of my glass always being full...not half-full or half-empty...just the right size.

Thank you very much for your continued support of OptiFuse where we try each day to exceed your expectations of us.

Jim Kalb
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