We learn all kind of things in school that I find either unnecessary (or easily retrievable from other sources, when needed), but we don’t learn things that are extremely necessary and really scarce out there. For instance, we don’t learn about expectation management, and yet, I find this to be the source for a lot of misery in our lives.
Let me tell you a short story about this.
6 months ago I started to learn to play the guitar. When I bought my first guitar (yes, I own more than one guitar right now, pleading guilty) I set a goal: that in 6 months I will know at least 50 songs, and be able to play Spanish Romance. The Spanish Romance thing is done, you can see my rendition of it here, while the 50 songs is not quite there yet – but in a good way, because I’m in a better place than that.
My expectation was that I will know 50 songs, but now I know enough building blocks (chords and cords progressions), I have enough technique and just the right amount of knowledge to easily learn a song in just a few days. And this is a way, way better place to be in than just a “50 songs repertoire”. It offers so many new possibilities and can generate so much more satisfaction than a fixed, albeit consistent, stash of performances.
You see, my expectation was wrong. I didn’t know what I can get by learning to play the guitar, and I was projecting a certain level of proficiency, based on previous experiences. But these previous experiences had nothing in common with playing the guitar – and that was the reason for me to learn it in the first place, because it was something completely new, something I’ve never done before in my life.
Caught in my limited perspective about the world, I set up an irrelevant goal.
We do this so very often. We think we know what we want, based on our previous experience, but what we’re doing is just projecting ahead more of that experience. Without letting at least a few cracks for the new to pervade our lives, we will never move forward, we will never be unstuck. We may experience more of the same, that’s true, but more of the same is really the same. Just more of it.
Expectation management is a combination of persistence and flexibility. Persistence to stay on course to whatever you want to achieve, and flexibility to adjust when you see something unexpectedly good along the way.
To continue my example with the guitar learning, persistence was the keyword for the first 2-3 months. All I did during those months was grinding. Finger pain management and grinding. But then, as I was acquiring a tiny bit of skill and my muscle memory solidified, I realized my initial goal was unfit. At that point I was knowing by heart about 10-15 songs, and I was still on track to learn 50 by the end of the 6 months interval.
But I realized I will be in a much better place if I focus on the technique and learning small building blocks. Because later on I can combine those building blocks in infinite ways, and can learn a new song much faster. And, in all honesty, that’s why I’m doing this, to experience the joy of playing a million different harmonies, not to accumulate songs in my song bank.
It goes the same with money. Too many people are focusing on making their first million (I know, I’ve been there, done that) but lose their ability to adjust to more opportunity along the way. These days I find it more important to understand how to make a small amount of money, in a repetitive way, being it by getting a high paid job, investing in an asset or selling a skill, and perfect that activity, than to focus on the numbers.
If you know the building blocks, you can then combine them in a million ways, and make whatever amount of money is relevant for you at that moment in life.
It’s much better to be a man of a million opportunities, than just a mere millionaire.