By Manny Roman
Being a sensitive modern male, I always do as told. My lovely wife, Ruth, told me to include the following in this column. I know that this is not as you have come to expect in this column and I will get to that.
The Dinner GuestI was having a nice dinner outside while enjoying the beautiful sunset. I felt a little itch on my shin. I looked down to see a little black spot that in the low evening light may be a small spider. I slapped at it and it landed on the deck, shook its head and wandered away towards the grill area.Now, I am fond of telling people that there are few bugs in Vegas so I was annoyed by this incident. I decided to terminate the offender. I took my dinner knife and began chasing this little guy around. It would have been a very amusing vision to anyone watching: A big guy with a steak knife chasing and stabbing at an unseen entity.Well, I was unsuccessful in my quest to punish the aggressor so I consoled myself with the remainder of my glass of wine. As I refilled, the ridiculousness of the situation fully hit me.There I sit enjoying dinner. This little whatever-it-is wanders by looking for supper (let’s call him Emilio). Emilio sees me and thinks, “Thanks be to the Bug Gods! I am about to eat for months! I think I will start right here.” He then takes a relatively giant bite out of my shin.Imagine Emilio’s surprise when the would-be dinner slaps him in the left compound eye and chases him for hundreds of bug miles with a giant steel fang. Emilio had a hell of a story to tell his bug buddies. As for me, I just scratched and finished my wine.There … definitely outside your expectation, correct? Now to the expectations discussion.We tend to remember those instances when expectations are not met more often than when they are met. An example is when poker players believe that they are unlucky and their opponents have all the luck. In Texas Hold ’em, a pair of aces statistically will lose the hand 20% of the time. Poker players know this and yet fall for the bad luck scenario. We remember the pain of losing 20% of the hands more than we remember the joy of winning 80% of the time.There is a disconnect between reality and expectation. We expect to win with two beautiful aces in our down cards. When reality shows its ugly face, we feel the pain of having lost and place greater importance on it than is warranted. The good of winning is never better than the bad of losing. The pain of losing is more memorable than the joy of winning.In life this means we are more failure conscious than we are success conscious. Fear of failure can be devastating and paralyzing. Many of us would rather not attempt something than take the risk of failing and the accompanying pain, especially judgment from others. We will actually make failure the expectation and thus meet that expectation without even trying. Sometimes the expectation of the pain is even worse than the pain. Think of getting a flu shot. The pain, the possibility of getting the flu from it, maybe even dying from it becomes a real fear that causes anxiety and pain.So, what to do? First accept the actual facts. Evaluate the situation as unemotionally as you can. Recognize any unrealistic expectations for what they are: A puff of smoke to be blown away so that reality can be seen. Do not get married to unrealistic expectations. This is the best way I know to reduce the pain of unmet expectations. Be realistic and when the situation does not go as you wanted it will be one of the expected outcomes. The pain will be lessened and you will be able to move on from it to the next challenge more easily.In the aces example above, we know that we will lose one of five times in the long term. When the board cards show a possible flush, a possible straight, a pair and someone is betting their entire life savings on it, fold. You expected to lose sometimes and this is probably one of those times. You expected it and your expectation is met, unwanted but met. You got that one out of the way.Let’s clarify trying. When we choose to try, we automatically have an expectation of failing a portion of the time. Children are great at trying and not doing because they are told to at least try. Adults should realize that failure might be an acceptable expectation but not the goal. Remember Yoda saying, “No, try not. Do or do not. There is no try.”
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