I read once that great entrepreneurs defy expectations. I think this is true. But I also think that this can be applied to great “people” more generally. For example:
- Great musicians defy expectations as to what music should sound like
- Great achievers often defy expectations about persistence (surely they will give up now after so many failed attempts?)
- Great achievements are often attained by following new routes to the top (or to the side)
- Great bosses defying expectations of how to run a business
- Great parents defying the expectations associated with functional parenting
Here’s the definition of a great joke. Comedians set up the audience by leading them down a path and then suddenly pivoting, changing direction unexpectedly. This is the punch line. Great punch lines work because they defy expectations. That’s why jokes get old so fast. Once you know what to expect the joke doesn’t seem so great anymore. (One reason why comedy is the hardest thing I have ever dabbled in.)
How To Defy Expectations
So if you want to be great, you need to find ways to defy other people’s expectations of you. If you tend to start things and then never finish them (guilty as charged your honour), then start finishing things. If you never seem to start that dream business – start already. If you never drop in just to see how she is – do it.
But don’t tell them in advance what you’re planning to do. If you do, people will be expecting it. And then if you don’t, they will think less of you.
Start working on something, make plans, follow through, do the work – and then simply put it out there and see if they notice.
If they don’t react, keep working.
If they react, keep working.
Greatness lies in getting the work done, and then doing more. Don’t take it from me – take it from the masters:
“Make art, and then while they all debate whether it is any good or not, be making more.” Andy Warhol
“Do the work.” Steven Pressfield
“Make great art.” Neil Gaiman
What People Expect Of You
People expect us to fail. People expect us to be mediocre.
People don’t expect us to keep making music once we are “grown up”, once we have children, a spouse, a home, debt, full-time employment and all those other excuses.
People expect us to watch TV at night. (You’ve had a long day already, right?)
People expect you to take all of your vacations visiting relatives instead of working up an art exhibition.
People expect us to get fat.
People expect us to grow up, get real and give up on our crazy, youthful dreams.
Great people defy these expectations.