“Low Expectations Are the Secret to Success”

A friend of mine said that to me recently. It was a joke. Of course it was a joke. But in every good joke lies a kernel of truth.

Yeah, if you set the bar low enough, you’re bound to be able to get over it. If all you want from life is a hovel with a mattress, a travel radius of less than 50 miles, a minimum wage job that doesn’t challenge you, and a spouse that challenges you even less, then the odds are quite good that you’ll succeed.

And that is a form of success, I suppose, if you are happy. If you are content and have no regrets, then you are right up there at the summit of humanity. Congratulations.

But maybe we should stop focusing so much on succeeding. Humans seem to be obsessed with the concept. No one wants to be a loser.

I think, though, that epic fails are highly indicative of people who are trying the hardest. People who take risks are usually the ones who care the most. Sticking your neck out means you have a much better view of an expanded horizon. It also means you’ve learned. Oh, how you’ve learned.

I’m not suggesting that you should set the bar so high that you’ll never have a chance. We can’t all be king of the world. But stretch yourself. Dream bigger than you think you can or should. Take chances. Have adventures. Live.

mountain climbing

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Guidance Counselor Horror Stories

It happened again the other day. A friend told me about the outrageous treatment she received from a high school guidance counselor. She was basically told to stay in her place and look for a husband. The nerve.

I’ve heard so many horror stories over the years about people in this particular field that it leaves me sputtering. Either they discourage you from pursuing your dreams and try to send you down another path, or they tell you to give up because you’re a loser, or if you’re a high achiever, they try to push you beyond what you’re financially or circumstantially capable of achieving. Some of them simply throw diagnostic tests at you and try to fit you into a nice little box based on the results.

This topic is so insidious that it has even spawned its own “Guidance Counselor Horror Stories” forum topic. I started to read it. I really did. But it made me angry.

Because really, how hard is it to tell someone that every human being has potential, and each one is unique, and with some effort, can find his or her calling? Why not say, “Go for it. Your life will be what you make it, so make it great.”

In most cases, their “sage” advice is ignored. Thank goodness. But occasionally their slings and arrows hit the target and they negatively influence someone for life.

Guidance counselors can be a force for good or for evil. If you are one of the ones who is a force for good, I sincerely thank you, and hope you’ll keep up the good work. I wish we could clone you. Unfortunately, based on anecdotal evidence, the bad apples seem to take up most of the space in the barrel.

It must be a heady experience, sitting up on your throne and predicting someone’s entire future. But the fact is, it’s about as accurate as soothsaying. Some people with really bad grades and unruly behavior in high school go on to be quite successful in life. And some valedictorians wind up in prison. You just never know.

Personally, I’m thrilled that I am no longer the person I was in high school. I don’t particularly like who she was. I didn’t even like her at the time, which was half the problem. If we met today, we would not be friends.

I was expected to become this super successful CEO of a fortune 500 company or something. Everyone thought I’d be a smashing success, and that’s what success would look like.

But that kind of life would have made me miserable. I tried for it, for a time. But I kept throwing up subconscious roadblocks in front of myself. Even then, I knew, on some level, that that wasn’t supposed to be my path.

Decades later, I’m not rich. I don’t own a penthouse or a fancy car. I won’t be able to retire early, if at all. But I’ve learned to measure success by a different yardstick. I’m content. I like my job. I’m happy with how I turned out.

And I still have absolutely no idea what I want to be when I grow up.

Lucy

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