The Wisdom of Asking, “What Did I Expect?”

A recent issue of Seth Godin’s daily blog asked a question that changed both my personal and professional lives:

What did you expect?

If you run a rush delivery company, expect that the customers will be rushed.

If you run a health food restaurant, expect that your customers will care about the ingredients you use.

If you run a preschool, expect that your users will act like little children at times.

If you offer urgent consulting services for clients in trouble, expect that they’ll be stressed and want you to work all night.

Sometimes, we get what we expect and still complain about it. It’s a feature, though, not a bug.

What the heck had I been expecting?

It can be easy to just let life happen to you and blame your problems on outside factors, but when we think critically about the situations we’re in, simply asking, “What did I expect?” can change everything.

Here are a few professional situations that I was able to see in a new light because of his insight.

Generally Speaking, Marketing Generalists Is Hard

At Atomic, we like to think of ourselves as generalists. We don’t get tied down to certain platforms or languages. We’re adaptable. Need a cross-platform app written with Xamarin? Cool! How about a web app written with React? We can do that, too. This freedom is amazing for our clients and our makers, but how do you market everything to everyone?

In the past, I let the vagueness of generalism stress me out. The thing is, I knew about Atomic’s generalist approach before I joined. I excitedly took on the challenge of marketing a generalist services company. So, what did I expect?

It would have been easy to blame Atomic. Or blame our marketing team. Why wasn’t it easier to market our services? But with my new mindset, I looked at the generalist journey ahead of me through a whole new lens.

Speaking of Software, Software Is Hard

Before joining Atomic, I worked in marketing for a coffee company. I knew everything there was to know about sourcing, roasting, and brewing coffee. I was a coffee queen, so to speak.

When I joined Atomic, I immediately felt insecure about my knowledge (or severe lack thereof) about software. I couldn’t tell the difference between a desktop app and a web app. For the first time in my life, I felt less-than.

But… what did I expect? Most of my coworkers spent four or more years in school learning about computer science or design. I didn’t. I knew that there would be a learning curve.

So I changed my mindset and figured out a new (and fun) way to continue learning about software; I started talking to my coworkers. Revolutionary, I know. Instead of having a pity party over my confusion about React vs. React Native, I asked the people next to me. Not only did I make some new friends, but I began to give myself a little slack. And hey, now I do know what a web app is.

The best part of this “what did you expect” mindset is that you can bring it with you anywhere you go — from relationships to personal habits to your career. Taking a step back and mindfully approaching the situation you’re in can help shift your attitude from blame to understanding, and maybe even excitement.

What are some situations in your life that could benefit from this new mindset? Share them in the comments below!