I expect a lot, actually, especially of myself. I get frustrated when I know I've merely phoned it in, scratched the surface, written two cliches in a row.
Expectations can lead you to treasure and they can lead you to the abyss. They can build respect and they can cause calumny. Expectations define goals and calibrate presuppositions. They can also tie you in knots.
The thing about doing creative work is that expectations are simultaneously your best armor and your worst enemy. If you've done well before, people expect high quality next time. That tends to instill loyalty among fans, and help you continue doing what you're doing. Of course if you don't deliver something sublime, dashed hopes can shatter a reputation in no time at all. Positive expectations that fail to deliver can prompt death spirals of doubt, friction, and poor judgement.
But nobody's great all the time. Even your best friend acts like a jerk once and a while. Michael Jordan had bad games from time to time. In terms of expectations that I believe should hold particular sway, it's vital always to expect integrity among those closest to you. Honest appraisals and honest effort matter more than perfection of craft in almost all cases. To expect less is to live in a house with a leaky roof. Gentle rains may not destroy the furniture, but come a bad storm and your risks rise.
At 1AU we hold these values close. While everyone on the team has some degree of cross-applicable skills, we all specialize, too. The great synergy that emerges from cross pollination of ideas demands honesty and effort. That leads to expectations of mutual respect and of probity in pursuit of solutions. Without it, we're working at cross purposes.
Is it fair to expect excellence from colleagues all the time? Not at all. Is it fair of myself--or anyone, really--to assume that all creative output will be sterling, that nothing short of superb work ever deserves to be done? Of course not. But the expectation of an overall pursuit of quality defines fair and reasonable expectations, in my opinion.
Should we simply presume that everyone believes this, that everyone want to pursue excellence? Nope. We all know lots of people who choose to bump along, to get by, to slouch. That's fine, but for my part I choose to steer a polite distance around.
Consider this: without reasonable expectations, everything we did every single day would be left to the vagaries of whims and chance. Expectations force us to bring our best selves to our work and to each other. Expectations provoke honest dialogue and thus honest efforts because we understand the rules of the field. When we bring our best selves to creative work and to those with whom we create that work, we expand the potential for us to bring similarly positive values to the broader domains of our lives, too.
Next week, we continue this train of thought with a look at politics in creative work.
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