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When I walk into a casino, do I expect to win? Please do not get me wrong, as I want to win. But wanting to win is different from expecting to win. Winning in a casino is completely a game of chance. Clearly understanding that I cannot control the odds may help me limit my playing or not play at all. That decision I control.

The same thing happens in life and business. Anytime I have outcome expectations, they can set me up for disappointment. They can put unnerving pressure on me, and disaster strikes when I expect to win. Instead, I want to be detached and act with a free mind. That allows me to celebrate my effort and accept the outcome, be it success or failure.

Here are the two places where outcome expectations creep in for me:

    1. Believing in the law of averages
      After a series of failures, I start thinking life owes me a few breaks because of past adversity. Unfortunately, life does not operate with that mindset. It may be using a random number generator to choose what it will throw at me. Instead of living with outcome expectations, I may need to dissect past failures and identify what I can do differently in the future. Doing the same things in the same ways and expecting life to throw me a break may not be the recipe for success.
    2. Drowning in self-pity
      When adversity hits me, I can waste a lot of time thinking about two things:

        • I didn’t think it could happen.
        • I didn’t think it could happen to me.

      I hardly ever think of these when good things happen to me. Then, why should I not follow the same path when bad things happen? When I start feeling a bout of self-pity, I need to tap myself on the head and tell myself, “It has happened Arjun. Accept it. What are you going to do about it now?”

I want to live in zero expectations. In fact, I want to move to negative expectations, where I tell myself after a day of challenges, be ready as tomorrow may be worse. I want to be real, and do not want to set false promises or hope for tomorrow. Does this make me a negative person? I do not think so. Instead, when I expect the worst, in a way I am prepared to overcome any challenges coming my way. Stephen W. Hawking had said, “My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.”  When the expectation is zero, my mind is free to perform. When expectations are negative, I come in best prepared.

I have also realized the sight of bigger challenges can be a huge motivator. Just like getting to the next level of a video game gets the adrenalin flowing, the same way seeing life throwing bigger challenges at me, often makes me feel, “Bring it on. I got it.”

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