A problem I realized a little too late was one with projection. As a young adult many years ago, I projected my capabilities onto others, all others – assuming that my intelligence, my belief system, my objective and rational approach, was roughly the same as everyone else’s. This had caused enormous problems for me until about 15 years ago when I accepted an alternate engagement with the world.
I trusted people I interacted with on transactions at other companies to be good at their jobs, like me. I expected people to think outside of the box and understand how an objective can be reached outside of the script, the rule book, like me. I expected people to be willing to work past 9-5 or do what needed to be done to reach the goal, like me. And over the years I learned that those people that do those things and can think that way, like me – are few.
Now I approach life much differently. I assume failure on the part of everyone I interact with. The grocery store, the DMV, the fast food joint, the customer service I call for whatever product I need help with, neighbors, acquaintances I don’t know well, extended family members – I just assume failure on anything that I rely on them for.
Do I make mistakes? Absolutely. But I learn from them, and I make far fewer than most others I have engaged with and I rarely make the same mistake twice.
Contrary to what you might think, that this is a sad view of the world, depressing even, it has made my life immeasurably more enjoyable. Those that deny reality, and insist on living in a world as they think it SHOULD be, will always be miserable and disappointed living in the reality of the world as it actually is.
Previously, when someone inevitably failed my misplaced projected expectations, I was upset, angry even, depending on the level of disruption to my own life. Now, I simply apply a set of assumptions that produce only two possible outcomes that are far better than the previous outcomes:
- Avoid engaging with others for tasks.
- If engagement unavoidable, assume failure by those engaged.
- Assume and counter-plan in advance for failure to eliminate/mitigate level of damage to self.
- Failure meets expectations. Non-Failure exceeds expectations.
As you can see, my engagement with the world previously left me only two outcomes; disappointed/angry or satisfied. Whereas my new engagement creates either a satisfied or pleasantly surprised and happy outcome. The new engagement eliminates the disappointment/angry outcome, therefore a net increase in my quality of life.
Now, when someone inevitably fails me, I have already prepared for their failure and have a Plan B, C and maybe D ready to trigger. This includes following-up in advance, never just assuming something they said they would do was done or was on schedule to be done when it needed to be. It includes checking what they did, to make sure it was done right, it assumes them missing the objective and so having a backup to meet that objective ready to trigger.
I have a very recent example. I stopped at my mechanics yesterday to have a set of pads put on my truck and I told them I brought the pads with me. The scheduler even said back to me, “So you have the pads?” They said tomorrow would be better as they were down a mechanic. I called today and spoke with one of the mechanics and he said he can’t put pads on that I provide. They could have told me that yesterday, as now the job would take longer – but I already assumed they would fail.
Either the person I spoke with yesterday didn’t hear me say that I brought my own pads, or was not trained to know they could not put on someone else’s pads, or forgot their training that they could not put on someone else’s pads, or didn’t care that they shouldn’t put on customer provided pads as they knew me and were willing to ignore that and do it. When I talked to this mechanic, he failed as he did not know I was known to the shop (which he could have checked) and let me bring my truck in, with pads, especially when that rule appears arbitrary because they were willing to do it yesterday. No problem.They met expectations by failing. So I moved on.
So today, I needed a part from Autozone in order to replace my own pads. On their website, it said it was in stock at a store nearby. I assumed the system or whoever maintains it would be wrong. I arrived at the store and the associate said they do not have the part, even though it was in the system. No problem. I already assumed they would fail. If it were critical to have this part, today, I would have engaged Plan B (called them beforehand to make SURE part was there) or Plan C (check other parts stores and call them until one confirms they have it) – but it was not critical, and the time to do Plan B or Plan C could be as long as just driving to the store in Plan A which I was going to drive-by anyway – so failure was acceptable – and they met expectations.
They will fail me again, as they said the part would arrive by 5:30pm today. It is 4:45pm and I completely expect them to fail. I do not need a Plan B or Plan C as failure is acceptable. What matters is determining beforehand if failure is acceptable, that failure is probable, and then planning ahead.
It is the ASSUMPTION of failure that empowers me to make sure that the impact to me from the inevitable failure is minimal. Either by acknowledging that failure is acceptable, or planning NOW to mitigate the failure ahead of time, increasing my overall chances of ultimate success.
My interaction with those that fail is also less volatile. Upon failure, I would get angry, express my anger, question how the failure could have happened, require responses…all a waste of time. The individual I am talking to is no more capable of caring about any of my angry inquisitions than they were in caring about doing a good job in the first place.
I only hurt myself. I carry my anger with me, while they have long forgotten me mere moments later and go home at 4:59, and then repeat the same sub-standard level of work quality tomorrow as they did today.
With this new level of engagement I have with the world, my pre-emptive planning on the assumption of failure provides a near seamless transition from one potential solution to another, almost always resulting in success.
Additionally, when I do meet someone, or work with someone, that IS capable, intelligent, rational, objective, creative and committed – I appreciate them so much more than I would have otherwise, as I appreciate how rare they are, I support and promote them in any way that I can, and on many occasions, we become long-time friends.
I will admit, there have been times when I have had not one, but two or even three counter-plans prepared and all three have failed due to the failure of the individuals involved in all cases. As I said, there are many more of them, than those like me. In the end, its more a matter of odds, of gambling – placing bets on more than one roulette number increases the chances of success, but like roulette, that is not guaranteed.
On net, this updated world view works and has improved my life.
What IS depressing, is that it is necessary at all.
Categories: Government Failures
That’s been my world view too. I consider myself a happy pessimist. If things fail, well it was what I expected. If they don’t, hey it’s better than I expected! The only challenge I’ve run into is when you lower your expectations way down, and somehow they fall even lower than that.