Setting expectations for any a project is something I tend to avoid or to overlook. This is because:
1) Defining success means that I am also defining failure. That can be frightening.
2) Setting realistic goals makes you think realistically. Which is a bummer.
3) I often think that the mechanisms of success are out of my control.
4) It is easier not to care, or at least to pretend not to care.
#1 and #3 are a devious pair and that is why I kept them apart. It is a tragic fact that in defining what is hoped for, you simultaneously define what is feared. When you don’t care, the system is at rest, neutral. Adding hope adds potential emotional energy that is bound to become kinetic. Triumph or Defeat. Not Neutral no mo’. It is easier to stay in bed.
Besides the strain of it all there are rational tricks I can play to avoid setting expectations - especially online, where it is possible to peek into the machinery of success and get overwhelmed by all the moving parts. So many forces are at play and so many things depend on other things. It can be hard to imagine the path between wanting a thing and the thing itself. In hindsight it is satisfying to attribute success to unwavering desire and hard work, but those qualities are abundant in failure as well. Then an animated gif of a butterfly flaps its wings on server in Tokyo, somehow causing Amazon to sell more copies of “A Perfect Storm”.
Can you Digg it?
But what is the alternative? No expectations. Just react. When something sticks, ride it. That is a valuable skill, no doubt, but it doesn’t always feel very human. And it doesn’t make for a very good story, even if it is closer to the truth. ***
If I don’t actively set expectations I am usually disappointed no matter what. Without something concrete, I find that I secretly wish that every project were a run-away smash success. Internet Flash Toy Cures Cancer! Any moderate achievements are always compared to the next bar I had failed to set, like that weird moment when you hit a number playing roulette and suddenly whatever you won seems like nothing compared to what it could become. 1. 10. 100. 1000.
Next: What defines success…