Someone once asked Michael Jordan to what did he attribute his success on the basketball court and in life. Jordan answered: “You have to expect great things of yourself before you can do them.” While most of us can never achieve what Michael Jordan has, his advice is good advice for us. Michael Jordan lived his career in the present tense and we need to live our lives the same way. Too often, though, we live today with little or no hope for tomorrow, based entirely on the pain of yesterday.
“I don’t expect you to except me, but I do expect you to accept me.” This quote from Jarod Kintz may seem like a perfect example of how confusing the English language is but it also is how most of us should live. Life is the quintessential on-the-job training experience. No matter how hard we try we cannot fully prepare for tomorrow because it is always something of a surprise. Each hour offers a chance to succeed or fail. Why expect anything other than success?
In a world where our differences seem amplified, it has become commonplace to expect the worst. We do not turn to the news expecting the program to be full of happy thoughts and joyous happenings. We have become slaves to depressing expectations. What if we expected goodness? What if we expected greatness in ourselves and then realized it when it occurred?
Few of us will ever win the championships Michael Jordan won but he can’t cook my special breakfast gravy like I can. In that, I am the great one. Since gravy on biscuits is a popular breakfast menu item, I assume others are confident in their own recipes. We all have talents that make us special. Yesterday I sat in front of a toddler, an adorable baby only five months old. She understood little about the speaker but gurgled at all the right times and smiles throughout. She made me happy I was present and her smile still brings one to my face twenty-four hours later. Yesterday, that baby was great at smiling. In fact, in the large group I was in, she was the best at smiling!
Perhaps your talent isn’t cooking but is in cleaning a house or repairing an engine. Some are loving caregivers while others detailed researchers. We all have a uniqueness that makes us great. Perhaps yours is in expressing joy or gratitude, organizational skills that keep things rolling, or maybe you are a dreamer that envisions great projects.
Instead of looking in the mirror and seeing our supposed faults, what if we looked in the mirror and expected to see our greatness? William Shakespeare advised “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” The actress Judy Garland summed it up best: “Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”
Expect to be you and expect that you are not only a person of value but greatness. Better yet, expect the best in others also. I could have walked into my meeting yesterday and groaned at the thought of sitting behind a toddler. Someone sitting behind did and was vocal about it before the meeting started. I heard the whispers behind me. “Why on earth would someone bring a baby to a meeting?” “We will not be able to hear a word with a child in the audience. Let’s move.”
At the end of the meeting I complimented the parents of this beautiful child with the phenomenal smiles on their child and the child’s behavior. They explained their babysitter had canceled but they really wanted to attend the meeting because they were starting an aid group, the subject of the speaker’s talk. Sometimes things are not what they seem or what we expect. Sometimes they are better. Sometimes, if we just give life a chance, they can be extraordinary.