How to avoid disappointment

How to Avoid

I came across a helpful anecdote while reading the Daily Stoic. It’s about a Zen master who owns a beautiful glass cup.

The master would repeat to himself, ‘The glass is already broken.’ He enjoyed the cup. He used it. He showed it off to visitors. But in his mind, it was already broken. And so one day, when it actually did break, he simply said, ‘Of course.’ — The Daily Stoic

We’re programmed by society to always look at things positively, which often leads to disappointment. When you think about it, our rose-colored glasses set us up for woe:

  • The meeting will be helpful and short.
  • My colleague will listen to reason and understand.
  • The new curriculum will be better than the last.
  • The students will pay attention.
  • Nothing will go wrong.

Let’s switch this up. What would the Zen master say?

  • The meeting will most likely not help and run long.
  • My colleague probably won’t listen to reason, and I’ll have to work hard to make him understand.
  • Most likely the new curriculum will have components that aren’t better than the last.
  • I’m going to need to bring my A game regarding classroom management today.
  • Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

By tweaking your thinking, you sidestep disappointment and find yourself in a position to work hard and solve problems. This is where productive positivity comes into play, because now you can constructively deal with the issues you weren’t expecting. Complaining, anger, and resentment disappear.

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The long game

I really like this video; it touches upon a lot of stuff: working hard, honing your craft, minding the long tail… all with a hint of Stoicism. Seneca would be so proud.

Upon viewing the video, I think one of the best takeaways is how long the masters of their crafts had to work to hone their skills and make breakthrough discoveries. My favorite part was when the filmmaker takes da Vinci’s work during his “amateur” years and reveals how it helped fulfill his “master” years. Very inspiring.

Seth Godin…

writes a blog post everyday. Every. Single. Day. (I think he’s broken the 4,000 blog post milestone.)

I’ve written about him before, and I’ll probably write about him again. His book, Lynchpin, revolutionized the way I view work and how one brings value to an organization. His blog posts are an inspiration for anyone who wants to be a better writer, communicator, marketer, entrepreneur, blogger… the list goes on.

Yesterday he wrote a post containing the following excerpt:

Do your work, your best work, the work that matters to you. For some people, you can say, “hey, it’s not for you.” That’s okay. If you try to delight the undelightable, you’ve made yourself miserable for no reason.

Like usual, Godin sheds light on integral aspects of work. We must do work that is not just lucrative or fun, but also of importance. At the same time, we must keep in mind that there are some who are “undelightable.” That’s OK; this only means that it’s a fool’s errand to try making everyone happy. Instead, it’s better to work hard for something you know is important. In doing so, the right people will be happy, which are probably the only people whose opinions you should care about anyway.

This all reminds me of something Conan O’Brian once said:

If you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.

It’s so true. Work hard. Care about people. Amazing things will happen.

The beginning of the project

Ed Catmull writes about what he calls “ugly babies.” These are projects that start out really rough and get more refined and polished with time; think of an ugly baby who grows into a charming youth and then graceful adult.

Catmull says most Pixar movies follow this pattern. You wouldn’t want to see the early sketches and stories because they’re so bad. Movies like Finding Nemo and Toy Story 2 emerge out of a lot of work and a ton of iteration–they don’t begin with the same resonance the finished products embody.

This is very important to remember when starting a project. It’s OK if things begin ugly. You have to start somewhere. Great work emerges after additions, modifications, and a lot of collaboration.

There’s just one sound

Works of brilliance are often thought of as having a miraculous genesis. “Surely the artist was in full control of the creative process, writing/recording/coding/painting with a steady hand and in an enlightened state from beginning to end.”

It’s better to recognize that hard, sometimes mundane, work created the product. Picture Michelangelo, chipping away for hours on David–alone.

There’s no chorus from above–no muse singing. There’s just the sound of work.

Educator confidence

As a teacher, confidence is good.

Some think a good teacher is a meek teacher. Quiet. Reserved. Introverted. Not sure of what to say. No opinion.

It’s imperative for teachers to be professionally confident. Would you like a confident surgeon when she’s about to give you a knee replacement? Would you like a confident attorney before you go to trial? Would you like a confident contractor who’s going to install your pool?

The same logic applies to education. Do you want a confident first grade teacher who’s going to instill a love of science in your child? Do you want a confident 7th grade English teacher who will teach your child how to write precisely and concisely? Do you want a confident math teacher who will explain calculus in a way that will help your child when she’s an engineering student at Cal Poly, SLO?

Don’t confuse confidence with cockiness. The confident person is actually the furthest thing from cocky.

It’s time for all teachers to be confident–just like effective professionals in other fields.

Let them hit you

Displaying your art for others to view is a daunting prospect. Whether it’s a painting on the wall, a story on a website, or a song on iTunes, once you put what you’ve created into the public sphere, interpretation is up for grabs. And trust me, everybody is a critic.

Initially, you’ll hear the work is good. This is because the first people who critique it love you. Soon, you’ll display the art for others to examine. Then you’ll produce more. After some time of fighting the resistance, you’ll have a body of work that garners more attention–either because it’s good or for the simple fact that there’s more of it to be seen.

At this point, you’ll experience some criticism. This is natural and beneficial. Everyone wants the positives and (some delicately worded) negatives.

Here’s the thing: Many of the negative comments will not be delicate. In fact, they’ll be uncomfortable.

This reminds me of Fahrenheit 451. A man named Faber warns Montag that making mistakes is OK–even when other people call you on it. Here’s an excerpt:

‘Listen. Easy now,’ said [Faber] gently. ‘I know, I know. You’re afraid of making mistakes. Don’t be. Mistakes can be profited by. Man, when I was younger I shoved my ignorance in people’s faces. They beat me with sticks. By the time I was forty my blunt instrument had been honed to a fine cutting point for me. If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll never learn.’

Faber’s not talking about creating art, but he might as well be. Some people are born geniuses, but most of us need to make bad stuff and get knocked around a bit so we’ll learn. Then we’ll make good stuff. The kind comments are swell, but the unkind comments stay with us. The trick is to learn from both positive and negative constructive criticism.

So let them hit you. Put your heart out there. It will make you strong. It will hone your “blunt instrument.” You’ll learn–and most importantly–you’ll get better.