One of the big things I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I expect a lot from people.
At times, I can be critical beyond what may seem fair or reasonable; unforgiving to the point of heartless. But sometimes, what might seem cruel is actually the kindest thing you can do for a person.
Whether between strangers, friends, lovers, or colleagues, one thing there’s often not enough of in this world is honesty.
True honesty can be brutal, at times unexpected and even earth shattering. But it can also be beautiful, liberating and insightful; life changing for the better.
There is nothing in this world more frustrating and upsetting to me than to see potential being wasted. Each of us is born with our own unique personality, talents, skills – the things that define our capacity to understand, engage with and impact the world around us.
What we choose to make with these building blocks is the essence of life and reality as we know it.
To knowingly waste your God-given gifts is practically a crime against life itself.
As a high school student, I was one of the best examples of unfulfilled potential. I used my booksmarts to ensure I did as little work as possible, breezing though school while staying comfortably near the top of the class.
I disappointed multitudes of teachers, classmates, and at times my parents, with this unrepentant lack of respect for the school system. But as my experiences began to stretch beyond the classroom in the years that followed, I realised this wasn’t born from a place of laziness but an appetite for power.
I loved knowing I had the power to manipulate the system. I could wag school to play video games, get high and listen to music, and go crazy with friends – partying hard til the sun rose on a school morning. All while cruising through classes and acing exams.
To a 15-year-old me, this was the ultimate expression of freedom, power, and boasting rights.
But as I grew older and more self aware, I was cannibalised by my own inner critic. Unable to escape from this unfiltered self-honesty, I was forced to admit that I was using my abilities to a selfish end.
Soon all of this changed, and I was dragged into the challenging, complex and unforgiving world of business. Tethered to a chair, eyelids pinned open, I was forced to re-assess my own priorities and purpose.
One of the things that began to drive me to push myself day and night, through thick and thin, in health and chronic sickness, is the understanding that I can impact upon more than just my direct line of sight.
Focusing on making yourself happy can only take you so far in life.
When you focus on the happiness, well-being and success of others, you can begin to create exponential ripples in time and space.
Honesty is the key to this; something which I’ve begun to understand more and more thanks to my lifelong mentor, business partner and fellow underachiever Daniel.
When you genuinely want to contribute to someone else’s experience, you’re forced to accept an inconvenient truth – that preserving their immediate feelings comes from your own reluctance to trigger their painful self-realisations.
Think of those poor talentless contestants auditioning for Got Talent, X-Factor or Idol. Often their families and friends just don’t have the heart (or the influence – which, incidentally, is often earned through these same very acts of honesty) to save them from a public shaming on TV.
When you care about seeing someone succeed, you take a personal interest in getting to know them – their traits and their abilities, their values and goals. The more you get to know them, the more refined your expectations will be for that person.
My only expectations of a stranger on the street are to not intentionally fuck with my life, act discourteously to others, or do unreasonable damage to the world we live in.
Essentially to be a decent person; an expectation based on the only meaningful thing we have in common at that moment – we’re both human beings.
Truly caring about someone else means taking an active, as opposed to passive, interest in their wellbeing.
This is the exact moment new expectations are born.
When you want the best for someone, it hurts you to see them fail; to not try hard enough, to sabotage themselves, or fall prey to others’ selfish actions. When you actively care about that person, it amounts to a lot more than just well wishes – you will pick them up and dust them off, act as their mentor for no other reward than to see them to succeed, live by example to show them the way.
You drop the honesty bombs and jolting reality checks that others will not.
Sure, it’s not always an easy thing to do, and as someone who was born an extreme introvert, I know this better than anyone. But nothing worth having in life comes for free.
When it all boils down, you cannot control the outcome of anyone else’s situation; what you do control is your expectations, your motivations and your actions. And I hope that for me, these three things will always sprout from the right place.
I will never apologise for my expectations, even those that lead to hurt feelings and bruised egos.
But perhaps more importantly, I will never stop caring about people.
And I truly hope that the people in my life will care enough to deliver the same stone-cold knockout blows to me when I wander off the path.