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[This may be the only post this week, unless I finish Part 9 by tomorrow morning. I'll be leaving for San Rafael and the Pacific Pinball Expo very early Thursday and not returning until late Sunday night.]

Continuing the analysis of the Yahoo! Finance article 21 Ways Rich People Think Differenly, a condensed “interview” with Steve Siebold, author of How Rich People Think.

8. Average people set low expectations so they're never disappointed. Rich people are up for the challenge.

"Psychologists and other mental health experts often advise people to set low expectations for their life to ensure they are not disappointed," Siebold writes.

"No one would ever strike it rich and live their dreams without huge expectations."

This more than any other point so far illustrates that Mr. Siebold obviously did not actually talk to any “average people” while researching his book. And, just as obviously, the rich people he talked to did not include a fairly prominent sub-category of self-made millionaires and billionaires.

Quick! What do these individuals have in common?:

  • Mark Zuckerberg
  • Bill Gates
  • Johnny Depp
  • J.K. Rowling

If you guessed “They all had their low expectations blown away by reality”, you’d be right.

  • Mark Zuckerberg, when he invented Facebook with his friends in college, originally thought it would only be used by students at Harvard University.

  • Bill Gates, when approached by IBM for an operating system for the IBM-PC, originally directed them to Digital Research, Inc.’s CP/M. All Gates wanted to do was write the BASIC interpreter.

  • Johnny Depp came to Los Angeles to be a rock musician. Then he got cast in A Nightmare on Elm Street purely by accident—he’d driven his roommate, Jackie Earle Haley, to the audition, but Wes Craven liked Johnny’s looks and asked Johnny to read for the role.

  • J.K. Rowling, while always intending for her book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to be published, never dreamed that it would be the beginning of the best-selling book series in the world and make her the twelfth wealthiest woman in the United Kingdom.

What does this tell us? It tells us that, sometimes, success—even “self-made” success—comes despite modest expectations. And these are not isolated incidents. The world is full of the “self-made” who succeeded far beyond their expectations. Now, obviously, these people had some kind of expectations, or else they wouldn’t have been doing what they were doing in the first place. But these expectations were lower, easier to attain, more “realistic” than the levels of success they eventually rose to.

So, obviously, great success does not require high expectations.

On the other hand, neither do high expectations guarantee success. But you don’t hear about the people who go out to try to change the world and fail, because . . . well, they failed. Nevertheless, to assume that “average people” deliberately set low expectations for themselves so that they’re not disappointed is to be quite ignorant of reality. No college student I have ever met has had the “dream” of working a boring 9 to 5 job for 35 years and retiring with just enough money to cover living expenses—despite the fact that most people end up doing exactly that. And I’ve certainly never heard of anyone “expecting” that they’ll drop out of college and drift from minimum-wage job to minimum-wage job until they die homeless and alone, just so that the 9 to 5 job and the penniless retirement seem like “success” by comparison.

And where does he get the idea that “Psychologists and mental health experts often advise people to set low expectations”? I’ve been in therapy, and most of my friends have been in therapy, and I’ve never heard of a therapist telling a client to lower their expectations. Quite the opposite, in fact. At least in my case, my therapist has encouraged me to raise my expectations, with the knowledge that having a goal or a dream to work toward can help lift people out of depression or boring routine and spur them to action.

And even when people don’t have the energy to pursue their dreams (see Part 3), they still “expect” that, at some point in the future, their life will be better. Everyone does, rich or not, successful or not. Because if one doesn’t, what’s the point of continuing? The expectation of a better future is what keeps us alive.

So, to sum up . . . success does not automatically mean that the successful person had high expectations; high expectations are no guarantee of success; and “average people” have just as much expectation of a better future as “rich people” do.

The next installment will examine doing versus being, and a statement so full of ass-kissing as to bugger beggar the imagination.


Previously in this series: Prelude and Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

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