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Expect Obstacles

You know obstacles are going to be in your way. The key to success is believing that you can overcome them.

By Richard G. Zalack

There are three kinds of people in the world: The optimist, the pessimist, and the negativist. An optimist is someone who sees the opportunity and pursues the Preferred Future he knows is at the end. Optimists don’t see the obstacles before they start but expect them to exist. They know that obstacles are part of the process and are certain they will overcome the ones they encounter.

A pessimist is someone who sees not only the opportunity but also the obstacles inherent in achieving the goal of that particular opportunity. The astute pessimist realizes those obstacles are the building blocks of success.

A negativist sees everything that’s wrong. To him, there are too many obstacles and the opportunity’s Preferred Future isn’t enough to justify the effort or the pain involved in pursuing it.

I’m sure you know all three of these types of people. And, if you’re being honest with yourself, you know which kind you are. But what makes both optimists and pessimists successful? And what prevents a negativist from being successful? The key difference between success and failure is having something called an Expectant Attitude.

As you can see from these descriptions, having an Expectant Attitude is different from having a positive attitude. The optimist has a positive attitude and can be successful; the pessimist does not have a positive attitude, yet can be just as successful. An Expectant Attitude is the conviction, the will, the determination and the unshakable belief that nothing will stop a person from achieving his goal. You don’t just believe it will happen, you expect it will happen. Success is a matter of course because you are willing to do what it takes to make it happen.

Having an Expectant Attitude means committing to a project, not just merely trying. It encompasses belief, confidence, and faith.

Both optimists and pessimists can have an Expectant Attitude. All successful ones do. Expectations in this context are positive outcomes. By definition, then, a negativist cannot and will not have an Expectant Attitude. Negativists do not believe in success. They feel success is the luck of the draw. They believe that the same things that conspire to prevent them from being successful have been given willy-nilly to those people who have achieved their goals.

Having an Expectant Attitude is the prime requirement for being successful. All other attributes (working hard, planning, etc.) will not be effective unless you believe you will be successful. We're not talking about ‘Think Positive.’ We're talking ‘I have to think it will work.’

A colleague of mine tells the story of watching his five-year-old intently working on a project that he, the adult, knew was doomed to failure. Being the ever-wise adult, my friend told his son: “Matthew, that’s not going to work.” To which Matthew, eyes wide and deadly serious replied, “Dad, I have to think it will work.” That’s what having an Expectant Attitude is all about. Matthew was telling his dad that he wasn’t wasting his time on something he didn’t think was going to work.

Matthew’s response so affected my colleague that not only did he create a wall plaque for his office with his son’s wisdom on it; he also took it to heart himself. Many years later he was visiting Key West with his wife, a Jimmy Buffet fanatic, who had to see the sunset from the dock in the center of town. When they entered the city limits, his wife was disconsolate. “Where are we going to park?” she cried. “There are so many people we’ll never get to the dock!” My colleague told her not to worry, there’d be a parking place. She guffawed and began to pout. He drove through town, all the way to the foot of the dock. As he arrived, a car pulled out of the second to last parking space in America. She was amazed. My colleague was not; he expected the parking place to be there. And it was.

Having an Expectant Attitude is: “Believe it and it will happen;” it's: “When you need to learn something, the teacher will arrive;” it's: “When one door closes, another door opens.” But having an Expectant Attitude is even more.

It’s committing to a project, not just merely trying. It encompasses belief, confidence and faith. Most people think, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” The person who has an Expectant Attitude thinks, “I see it because I believe it.” Having an Expectant Attitude is having something in your heart as well as in your head. With an Expectant Attitude, you are saying: “I know my goals will be achieved. I may not know exactly when or where, but I know I'll reach them.

Henry Ford summed up an Expectant Attitude this way: “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you're right.” That is, if you expect to succeed, you will; if you expect to fail, you will. Your results are determined by the attitude that precedes them. If you have an Expectant Attitude—one in which you expect to succeed—you will.

In computing terms, they talk about GIGO—garbage in, garbage out. In other words, your final product can only be as good as the elements that go into it. And the most important of all the elements of any project is your expectancy; expect to fail or expect to succeed and you will.

Expecting success
If you think you do not currently have an Expectant Attitude, how do you go about getting one? First, start with a plan in which you are confident. Second, have faith in your ability to realize the plan. And third, work hard to make the plan succeed. As you repeat this process with each subsequent plan and are successful time after time, you will develop an Expectant Attitude. Eventually, your Expectant Attitude will become such a part of your being that it will precede everything you do.

When the Israelites met Goliath, their attitude was: “He’s so big we can't kill him.” And they were right. When David encountered Goliath, his attitude was: “He’s so big, I can't miss him.” David’s plan was to keep his distance from the giant and talk to him so he’d stand still. He was confident in his abilities with the sling because he had perfected it with years of practice and he had faith in himself. David slew Goliath. He expected to win and he did.

When you encounter a barrier in a project, in your daily work, or in your life, don’t look at it as being too big to kill; look at it as being so big you can’t miss it. Realize that your obstacles contain the raw material that will get you closer to your goal. Analyze the problem and you will find the solution. Solve the problem and you are closer to achieving your goal.

Thomas Edison, who discovered 941 ways that you couldn’t create a light bulb and one way that you could, said: “The trouble with most people is that they quit before they start.” By that he meant that the attitude they had before they started on a project was that they expected to fail and so they did.

There’s an old story that's bandied about in the selling industry concerning two shoe salespeople who were sent to a remote location. The first wired back, “I'm coming home. These people are so backward they walk around barefoot.” The second wired back and said, “Great opportunity here. Send 10,000 pair at once!”

Having an Expectant Attitude means that you surely believe that you will come across obstacles along the way no matter how well you research and plan. It also says that you are confident you will overcome those obstacles and be successful. If you see problems as barriers that can’t be surmounted, they won’t be and you’ll fail. If you see problems as normal and only the source of raw material for your success, you’ll succeed.

An interesting by-product of having an Expectant Attitude is that it will help you know when to say no. When you truly believe you’re on the right path, you’ll be able to say no to those activities that don’t move you forward along your path. Conversely, when you have doubt instead of an Expectant Attitude, you won’t be sure if what you are doing is the right thing. You will then proceed to do one of two negative things: you will say yes to something that will get you off course and prevent you from being successful, or you will become immobilized by your doubt and not do anything, allowing things to come to a halt around you.

Having an Expectant Attitude is almost magical; your Expectant Attitude reveals the right thing to do. When you expect to succeed, the right choices seem to appear in front of you. All you have to do is accomplish them.

An Expectant Attitude is like luck. It doesn’t just happen; it doesn't work in a vacuum. It needs a plan, it needs ability, and it needs players. An Expectant Attitude needs a team and it needs a coach. As important as all those elements are, without an Expectant Attitude, there is usually no success.

Having an Expectant Attitude is really as simple as Matthew told my colleague: “Dad, I have to think it will work.”

And when it’s your business we’re talking about, how can you not think it will work?

Expect to succeed and you will.

Dick Zalack is an entrepreneurial strategist based in Cleveland, Ohio. He helps sole practitioners become better small-business owners and entrepreneurs. You can reach him at 330-225-0707 or through his website:


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