Last week, I began moving things into my apartment. At the moment all i have are basic furniture and books, lots of books, and more books waiting to be moved. I intend to keep it that way: simple, clean, with a lot of bookshelves, and some space for my interests in art and music.
Shopping for home stuff is a lot of fun. If you’re like me, and you like details, discovering the differences in mattresses, thread counts, materials, technologies, and products can be an amazing learning experience. But if again, you’re like me, inflexibly particular, it can be quite expensive, in my case, too expensive, so I’ve drawn up master plan which I have divided into spending phases focusing on the most basic and important to me and getting fancier later on.
It’s a lot of adjusting for me. Having no internet, or not using the AC as much, and not having a piano are just some of the things new to me. And while they’re not essentials, a lot of people don’t live with these conveniences, they’re things I’ve gotten used to, things I’ve come to expect as a norm of life. The truth is, if I hadn’t gotten used to a lot of the comforts I enjoyed I would be much more flexible than I am today.
I realized I have two choices: content myself with lower standards or increase my capacity, through discipline and faith, to earn more.
I thought about it: With every higher level we reach we create a higher expectation. When you’ve past grade 1 you’re expected to be able to handle grade 2 and so forth. When you’re used to a certain standard of living it’s not so easy to lower it. When you’ve tried McDonalds you expect all McDonalds to be the same, which they strive to do, to meet your expectation so that’s why you’re always satisfied. It’s like exchanging numbers with a girl, then giving her a call, then it’s lunch, then it’s dinner, then it’s breakfast, then before you know it, she expects you to give yourself away with a ring included. Expectations escalate.
Here’s the principle on expectations: Not meeting an expectation disappoints, meeting an expectation satisfies, beating an expectation impresses – but it also creates a greater expectation, a greater expectation we now need to at least satisfy. And when we consistently meet or surpass expectations we start acquiring that most precious of currencies: trust.
This is one great challenge the next generation will face: the expectations created by the previous generation. For some the standards have been so low that the expectations are also so low, and the danger here is settling at a low level and we see examples of this in highly impoverished areas – a lowering of standards with each new generation. Some are content with the good or have not been exposed or prepared to take things to the next level. They don’t realize that standards are dynamic what was good before may no longer make the cut, so while they may satisfy at the very least, lurking close by is the very real possibility that someday other things will be more satisfactory and cause people to stop trusting in us and erode our relevance. (See my post on The Survival of the Irrelevant)
And there are those who follow a great generation.
In a visit to a partner’s factory, I was talking to one of the managers about the new family member who joined the company. This company is a respected firm that has been around since before the war. It’s on its fourth generation I believe, with the crown prince about to take over. I remember telling the manager, “Must be nice to inherit such a great company. At least it isn’t so hard.” She looked at me and said, “I think it’s actually harder. Imagine being in your twenties, having little experience, but having responsibility over hundreds of employees right away?” She was right. While this guy had a lot going for him by being heir to success, his inheritance brought a burden with it – a burden of greater expectations.
This is why building a strong next generation is so critical. Because with each changing of the guard we are posed the question: will we raise the standard? Raising the standard will require more from us and it will increase expectations of us. We will then have to respond with an even higher standard. But if the generations are prepared well, prepared to be strong, to fight, not to settle, to persevere, to sacrifice, and most of all to have faith to rely more on God, then we need not fear expectations. Besides the alternative is a lower standard, and if we do this, we take the first step in a downward spiral of good to bad to ugly to kaput. Sure we won’t have the burden of expectations on us, but that’s only because we’ve lost their trust.