Here’s an interesting problem: the challenge of high expectations.
If you’re anything like me, you expect a lot — sometimes too much — of others and of yourself.
I co-founded My Social Game Plan in 2011 as a senior in college with the expectation of being the go-to digital marketing agency in Louisville and beyond. Idealistic? You could say that.
I hadn’t even figured out how to be the go-to digital marketing agency in my neighborhood, and here I am expecting to dominate an entire industry. How could I reasonably expect to go from nothing to everything overnight?
We’re taught to have high expectations for ourselves and to constantly strive for never-ending progress. However, there’s a fine line between working to be better and establishing expectations so high that they become demotivating and self-defeating.
This is true in every aspect of life I can think of: your personal relationships, education, career, hobbies, financial habits, and fitness/physical health. You name it and I guarantee the threat of expectations that are too high exists.
Everything is Better Than Zero
A few months ago, I came across one of Gary Vaynerchuk’s many videos where he tackles common questions about the entrepreneurship mentality, digital marketing, and plenty more.
In the video below, Gary outlines a couple principles I think are profoundly simple, but practical and effective for overcoming barriers that high expectations creates.
Watch the video! (Or read below for my summary)
The two principles Gary talks about in the video are patience and the notion that everything is better than zero.
Nothing happens overnight. You’re not going to build a million dollar business in six months. You’re not going to have 100,000 likes or followers five months into building your digital marketing presence. You’re not going to start a blog and get 5,000 visitors a day any time soon. You’re not going to come out of college and have a salary equivalent to someone who’s been in the industry for 15 years.
All of that will come in due time if you’re patient and, using Gary’s words, “constantly hustle” to get there.
2) Everything is better than zero. Everything.
The way you’re going reach that million dollar business is by first getting to that $1,000 business, then that $100,000 business, and so on. The way you’re going to get that high salary is by making many consistent, minor positive impressions on your boss and proving your value. The way you’re going to get 5,000 visitors to your blog or 100,000 Likes on Facebook is one at a time.
You can’t make a million dollars until you figure out how to make $10. And, beyond that, you have to recognize the importance of that $10 — while it doesn’t seem like much in the grand scheme of things, every $10 is $10 you can leverage to help you move one step closer to that million. Every ten dollars is better than zero.
The point is you can’t go from nothing to everything with the snap of a finger. You have to take every small victory you can catch and find ways to leverage those tiny wins to gradually level up and up.
This Seems Cliche, I Know
You’re over there thinking, “Well duh! Of course I’m not going to become a millionaire overnight.”
This principle of “better than zero” has so many practical applications outside of that, though.
Think about how much of a challenge dieting and regularly exercising are for many people. We play mind tricks on ourselves and psyche ourselves out: “I don’t have an hour a day to exercise.” or “I might as well not even start if I don’t have time to do a full workout.”
You don’t have to exercise for an hour. You don’t have to do a full workout. Do you have 15 minutes? Do you have time to burn just 12 calories on a treadmill? Do it, because it’s better than zero.
Bonus: Once you get started, you’ll often find it’s really not so difficult to keep going for 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or the hour you initially set your expectations at!
What about picking up a new hobby? People say all the time, “I’d love to learn a musical instrument, but I just don’t have the time to learn.”
Okay, do you have 20 minutes? You can learn a basic chord or scale on a guitar. Do you have five minutes? You can learn a couple of the note names on the fretboard.
Do it, because it’s better than zero. It’s a lot of those five to twenty minute focused sessions that, when combined, allow you to learn a full song.
You can apply this mentality to just about any struggle in your life.
Let’s bring this back to digital marketing…
A lot of people start a blog or set out to build an online presence with the intention of having an amazing audience who reads, loves, and shares their content with the rest of the world. You look at the Copyblogger’s and Mark Schaefer’s of the world and say, “I want that!”
Then they get started and realize building a community like that is incredibly difficult. It’s no surprise there are tens of millions of abandoned blogs out there.
Recognize this though: the only way you’re going to build that community of loyal blog readers is one at a time. There’s no getting around that fact. Grab any opportunities that allow you to bring one more person into your circle. Don’t hesitate. That one blog reader is better than zero.
Get involved with Facebook Groups and Google+ Communities for your blog’s niche. If you build a relationship with just one person in a group and they grow to be a loyal supporter of your blog, it’s worth the effort. It’s better than zero.
Reach out to people on Twitter. If you bring in one extra follower, that’s one more person who’s likely to see your tweets and help you build your presence. That single follower is better than zero.
Break the High Expectations Barrier
Any time you’re taking on a significant task — exercising, picking up a new hobby, building an online presence, or anything else — you’re inevitably going to face self-doubt. The uncertainty and fear of failing will always arise, especially if you have a habit of establishing high expectations for yourself.
This is the point a lot of people turn their back on the task, because, let’s be honest, that’s far easier than mentally grappling with uncertainty and fear of failure.
Apply these two principles — patience and everything is better than zero — and I think you’ll be happy with the results. I’ve had a lot of success breaking through barriers of high expectations by recognizing nothing is perfect, nothing happens overnight, and inching one step closer toward a goal is far, far better than not moving forward at all.
You don’t need to go from nothing to everything overnight. You only need to patiently go from zero to something over time.