Jay Rifenbary

Jay Rifenbary's Blog

Expectation versus Effort - The Battle Continues


How many times have your expectations of yourself and others been unfulfilled? Were those expectations realistic? Were you prepared for the effort needed to reach the expectations you desired for yourself? How did you react in the aftermath of not meeting those expectations? Did you take ownership for the outcome, or blame someone or something else as the ultimate cause? In regard to your expectation of others, how often have you projected your own expectations of them on to them? How did that work out? Personally and professionally the emotional fallout and resulting stress from unrealized expectations can be significant. Realistic expectations begin with the understanding that there is a direct correlation between the kind of life you expect and how accountable you have been for your past, are for your present and will be for your future.

You are also more likely to reach your expectations when how you conduct your life is aligned with the core values you believe in. For example, if there have been past behaviors that you are ashamed of and were not aligned with your values, but fail to correct those behaviors when the next similar situation arises, expecting a positive outcome is unrealistic. Any change you desire takes energy, effort, commitment and personal accountability. False expectations occur when what you expect is not congruent with the effort, or the aligned values needed to fulfill that expectation. As Theodore Roosevelt stated, “It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things.”

Noni, my beautiful wife of 33 years this past month, decided to return to school beginning this year to challenge herself, and broaden her life’s tool kit. Although she had already received her degree in the past, she desired a new challenge. Her expectations were high of herself, yet anxious not knowing what to expect from a new academic endeavor, especially after so many years removed from being a student. The experience has been challenging, but her willingness and work ethic to put forth the effort in her schoolwork and reach her expectations has been remarkable and rewarding. Her effort, and in turn academic success, has enhanced her own sense of personal value and respect, and has gained the admiration of family and friends. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory.” Simply, to expect a fulfilling life without effort is like expecting a fulfilling meal without adequate preparation.

Other factors that contribute to the success of your efforts and ultimate expectations include your attitude, having the internal belief and passion that you can succeed, taking ownership for the decisions you are making, having the perseverance to follow through with your decisions, and making a concerted commitment to manage your time effectively in the process. A quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson states, “Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.” Without enthusiasm there is apathy, and with apathy there is stagnation. To be stagnant is to be lifeless in an attempt to reach any expectation you may have of yourself and others.

To expect a better life without effort can also create a belief pattern that quickly deteriorates self-respect, because you become less involved in your own future. Applying this thought beyond oneself you will quickly notice an increasing social trend where many whine about their unfulfilled expectations, rather then apply the necessary effort to reach them. When personal accountability is not taken for a lack of effort, it appears to be customary to blame someone else for unhappiness and a lack of fulfillment. Promoting and being an example of personal accountability is key to thwarting such a social trend. As a society, to not reinforce an understanding of the connection between effort and reaching expectations will only result in a less productive citizenry and a growing victim mentality. Those who expect much without much effort have little chance to experience the full potential of themselves, and the full experience of the world around them.

Internal Vulnerability - A Key to Effective Leadership


We normally tend to think of being vulnerable as a weakness, and when it pertains to an outside force that threatens us physically and emotionally that would be correct. However, being internally vulnerable can be a positive characteristic as it relates to a willingness to take ownership for your own mistakes, weaknesses, failures, and internal challenges. It takes strength and courage to be exposed and allow yourself to be vulnerable to what others may, or may not think of you. To be vulnerable pertains to having the internal fortitude to be comfortable with who you are, and who you are not.

It is not easy, nor should it be, to admit your mistakes, uncertainties and the shameful parts of your life. Yet, the aftermath of such courage brings forth a greater sense of personal acceptance and contentment. To believe you are invulnerable is an escape from reality, and most importantly an escape from personal accountability. At times, we all put on a suit of armor to prevent penetration of the truth, but depending on how long we wear that armor will determine how accepting, content and happy we will be. A Knight in shining armor who never takes his suit off will eventually die from exhaustion, a false belief of who they thought they were, and an expectation of what they thought they could achieve.

From a leadership perspective, vulnerability stimulates a collective respect from those who follow, because it reveals a genuineness of personal honesty by the leader, and dismantles the perception of ego and arrogance. It lets others in with the knowledge that you may not have all the answers, but have the strength to be humble and willing to allow others to be part of the process, and contribute to the success of the team. This immediately enhances mutual trust that leads to greater communication within the team. It creates an environment were others are more at ease to offer suggestions and ideas as there is an understanding that this is a united effort.

To be vulnerable does not mean that your failures, mistakes and uncertainties can be used as excuses to not reach your full potential, but rather a personal awareness of the continued journey to be a better and more honest you. As American author Madeleine L’Engle said, “When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable.”

From a personal perspective, to barricade yourself from being vulnerable, is barricading yourself from truly feeling and emotionally connecting with others. You can never be fully happy and trusting in any relationship when there is the deception that you may be portraying someone you are not. As a public speaker, one of my primary responsibilities is to connect with my audience, and inspire them to be receptive to the message I am about to share. I have experienced countless times where the more vulnerable I am in my delivery, the more receptive and impactful my message is. The personal and professional stories I share of my failures, disappointments, struggles, mistakes, and the lessons learned only add to my relationship with the audience, and the value of the message delivered. To demonstrate an air of being all knowing in any venue, only creates an atmosphere of arrogance and potential distrust.

Always remember, you teach best in life what you want to learn the most, and honestly admitting what you wish to learn the most, is being beautifully vulnerable. As Sigmund Freud said, “Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.” To deny your internal vulnerability is to be personally dishonest, i.e. projecting one thing and living another. It also reflects a lack of personal accountability in regard to taking ownership for your past, present and future. How fun it is to accept that no one is perfect, and to live a life that expresses that acceptance for yourself and others. I have a hope that there will come a day that aligns the expectations of society with the true essence of each individual. It is a hope that eliminates the destructive forces of self-centeredness, ego, narcissism, greed, deceit, and absent integrity. What a wonderful world that would be?

Saturday, August 15, 2020

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