Expect Nothing

Dan - Hinsdale, Illinois
Entered on March 6, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: carpe diem
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

My belief applies to all people, whether you’re a musician, athlete, astronaut, teacher, mother, or whatever. Everyone has expectations. It is our human nature to automatically expect things in life. If you are an athlete, you may expect to become great. If you are a mom, you may expect your kids to do what you want them to do. Expectations can be very powerful things; they have a huge effect on the way we live our lives.

First, there are goals. I think that if you work at something, you are probably going to set a standard for yourself. For example, a swimmer may say to himself: I want to swim the fifty free-style event in 28 seconds. He may train for years to achieve the goal, and if one day he were to reach it, he may feel this huge euphoric feeling that comes with reaching goals. He worked hard to achieve success, but would he have gotten there faster if 27 seconds was his goal? Is it possible that expectations limit our abilities? The same can be said for someone who makes goals way out their reach. For example, when I was a young guitarist, I idolized the great Tal Farlow. I was determined to transcribe Farlow’s beastly chord-melody rendition of “Misty.” Farlow is a freak of nature, and no one can transcribe that solo, so I almost quit because my expectations were far too high. Would I have become a better player if I chose something less difficult?

Aside from goals, there are many other forms of expectations. I remember last year I was invited to go to a Wilco concert with my sister and her new boyfriend. I took two trains to get to my sister’s house, but was delayed by a blizzard. I was expecting this concert to be the greatest. We drove like maniacs to Cleveland for eleven hours, but a ten car pile up left us in stand- still traffic for the rest of the night. Instead of enjoying a concert that evening, I was in some random man’s RV, playing blackjack. This may seem like a boring night, but it actually has become one of my greatest memories. I was expecting something great, but I got something totally different- and that is life.

I’ve never been happy with the way I look, play guitar, eat, choose outfits, and all sorts of things. There has always been this goal for me to become a certain way, which I believe to be ideal. Lately, I have been wondering about the way I will look in thirty years. Will I ever enhance my jazz vocabulary? Will I ever start to eat vegetables? Will I regret not going to a better college? I try to ignore questions like these because I do not want to make any assumptions about my future. I don’t want to be afraid to experience new things, and I don’t want to ever become satisfied with where I am life. Things turn out best for those who have no expectations; this I believe.