One thing I’ve always loved about Michael Jordan is that he had complete confidence in all situations he faced.
He expected to win every single time he stepped out on that court—even when homeboy had the flu.
Last week was the NFL Draft, which is a time when a lot of expectations are put on a lot of young men. Myles Garrett, the top pick out of Texas A&M, was taken by the Browns, and that top spot is full of great expectations. When you’re the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, you’re the No. 1 pick for a reason: People expect great things out of you.
But what if you don’t live up to them?
Sure, there have been some No. 1 picks who have been pretty incredible. You might recognize names like Earl Campbell, Bo Jackson, Troy Aikman, and Peyton Manning—a handful of players who continued to live up to the hype around them. But then there have been some top picks who have been real busts. Does anyone remember Ryan Leaf, who was the No. 2 pick right after Manning in 1998? Not the Chargers’ best decision. Then there’s Alex Smith, who was the top overall pick in 2005 and went to the 49ers, but he did bigger and better things in his college glory days. I could go on, but I’m going to stop here.
The fact of the matter is that draft selections have a lot on their shoulders. I mean, the Cowboys picked a fella named Taco this year with purpose: We expect him to make our defense better.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having great expectations in certain situations. However, you do have to be prepared for the possibility that your expectations don’t pan out—and you have to know that it’s OK if that happens.
When I used to play soccer, I expected to score a goal every game. I know that might sound a little ridiculous, but it was something I believed I could do, and so I expected to score or at least do every possible thing I could to try in every single game. And, for the most part, I did that. Yes, there were games when I didn’t get goals, but I wasn’t super let down by that because I knew I had done what I could and that I would have future opportunities to score other goals.
But not all great expectations are as simple.
When I was a little girl and even a teenager, I fully expected my life as an adult would be like all of the fairy tales and romantic comedies I had seen growing up (darn you, Disney and romcom creators). I guess I never really thought I would find myself in my 30s and still doing the single thing. Yet here I am. And, for some reason, this one is harder to accept than not scoring a goal in every soccer game.
There have been times I’ve had crushes on guys and expected absolutely nothing to happen. Then there have been other times when I’ve actually had some hope and expectations—but zilch happened. In those instances, I felt kind of like Rachel in Friends in the episode when she buys that ridiculously expensive cat that she expects will be just like the one she had when she was a kid, but it turns out to be much more of a painful investment than she thought possible.
And, because of her high expectations, she had a great amount of disappointment when they weren’t met.
I was meeting a friend somewhere recently, and while I was waiting, I started chatting with a woman next to me who was scrolling through a dating app. She told me a funny story about a date she had and then mentioned how it was really difficult to meet the right person. I asked her what type of person she was looking for, and then she asked me the same. After we talked for a little bit, she asked me if maybe I thought my expectations were too high for someone to meet. I told her no—I know nobody is perfect, but I think it’s OK to believe someone out there is perfect for me.
And I do think that. At the same time, though, I have to go back to that young girl on the soccer field who thought that scoring a goal was the determinant of success. But it’s not. You don’t grow as a soccer player by getting a goal every game; you grow by pushing yourself through every moment of every game, regardless of the outcome, and putting forth your best effort for all of the other members of your team. It’s great to expect those goals to happen—but it’s even more wonderful to learn how to respond to the moments when they don’t. So I need to be prepared and alright with the idea that nobody is perfect for me, and this single thing is a forever thing.
We certainly aren’t always going to get what we want in life, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having great expectations, especially when it comes to the desires of our hearts. And maybe doing so can even help us treat others better: If you expect people to love you the way you are, love them for the individuals they are; if you expect people to care about you, care for others; if you expect people to remind you how much they value you, let those around you know just how valuable they are.
I can’t sit here and say everything I hope for will come true, but I can expect that I’ll end up where I’m meant to be, and it will be good.
So maybe we should all “be like Mike” and not be afraid to have great expectations.