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This past summer I saw Jim Key give a one-hour speech on the topic of expectations. He is without a doubt a very talented and dynamic speaker — and the 2003 World Champion of Public Speaking. Jim told the story of how he competed in the Toastmasters International Speech Contest 3 years in a row. In order to compete at the international level, you first have to win the club-level contest, then the area contest, then the division contest, then the district contest, and then the regional contest… each one harder and more competitive than the last… just for the privilege of getting up on stage to compete against 8 other regional champions in the international contest. Competing at this level means hundreds of hours of practice before delivering your speech flawlessly to an audience of 1500.
After Jim came in second place at the international contest, he was inspired to enter again the next year. And again he came in second place. But this time he was heartbroken. He didn’t know if he could do it again. But he came back to compete again, and in 2003 he finally won first place. So when Jim talked about expectations and persistence, I listened carefully and took notes.
The main idea I learned from Jim’s speech was to ask the question, “What do you expect?” If you want better results in some area of your life, you have to raise your standards in that area and start expecting more, even if it means that you’ll have to demand more from yourself than you currently think is possible. Life may already be placing a heavy burden on you, but like the coach in the story above, you can still stretch yourself to give more than others expect from you. Even when others only expect a certain level of performance or generosity or kindness or commitment from you, you’re still capable of raising the bar higher. You can’t wait for others to raise this bar for you. The question isn’t, “What does your family expect?” or “What do your peers expect?” or “What does your boss expect?” It’s, “WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?”