Expectations can really mess with your mind

Expectations can really impact your judgment in life, business, and careers.

We have expectations for everything. If they’re met, happiness! 🙂 If not, sadness or anger. 🙁

A recent conversation led me to think a lot more about how expectations can really mess with our minds.

Expectations of restaurants

The other day I was chatting with some friends about food, dining, and restaurants.

Pineapple and Pearls, a prix-fixe restaurant that is highly regarded as one of the best in DC and the country, immediately worked its way into the conversation. One of our friends said that she knew some people who had been there and weren’t impressed.

The first thing I thought about was how her friend’s high expectations might have gotten in the way of enjoying the meal more than she did.

What might have caused these high expectations?

First of all, the restaurant is super hyped. It’s rated the top restaurant in DC by Washingtonian, made Bon Appetit’s list of best new restaurants of 2017, and received two Michelin stars.

Next, the price. Pineapple and Pearls charges $280 per person (and is increasing its price to $325 per person in April). You expect the absolute best meal of your life at that cost.

Finally, the legacy. Chef Aaron Silverman also runs Rose’s Luxury, a more casual DC eatery that was rated the #1 new restaurant in America by Bon Appetit and received one Michelin star.

High expectations indeed.

My wife and I have been to The French Laundry in Napa Valley, the legendary three-Michelin-star restaurant that pretty much invented prix-fixe in the US and has been the gold standard for fine dining.

We’ve had better meals.

I’m cognizant of the fact that high expectations may have influenced our judgment.

Don’t get me wrong. The cooking was expert, the ingredients were certainly fresh, and the meal was delicious. The service was fantastic and the experience was excellent.

We just weren’t wowed like we’ve been at some other less-hyped restaurants.

$295 per person. $35 for a normal glass of wine. The aura of Thomas Keller, Napa Valley, and the esteemed French Laundry.

Maybe we would have enjoyed the meal more if the restaurant didn’t win so many awards and was so highly regarded (though it’s likely we would have never eaten there if this were the case).

Maybe we would have liked it more if this were our first prix-fixe meal (my first meal of this kind, at Komi, remains my favorite, maybe because I didn’t really know what to expect).

Maybe we would appreciate the restaurant more if it were located in DC (we like to be cheerleaders for where we live).

I don’t know. But I do think that our high expectations muddied the waters before we even stepped foot into The French Laundry.

Expectations in Business and Careers

If you have French-Laundry-like expectations for everything but those expectations are rarely or never met, you’re not going to be a happy camper.

Likewise, if your expectations are very low, you’ll likely be satisfied more frequently, but may not reach your full potential.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have high expectations. We all should expect the best from ourselves. I’m just saying that expectations can cloud our definition of success, happiness, and satisfaction.

Everything is relative.

I’ve always had high expectations of myself, especially when it came to my career. And for the most part, prior to becoming an entrepreneur, I’ve met those expectations.

I wanted a career in consulting, and I got it. And I performed well to get raises, promotions, and more responsibility.

I then wanted to transition to a career in sports business. I worked hard and achieved pretty much my dream job at the time. And I was on the up-and-up until I left to become an entrepreneur.

That’s when everything changed.

I still have those high expectations and now I feel like I’m not meeting them.

Entrepreneurship and startups are a different beast than the corporate world, and progress and success looks much different.


Tech startups are really, really hard and can make you feel like you’re not good enough. I certainly feel that way often.

Entrepreneurs inherently have high expectations for success. What happens if those expectations aren’t met?


We’re rarely disappointed by eating at McDonald’s because we have low expectations of their food. But if a high-end restaurant with an exorbitant price point like The French Laundry fails to wow us, we can feel duped.

No one is going to complain about a bad episode of NCIS. But if an episode of Game of Thrones fails to deliver, we’re flaming it on social media.

High expectations of an amazing career and life can lead to great success and happiness if they’re met, or feelings of failure and depression if they’re not.

Expectations can mess with your mind.

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