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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Take Advantage of Low Expectations!

You've probably seen this video of Susan Boyle performing on Britain's Got Talent. If not, go watch the video and then keep reading for my take on it.

Most people are passing this around because it's so "inspirational." And it is. I even got a little choked up watching it. And that's for four reasons:

  1. I'm a Renaissance man with a soft side
  2. Les Mis is my favorite musical, that's one of my favorite songs, and I get a little choked up just listening to it anyhow
  3. It is a cool story about this woman unexpectedly blowing people away with her skill and
  4. The content of the song, "I Dreamed a Dream" fits her story very well, which just adds to it.

BUT, just because it's inspirational doesn't mean we can't pull out a business or life lesson, right? As a speaker, I like to believe I'm about "more than motivation" :-)

Here's something to remember: She did amazingly well because she had such low expectations.

Don't get me wrong - she sang amazingly well. Her talent is undeniable. But this video is not making the rounds because it's a great performance. It's making the rounds because it's a great performance when everyone was expecting it to be awful.

No one expected her to do well. She doesn't look like a star. She looked kinds confused when she took the stage. She even thought the song was from the Wizard of Oz, not Les Mis. This had all the earmarks of a William Hung-esque performance. Then she started singing and everyone was in awe.

She did well because she completely exceeded expectations. And therein lies the lessons.

Lesson #1: To make a huge impression, you must obliterate expectations. I'm not saying to "under promise and over deliver," because if you under promise no one will hire you. But over delivering is vital. You don't need to demolish expectations everyday (that's a quick way to burnout) but when you get that "shot," that opportunity, don't settle for just passing or doing pretty well. DOMINATE!

Lesson #2: Turn other's low expectations to your advantage. How many people do you know who get offended when people don't believe in them or show them a lack of respect? How many feel bad and give up? DON'T DO THIS! This is your perfect chance to wow them way more than if they believed in you in the first place.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to emcee a pretty big event. I was relatively unknown, and there were some well known humorists in the audience. Before I took the stage someone who just found out I, and unknown (to her), was going to emcee she said, "wouldn't it be good if so-and-so" emceed"


Subtext: "Wouldn't it be better if Avish didn't do it?" That's tough to hear before you take the stage.

But you know what? I took the stage, did my best, and it went great. Afterwards, that woman came up to me and said, "I am so sorry, I didn't mean to be insulting before. I had no idea you did comedy and everything. You were great!"

I have a big enough ego to agree that I was great :-) But I also realize that as an unknown with low expectations, I had a golden opportunity to rock the house and make an impression.

How about you? How do you respond when expectations and confidence in you are low? Especially when stakes are high. Do you roll over? Get so mad that you let your emotion interfere with your performance? Or do you brush off the doubts and take advantage of the situation by blowing everyone away?

Now if you'll excuse me, my arm is sore from patting myself on the back...

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