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What I Learned from Navy Seals About Expectations

A big blocker that often prevents us from getting where we want to go—or steals our joy once we get there—is bad expectations. I’ve been blessed to get to know dozens of Navy SEALs over the years. These are hands-down the toughest, bravest guys I’ve ever met. In the military, these are the best of the best, the elite warriors who get the job done no matter what that job entails. The first SEAL I ever met shared all sorts of harrowing stories about his life on the battle- field. Some of what he told me sounded like it came straight out of a movie. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! When he noticed the disbelief on my face, he smirked and said, “Erik, Navy SEALs are the best in the world. We can do anything—as long as you tell us up front what to expect.” 

He explained that the only times things ever went sideways for him were the rare times when his intel was incorrect or incomplete. For example, his mission brief may say something like, “We’re dropping a team of five SEALs in this location. You’ll free one hostage, who is being held here. There are three hostiles in the building who are posted here, here, and here.” That may sound like an easy mission if you were playing Call of Duty on PlayStation, but, of course, it’s much more hazardous in real life. These guys drop into hot spots like this all the time, armed with not only their training and weapons but also their expectations of how the mission will go. If the expectations are way off—say there are ten hostiles instead of three—then the whole plan goes out the window. That’s when they have to start improvising, and that’s where things can go very wrong very quickly. 

That’s how it is in our lives too. The stakes may not be life or death, but the principle is similar. We can generally handle whatever life throws at us as long as we see it coming; the surprise hits, however, can take us out hard and fast. In life, business, relationships, and money, expectations are everything. We plan for the future based on what we know today. When our vision is blurred due to negative self- talk, guilt, fear, or any of the other things we’ve discussed, we are basically making plans based on bad intel. They may look good on paper, but they’ll fall apart in real life. 

Excerpted from my book Who’s Eating Your Pie? To read more order your copy from this website.

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Erik Weir