Industry Buzz: The Surprising Reason Why You Aren’t Succeeding
In the award-winning podcast Invisibilia, hosts Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller go in depth into how expectations influence human behavior. The hosts tell an amazing story of a man named Daniel Kish, who lost his eyes as a toddler due to cancer.
When Kish’s mother brought him home from the hospital, she had a tough choice to make: Should she place Kish into a bubble, protecting him as much as possible from being hurt? Or should she let him explore his environment without fear of what may happen?
She went with option two. As a result, Kish grew up with no expectations as to what his limitations should be. Despite his blindness, he was allowed to explore his environment as much as possible, walk to school alone, and even ride a bike. Essentially, he was allowed to do everything a kid with sight could do. As a result, he developed a great amount of independence.
Thanks to this independence, Kish taught himself human echolocation, which he explained allowed him to visualize his environment by making a clicking sound with his mouth. It sounds like something out of a science fiction book, but it’s an actual practice that has helped Kish, and others, see — in a way.
Adam Shaible was affected differently by his blindness. Shaible attended high school with Kish, but prior, had went to a school for the blind, where he was never required to get around on his own. As a result, he had much less independence than Kish. Shaible struggled to get from place to place by himself, and didn’t feel capable of riding a bike.
During the podcast, it’s revealed that expectations likely had a lot to do with the two men’s stark differences in how blindness had an effect on their independence.
Miller explained, “[Kish] thinks the reason that more blind people don’t [practice humo echolocation] isn’t just because they haven’t learned to click, but is because the expectations that you, or I, or all of us are carrying around in our own heads about what blind people can do are simply way too low.”
For example, if we see a blind person, we assume they need our help, and likely act on it. As a result, many blind people learn to rely on others, versus themselves, to live.
How does this relate to business? Well, expectations for ourselves, and others, take part in our day-to-day work lives. I’m sure there are some employees that you expect great things of, and some that you expect only mediocre things from. And, if Kish’s story tells us anything, it’s that those expectations may be affecting those employees in subtle, nuanced ways.
With this in mind, it may be good to start expecting more from all employees — not just exemplary ones. Maybe the reason “mediocre” employees aren’t doing as well, is because they subconsciously know that you truly don’t believe in their abilities. Or, maybe you’re giving development opportunities to those you expect to excel, versus ones you expect may struggle.
Think of this in terms of yourself, as well. Do you expect great things from your personal success? If not, it may be time to do some self reflecting and evaluate whether or not your personal views or having an impact on what you truly are capable of.
Sometimes, it’s the little things — such has expectations — that have a big impact on our success.