Too Much Expectation

It is Monday and after a weekend of work, I wanted to stay in bed late, and relax and write my way through the morning, but instead, I am awake at the crack of dawn. I have a meeting in London and this morning is all about finishing, grabbing the support of strong coffee, before racing off to catch the train.

Today, I have my first meeting with a publisher, Chris. Over the years I have written to many, many agents but with no luck. It’s no comfort to read that JK Rowling and others had over a dozen rejections before ultimate success. I am only concerned with my track record.

I took an alternative route and built my own publishing company but publishing is not an industry I know well, and so to get straight to a possible publisher is great news. Maybe this will be the breakthrough moment when everything changes. Now, if he was to take on the catalogue and then commission the Catchpole follow-up and children’s poems, all will be sorted.

Do you see what I have done?

I have built up expectation and anticipation but with no basis or foundation. Thankfully my feet are more firmly on the ground and although I am meeting Chris, who really is a publisher, I am getting ahead of everything to think about a deal. We have had one brief telephone chat which was enough for us to agree to meet to ‘talk publishing’.

Setting the wrong expectation leads to frustration and is very painful. Life needs colour and variety but self-induced ups and downs really don’t help.

Although its hard to remember back to my just post-teenage years I do recollect the totally disabling impact of uncontrolled ambition. I remember I set my ambitions of sporting and business success far higher than my abilities. Unrealistic ambition became all-consuming and I managed it badly and it was as destructive as jealousy. That was undoubtedly where I was. Ambition wasn’t driving me forward but holding me back.

The turning point was a game of rugby played against Durham City. I was playing against an ex-England international who was possibly twenty years older than me. In rugby terms, he was an OAP. That day he took me apart. It wasn’t just skill. I could always acquire that but it was simply a matter of anatomy. I was the wrong shape. My legs were too short and body too long to play hooker.

That was an important day as I learnt that ambition always has to be tempered. I became more relaxed as the ambition to become an international rugby player was replaced by something far more reasonable and accessible. Later, in business, I became an advocate of the Big Hairy Audacious Goal (Pronounced Bee-HAG). The goal has to be bold, brave but also achievable.

Another but shorter way of saying the same was the 1973 and therefore almost contemporary quote from Clint Eastwood in Magnum Force: A man’s got to know his limitations.

Over the years not much has changed. I still have to fight against setting my expectations too far ahead of myself. Of course, I would like more money and despite all my recent travails with agents, I expect and know that one day I will turn my words into a steady if not spectacular income. It is a certainty only possible with ambition and the work that encourages.

But ambition, expectation and hopes are not confined to business and making money. When it comes to the softer hopes in life for the happiness and success of family, and love, it turns out to be far more fraught. Just as parents have hopes for the future of their children so I am learning children have expectations of their parents.

Sasha and I are still learning about our shared expectations, and of course fears but that is one of the greatest excitements in a developing relationship.

Everyone has to find their own way through this minefield and I know it is not easy. Without ambition or an expectation that there is a different and better solution, nothing ever gets done. We need to have the dreams as an inspiration to work and achieve, but unattainable goals lead to frustration and alienation.

Later today I will be writing, as usual, to Sasha and no doubt again I will paint the picture of a perfect life together. Maybe I need to set her and my expectations more reasonably and balance every romantic beach scene with another day when we are both tired and tetchy.

But that is not human nature.

This morning though it is the business ambitions that are being addressed and I need to get myself off and away on the way to London. I must keep reminding myself it is just a chat but, Chris if you would like to take on my books, with a marketing budget and advance, I wouldn’t say no. My expectations are set high.

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