How to Exceed Expectations

Are you setting yourself up for failure before even trying for success?

Think about it. How many times have you said, “Okay. I’ll try… but I don’t think it’s going to work.” You give it a skeptical shot. When your attempt doesn’t produce miraculous results, you throw up your hands and say, “See? I told you it wouldn’t work!”

Even worse? Think of all the times you haven’t even given something a chance. You assumed negative results and turned your back.

Why We Don’t Take Chances

Putting 100% faith in something we don’t believe in is hard – believe me, I know. Most people aren’t willing to risk failure, embarrassment or loss on the chance that success, pride and gain might occur.

Funny, that. We want the good stuff, but we aren’t willing to take risks to achieve goals. We avoid potential success because potential failure is worse.

So we protect ourselves with skepticism. We take no action because action is risky. We don’t put ourselves forward because where we are is okay. We don’t take chances because we can’t control the outcome. We won’t have faith because misplaced trust can be painful.

We don’t want to get hurt.

Why This Matters to Your Business

If you don’t take chances, you’re stunting your own growth. You won’t learn a new skill. You won’t get that website up and running. You won’t go out and tell people how great you are.

You won’t earn more clients or more money. You’ll never expand your services or shake off that “little ol’ me” mindset. You’ll have trouble branding yourself and marketing your business.

Without risk, without taking a step into the unknown, you can never achieve better than what you have right now.

I have a thought for you. Do you believe that you will meet (or exceed) client expectations? Most likely. You tell clients to have 100% faith in you. You know your job. You won’t let them down.

You ask them to believe in you – and you don’t even believe in yourself.

What If?

What if you took a deep breath and said, “Okay, I’ll try.” What if you really – and I mean really – threw yourself out there, wholeheartedly embracing possibility with open arms?

I bet some of you are snorting mentally already. I bet some of you are saying, “Yeah, right, James. Do that, and when it fails I’ll fall twice as hard. Nuh-uh.” Fear of getting hurt is a powerful motivator to do nothing. Stagnation is comfortable, like a warm puddle of mud that you sit in forever.

Maybe the mud is better. Maybe you will fail. Maybe you’ll get really hurt. Maybe you’ll be extremely disappointed. You might even end up worse off than you are now. Do you think that’s forever? Do you think you can’t learn something new from that?

And what if? What if you aren’t worse off? What if you actually accomplish something great? What if your situation improves?

What if you exceed your own expectations?

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. Brett Legree says:

    Kick ass post, James. Right after my own heart. Fall down seven times, get up eight times.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..field of dreams – the dream meme.

  2. Excellent article as always. If I could show this piece to every blogger I’ve met in the last few years who’ve given it a shot for a few weeks or a month, thrown their hands up and said, “I’ll never build a readership!” and quit, I would. But I don’t keep the email addresses of the quitters 😉

  3. Playing it safe many times is actually the riskier route to go. But I’ll be honest, sometimes what holds me back is the actions I do that not only affect me, but my family.

    Failing and falling hard is a definitely learning process and is but one road down the path to exceeding your expectations, I don’t want it to affect my kids.

    In that instance, I do sometimes caution on the riskier safe side.

    You hit on one big thing though which I believe is a post all in itself – you have to believe in yourself.

    John Hoff – eVentureBiz’s last blog post..Blind Marketing Is Risky

  4. I’ve fallen into the playing it safe mindset way too much, especially in regards to my writing.

    Having just gotten back from a writer’s conference with requests for manuscripts now comes that horrified hesitation regarding actually SENDING things in.

    Thank you for that extra push today. I really needed this!

  5. Have you been reading my mail, James? 🙂

    I agree whole-heartedly. No one knows how many days are in a lifetime. It is much better to experience life, including landing face down in the mud sometimes, than to look back on a life filled with regrets. You can never experience the greater joys in life without taking a few risks to get there.

  6. Hey, How did you get a picture of Selene standing by the water?

    ok, that one made me squirm a little. The dreaded putting things off until I know they will be perfect rather then just jumping in with two feet…

    Usually I jump.

    Last night I watched America’s Got Talent. ( actually after watching I was rather afraid we might not) There was a woman who was 80 years old who wanted to be famous and get discovered so she was dressed up like Shirley Temple and she tapped danced. It was sad. Cute..but at the same time sad. Why had she waited? Why hadn’t she jumped a million times before eighty and made her dreams come true.. They told her she was too old. She had waited too long and now it was too late.

    Wendi Kelly’s last blog post..In the Dirt

  7. @ Wendi – But you know what? She did it. At 80 years old, she dressed up and did it. She probably knew just how silly and sad it was, but by god, I cheer for her. Seriously.

    As for the leap and don’t look, I admit to being severely guilty of that – and yet… there are many things that I don’t do because of fear. Yes, even me.

  8. Mark R. Reif at Reif Group Mediations says:


    Right on! A good motivator for us all. It reminds me of the adage, “If you do the same thing over again, you will always get the same results.” If any of us want to get better results, more results, more business, or anything different, then we HAVE to take the risk and try something different.


  9. I don’t know why failing got such a bad reputation, it’s just part of the learning process. Some of the biggest successes have been people who have failed repeatedly but kept getting up, dusting themselves off, and moving forward. Posts like these help to diminish the stigma of failure.

    Marelisa’s last blog post..50 Ways to Celebrate Life Every Day

  10. @ Mark – The definition of insanity – repeating the same behavior and expecting different results. 😉

    @ Marelisa – Failing didn’t get a bad reputation. Fear of failing did. But we can’t say we’re afraid, because we’re embarrassed to admit it, so we project the negativity onto failing.

    At least, that’s my take this morning with too much coffee lol

  11. James,

    How about not “Okay, I’ll try.”

    How about, Okay, I will. Of course, you can’t say Okay, I will succeed, but you can say Okay, I will do.

    There is no try. There is only do or not do. Both are choices, and the results are only known in the latter.

    If you don’t do, you will fail. Everything else is a variable. Life, love, business… gotta take chances.

    Great post. Funny, I had an exceeding expectations quote all ready to go today and then changed it. Reading Jamie’s mail and my mind. 🙂



    Kelly’s last blog post..Inspiration Points: Blind Faith?

  12. As they say, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

    Bamboo Forest’s last blog post..Top 7 Things I’ve Learned about Blogging

  13. Like Brett says, fail early, fail often.

    I know I’m a bit of a skeptic, but I don’t think that holds me back. Fear and intimidation hold me back… skepticism, not so much. When I’m being skeptical, it’s usually more in the sense of I don’t think what you’re telling me is going to work, but explain it to me more so I can either understand how it actually would work, or figure out a way to make it work.

    I do agree with the rest of your post. I definitely think in order to accomplish anything, we have to put ourselves out there and be willing to fall hard on our butts. Or bellyflop. I’ve done it, I’ve gotten up with a beautiful bruise, and you know what? I’m fine. I’m still chugging along.

    Allison’s last blog post..Pepper Tuna Roll

  14. @Kelly – “Do or do not – there is no try”. Everything I need to know in life I learned from Star Wars 😀

    r.l.david02 – TKD Happiness’s last blog post..The dream meme

  15. What if everyone in the world stopped asking, “What if?” … it doesn’t bear thinking about, does it? Unless we actually *want* to slip passively back into the Dark Ages.

  16. RLD,

    I got it from The Karate Kid. It’s one of my favorite maxims. They stole it from Yoda, apparently. I’ve seen the Karate Kid once and remembered that phrase for 20+ years, saw Star Wars a bazillion times (Dad was addicted, dragged us to the theatre repeatedly) and didn’t remember it from there at all.

    Nothing new under the sun!

    Until later,


    Kelly’s last blog post..Inspiration Points: Blind Faith?

  17. Try is doubt expressing itself. Try never accomplishes anything. It is an excuse to not do.

    I am reading a Debbie Ford book called “The Secret of the Shadow, The Power of Owning Your Whole Story.” She talks about how so many of us use our stories of abuse, abandonment, victimization as ways to self-sabotage and how they keep us from living life fully because we don’t look for the blessings that come from our story. Our story provides us with the tools to become fully who we are. You have to stop being a victim and use your talents, blessings to be who you are.

    Patricia – Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker’s last blog post..Blame And Resentment Are Toxic Emotions

  18. @ Patricia – I agree with that wholeheartedly. I sympathize, I empathize and I care about people who had bad things happen, but please. Wielding the past like a shield to avoid looking at the future is as problematic as the events that caused that behavior. For those people, change IS necessary and stagnation only allows them to relive the negative.

    But I’ll grant it’s damned tough to get over destructive events.

    James Chartrand – Men with Pens’s last blog post..How to Exceed Expectations

  19. DARN you James. DARN you DARN you.

    You made me jump. Now look what you did.

    Wendi Kelly’s last blog post..In the Dirt

  20. James,

    Two words: tiktaalik rosae

    Now where would we all be if this little guy stayed all comfy cozy in it’s puddle? And it could have been eaten alive for taking that chance.

    Maybe there was a little Fish with Pen pushing him out of his comfort zone.They did find the fossil in Canada. 🙂

    So maybe I can paint that next piece more like Twombley than Porter in spite of what people expect.

    Janice C Cartier’s last blog post..Chocolate Silk, $25 , and Ghiradelli Chocolate Chip Cookies

  21. Michael Martine | Remarkablogger says:

    It seems to me that we perceive our own expectations of ourselves as a wall, behind which we have the illusion of safety because we never leave our comfort zone. It’s a great place to rot.

    Michael Martine | Remarkablogger’s last blog post..Beginner SEO for Anyone

  22. F*ck, I needed this today.


    Dave Navarro’s last blog post..The Better Sleep Challenge: 30 Minutes To Change Your Life

  23. I have a difficult time with posts like these. On one side they inspire me and I really enjoy reading them but on the other side I don’t like to be reminded that I do procrastinate more than I should. However I’m telling my self that it is a process going from total procrastination (kind of) to becoming free. And I feel that I’m moving in the right direction 🙂

    Mikael Rieck’s last blog post..Mit FireFox 3 Diplom

  24. @ Mikael – That’s an interesting perspective, and I appreciate your honesty. I think it does take something that feels uncomfortable to provoke change or at the very least, get us uncomfortable enough to acknowledge something is wrong.

    If we don’t notice it, then we definitely won’t do anything about it, right? If we feel guilty or frustrated or mad or irritated or annoyed… then something has struck a deep truth we’ve probably buried. It’s no fun to dig that up and admit what we know is true and work hard to hide.

    So… I’m both sorry for making you feel bad and in a sense, not. Because I think you’re moving in the right direction, and that’s very cool.

  25. James,
    Thanks for stopping by and for the lovely compliment on my story. Wow. Really. Thank you.

    Janice C Cartier’s last blog post..Chocolate Silk, $25 , and Ghirardelli Chocolate Chip Cookies

  26. @ James – No need to feel bad. I like being pushed/driven/dragged in the right direction. And thanks for the encouragement 🙂

    Mikael Rieck’s last blog post..Mit FireFox 3 Diplom

  27. Susan Cartier Liebel says:

    James, very inspiring post. But I expect nothing less from you. 🙂

  28. Have you been reading my mind, too?! I notice that several people have suggested that. I’m fricken stuttering in my brain over here, trying to tell you how coincidental your post is. Or not. Talk about all of us being one big collective mind.

    Thanks for this, especially: “Most people aren’t willing to risk failure, embarrassment or loss on the chance that success, pride and gain might occur.

    Funny, that. We want the good stuff, but we aren’t willing to take risks to achieve goals. We avoid potential success because potential failure is worse.

    So we protect ourselves with skepticism. We take no action because action is risky. We don’t put ourselves forward because where we are is okay. We don’t take chances because we can’t control the outcome. We won’t have faith because misplaced trust can be painful.

    We don’t want to get hurt.”

    It’s a slap I wasn’t willing to accept earlier today, I think, but I might be ready to turn the other cheek. Have at ‘er.

    steph’s last blog post..The Real Reason

  29. I can’t help thinking that since so many people feel that you have read their mind, that maybe this fear isn’t something that happens to people once in a while but rather something that happens on (maybe even) a daily basis? I know that it can be for me personally.

    Mikael Rieck’s last blog post..Mit FireFox 3 Diplom

  30. Michael Martine | Remarkablogger says:

    @Mikael – Every day, dude. Every damn day.

    Michael Martine | Remarkablogger’s last blog post..Beginner SEO for Anyone

  31. I am going to cross my wimpy “I think I can” tasks off my list of todos and focus on the “I can totally hit these out of the ballpark” todos. I have LOTS of things I would like to do, a bunch of things I have to do and I am not going to spend any more of my time on want to dos that are wimpy!

    Tara Jacobsen’s last blog post..Time Management – As In Where Does It Go?

  32. Kelly, I’m with RLD on this one – I definitely remember the words of Yoda on the “try” issue. From Mr. Miyagi I got: “Walk on road. Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later squash like grape.” (or thereabouts)

    It’s the same principle, though. Do something; fine, you’ve made a choice and acted. Do nothing; still fine, if it’s a choice you can live with. Trying without real, qualifiable action is actually doing nothing when you’ve chosen to do something. Sooner or later life will squish you like a grape. Without definable action steps, it’s easy later to say, “Well, I tried,” without looking too closely to see that you actually didn’t.

    I’m with Allison. It’s the fear factor, not skepticism for me, but I’m tired of being fear’s bitch. Time to take a deep breath and say, not “Okay, I’ll try,” but “Okay, I’ll do.”

    Thanks for the post, James. I needed that particular bruise on my backside…makes it harder to sit.

    April, Chief Cook & Bottle Washer’s last blog post..Flood Trumps Drought — Why Not?

  33. Michael Martine | Remarkablogger says:

    One thing that bugs me to no end is when people say “I tried,” when what they’re really saying is they only put in a little effort and then gave up.

    When I was in the Marines (yes, I really was, but was injured in basic and let go) I was told to find something in the barracks by one of the drill instructors. I looked for what seemed to me like a reasonable amount of time and reported back to him that I couldn’t find it.

    He looked at me and said, real slowly, “Then I guess you ain’t done lookin’ yet, are you?”

    I got the message, and that message has stayed with me ever since.

    Michael Martine | Remarkablogger’s last blog post..Beginner SEO for Anyone

  34. @ Michael Martine: I know what you mean, though I’m guilty of that as well. For me, it’s usually when it’s something that I didn’t want to do in the first place. The question is whether I really want it. If so, I’ll put in quite a bit of effort, if not, I’ll put in the amount of effort that seems worthwhile to me. 🙂

    Joshua Clanton’s last blog post..7 Pieces of Software I Can’t Live Without

  35. Brett Legree says:


    Dammit, that’s good my friend. That could be used for anything, as a totally kick ass mantra.

    Say it in your head, next time you can’t think of an idea for a blog post. Or for people looking for their life’s work or whatever.

    “I guess you ain’t done lookin’ yet, are you?”

    Kick. Ass.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..field of dreams – the dream meme.

  36. Michael,

    I read the “ain’t done lookin'” earlier and all I heard was what I’m always saying to my kid.

    “Mama, I can’t find my socks [book, homework, GameBoy…].”
    “Then you haven’t looked hard enough.”

    Brett popped in, and I see it in a new light. I get it, and I love it. That really is a fine mantra for life.



    Kelly’s last blog post..Free Slippery Advice, Today Only

  37. Michael Martine | Remarkablogger says:

    @Kelly – when my step kids were little I said it to them all the time. 🙂

    Michael Martine | Remarkablogger’s last blog post..Beginner SEO for Anyone

  38. Thank you so much for this post. I really needed this today. This puppy is getting bookmarked.

  39. Nice article. To be successful, the answer lies in your mindset. Your mindset is the one thing that can help you accomplish anything you want, even the most ridiculous things. Your mindset is where all everything you wished for starts. If you start things off with the wrong mindset, then you will not get it no matter how badly you want it.


  1. 6 Weeks says:

    […] the comments in a kick ass blog post by James at Men With Pens, on How to Exceed Expectations, Michael Martine, the Remarkablogger, said: One thing that bugs me to no end is when people say […]

  2. […] Martine (my favorite blog consulting master) knocks it out of the park in a Men With Pens […]

  3. […] knack for writing just what I always seem to need to hear at just the right time. His post on How to Exceed Expectations was the exact post that convinced me to quit thinking about moving and actually DO it. Then today, […]

  4. […] No one’s going to whack you on the head for using your brain. […]

Leave a Comment