Managing Expectations

I am by my own accord someone that likes to just ramble and hope there is a coherent line of thought that comes about. That somewhere in my spewing there is a valid lesson that helps one person even if that is myself . I hope I find solace in my own writing and in doing so hopefully this may help someone even if for a moment
I have been battling with expectations my whole life, and I wanted to address the issues that I face when it comes to expectations. These will be address broadly in the following categories:
  • Knowledge
  • Achievements
  • Time
It’s easy to think “I should know more”. As someone that generally prides themselves on understanding it is difficult to gauge the quantity of knowledge. What knowledge means to two people in the same field may differ, I may not understand the purpose to which that knowledge could be used or it is a mere reflection of my ability to regurgitate the information rather than apply it.
In any sense knowledge is amorphous, technical knowledge is not the same as having the ability to utilise perspective. It isn’t as tangible in an every day setting in comparison to a job requirement.
These don’t correlate direction with knowledge. Sometimes you can have a lot of knowledge with not much to show for it or at times maybe nothing. It doesn’t mean that you didnt utilise it, maybe it stands as a block of information that without interaction serves no purpose.
As a painter if I have learnt how to stroke a brush so that the pigment disperses naturally and that one stroke of a brush contains 10,000 hours of practice, what shows it’s worth?
Is it that fellow painters can understand the effort that went in, does that make my efforts validated?
Does the fact I pursued a purist act of an art form validate my times?
Does the fact that a lay person “just doesn’t get it” mean that my ego left open that what I have accomplished could be debated as an achievement?
These points indicate the source of an issue to me. In the programming space I have found a few major caveats to what is an achievement.
  1. Am I smarter than the other person because I used tool X rather than tool Y
  2. Does the company I work for or the title I hold mean that my success has been far greater
  3. Is my income representative of my achievement
You could argue the above is standardised among all jobs so lets get a bit more specific
  1. Does my envy of another persons accomplishment diminish my own?
  2. What is success? Is it the amount of money made? Is it the freedom attained from that money? Is it making something you are happy with? Is it creating this true expression snapshot as you as of right now?
  3. What is expectation?
At the core of achievements be it our own or others. It comes down to “I do not meet the expectation I had for myself”. This leads to second guessing, paralysis, a lot of work being done with no actual work being done. The proposed solution by others is always “Don’t beat yourself up“, “Don’t set your standards so high”.
I don’t think these answers are helpful even if their intent is. I believe the answer is to change what your definition of an achievement is. You will always believe that it could have been better on the other side.
-Make a game that sells, you wish you made something about you not this hollow game.
-Make something about you and maybe it doesn’t sell because people don’t like what you have to say.
There will always be an alternative. The solution is to do the following:
  • Take a breath, the person who cares the most is you
  • Any progress is still progress. Life gets busy, a lot happens, it’s easy to blame yourself but it doesn’t do you any good
  • Its okay to have high expectations, you won’t achieve them over night, you probably wont achieve them in a year, don’t measure your time as or what has been produced as a measure of success.
  • Take what others say with a grain of salt, that random person critiquing your game probably isn’t sitting there making their own games. Everything is easier in retrospect. Programming as a whole is difficult, making games is difficult, making a game even a few people like is challenge in itself. Do you like working on it? If the game fails financially did you still succeed on a day to day basis? Did you learn what you wanted?
If you have this drive you will find a way to succeed in anything you do. Because you fail financially doesnt mean you failed. The difference between the best selling game of all time and a hobby game 3 people played is the money but are those people happy. Your day to day is what matters, its hard to keep it in perspective, people say life is short and then they usually come back with well its the longest thing you will ever do.
This bring me to my last point, Time.
A small percentage of the entire population play games. Most people dont care. Most people dont care about most other forms of entertainment, art, music, film because there is a shit ton going on, all the time. Thats why you probably havent seen all the latest sundance film festival films, listenened to that new band from Croatia and read the source code to doom 3. We are busy.
Not just busy with work but with family, with health, living, life, jobs. Its easy to expect a lot from yourself when you dont take into account that you are feeling every second, you are requiring food, you are sad, you are cheerful, you are talking to your partner. Be grateful you also have something you are so passionate about but don’t beat yourself up if you are stuck. You aren’t in a race, you want that great thing to come now but it wont live up to your expectations because your goal post constantly shifts.