Post-Christmas Resolution, Day 166 – Preparing For Unexpected Failure

I’ll be presenting the opening remarks at the next District 7 Toastmasters Leadership Institute conference about the success of our Timber Talkers club. In preparation for that, I gave a practice speech tonight. My goal is to give something to everyone at the conference, even the most experienced presenters. 


When an unexpected event happens we generally put it into one of two camps – good or bad. Win the lottery, good. Lose a job, bad.

But the authors of this paper found that the emotional toll paid after unexpected disappointment was higher than the emotional toll paid after unexpected pleasant surprises. They used football betting as their basis, and compared days when the home team was expected to comfortably win in relationship to domestic violence assaults in the home town. Domestic assaults by men against women increased 10% if the home team lost on a Sunday afternoon, when expected to win.

Extrapolating from the survey we might be able to say that the emotional toll paid for a negative surprise is higher. One could surmise that when our expectations of safety are upset, we are hurt more than when we expect them to go bad.

Does that mean that expecting failure actually helps us? Perhaps. We often do it.

You volunteer at your local church as a painter. You know how to paint but you approach the crew foreman saying, “I’m not really a painter. I always leave drips.”

We’re protecting ourselves from the shock of the foreman not liking our work.

That may protect us emotionally, but at a steep cost. We make the world darker and more foreboding just to prevent a possible storm. We obscure the view of opportunity just so we aren’t shocked if we see something bad. We might start to believe we can’t paint.

I would propose that as an alternative to putting up negative buffers to unforeseen and possibly non-existent disappointments, we work hard to improve our skills on handling the unexpected disappointment.

How can you practice for an unexpected failure?

  • How about entering a contest that you know you can’t win, and speaking positively about our chances, rather than laying the groundwork for failure?
  • Or, running for an election that you expect to win but being gracious and humble in defeat.
  • Another? Not responding to a negative email in kind, and instead trying to help the person who scathed you.

There are many other examples, but handling unexpected disappointment can be practiced.

And perhaps should be.

About Eric Winger

Our perception of time is key to how we use our time. The most fundamental way to change that perception is to give our time. This opens us up to new opportunities and ideas from which we can build to really make a difference. ... Yes, we *do* have time to make a difference!
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