I tell children over and over again every week, “You can have the life you want if you are willing to look for it and work HARD for it.”
I can be a hard person to live with. My husband might tell you that. If I’m not in the room. Heh. He has often said to me when I have gone off on yet another rant, “Michelle, you expect WAY too much of people. No one can measure up to what you want. I would never want to work for you.” (And also: HELLO pot! The man is NO slacker.)
He is right and he is wrong. I expect so much of people. I do. I expect the moon from people. But not because I am unrealistic, because I know getting the moon is SO POSSIBLE. So many people vastly underestimate themselves and what they are capable of achieving. So many people come up with an excuse why it won’t work before they even try. How can you know it won’t work if you don’t even try? And then when it doesn’t work, did you try again? And again. And AGAIN? You didn’t really, TRULY think you get to get it right the first time, did you? I come from a family of hard workers. I watched both my parents work very hard, not just for their family, but for themselves. They showed me it is okay to want great things for yourself. But don’t expect any of it to be handed to you.
BUT!!! Want to know the funny thing? When you begin working that hard for yourself? Others WANT to help you. It just happens. Success is contagious. People like to help others succeed. Which is why that first step of just TRYING is so important. And to share the goal you want to attain. People support. They do. (See right there, you came up with something in your head like “Yeah, right Michelle with your rose-colored glasses. Maybe for you they help, but I get NO HELP. None.” didn’t you? That’s an excuse. Stop that.)
I have to give credit to my fourth grader teacher for my high standards. Mrs. Leibowitz. I was always a straight A student. But my first semester in fourth grade I got a B-. B MINUS!!! WHAT??? I had gotten As on tests, I had no idea what happened. I went home and complained to my mother. She just said, “Don’t talk to me, talk to your teacher.” (My mom was not one to fight our battles for us – she wanted us to figure it out ourselves.) I went to school the next day and asked why I got a B- when my tests were so good. She said, “Because I expect more of you.” I was confused. What more could I do? I thought about all the tests, then thought about the projects she always assigned. I had done the bare minimum on those. What was required. I did what she had asked. I supposed I could do a little better on those. So the next semester I tried harder on the projects she assigned. I got a B. I was FURIOUS. I had worked HARDER. The comment on my report card? “Effort is less than expected.” The third semester I worked even HARDER. I got a B+. I was INFURIATED. Comment on my report card: “Effort is less than expected.” I complained to my mother, “THIS IS NOT FAIR!!!! DO SOMETHING!” She said, “Who told you life was fair? I’d work harder if I were you.” ARGHHHHH!!!! The last semester we had a project to do a diorama of a sample of a society. I chose a Peruvian village. Screw the cardboard shoe box, I was going HUGE! I got a huge square of plywood, about 2 feet by two feet. I glued dirt down all over it (yes, i GLUED dirt) and made an entire village. I made actual thatched grass roofs, I made tiny people and tiny pottery. I had tiny cots, tiny fire pits. I was meticulous. It was good. No, it was AMAZING. I got it to school and set it in front of my teacher and said, “HERE! This is it! It is amazing, you cannot find anything wrong with this, I DARE YOU. I worked so hard on this and it is THE VERY BEST I CAN DO! There is nothing left I could do to make it better!” She quietly said, “This is what I expect of you and what you should always expect of yourself. The very best. Now go have a seat.” She didn’t give me giant accolades or tell the class how awesome my project was as I had hoped and expected. In that one sentence she had, very subtly, taught me that our accomplishments are not about recognition or reward, but about how you feel about it yourself and what you think that is most important.” I got an A that final semester. And a standard for myself (and others) that I don’t ever waiver on.
When I do something, I ask, “Can I do it better? Is that my very BEST?” I hate ‘good enough’. I know, sometimes life requires us to make the call, when to stop when to say, “I know it’s not perfect, but this has to be good enough. I have no more time.” Oh, I hate to leave something when I KNOW I can do it better. But that is life sometimes. But don’t ever let that become your norm, your standard. When you expect excellence, usually? You get it. From others and yourself. When you expect mediocrity? You get it. From others and yourself.
Yesterday I sent out my new guidelines to do a school visit with me to the sales consultants for my publisher. It scared many people off, I think. I told people I was cutting my visits by a day and a half and expecting sales of 1000 items in the week. And I wanted them to see that number and want to double it. Because I set HUGE, GIANT goals. Because even if you don’t get there, damn if you don’t get mighty close trying. And in the process of those huge, giant goals you find out you are capable of so much more than you thought you were.Yes, I am expecting a LOT of my sales force. Only because I believe in them so VERY MUCH. I have no doubt they will rise to the occasion and blow that 1000 items OUT OF THE PARK.
And if you think you have worked hard enough, if you think you are not capable of more? Ask yourself this before calling it a day, “What would Mrs. Liebowitz think?” That’s what I do. And damn if it doesn’t keep you busy. Because, dude, you KNOW there is always another thatched roof you can make.