All right, y’all, welcome to The Work Of Becoming podcast! Today’s episode is gonna be all about expectations versus preparation, and I’m gonna kind of riff off of a quotation that was frequently drilled into me by a mentor that I had in college, and this particular mentor, he was my speech coach. His name is Chris Crock. He is a huge influence on my life. And what Chris would always say to our speech and debate team is he would say, “You will not rise to the level of your expectations; you will fall to the level of your preparation.”
Now, Chris Crock is a really, really big sports fan, and he reads a lot of Sports Psychology, so it is very possible that quotation is not actually from him, it’s from Bill Belichick or some other football guy that I don’t know about, but, for me, it comes from him so that’s why I’m citing him in this particular instance.
When I was a freshman in college, I entered the speech and debate team. I actually got a scholarship to do speech and debate in college, and this is like D1 level competitive speaking, okay? So, we were in practice multiple days a week. We were rehearsing our speeches, and people were on scholarship. Despite getting a scholarship, of the 22 freshmen that were on the team, I was the second to worst. There was, like, one person that was worse than me, and this is not a judgment on myself. It’s literally when you look at the results at the tournaments, every single other person on the team had made it to a final round in March of my freshman year, and I had not.
I was so focused on my mindset. I would drink a Red Bull before every tournament, and we would do vocal warmups almost like you see theatre kids do, and I would get super jazzed in warmups, and I would read all this Sports Psychology and hype myself up over and over and over and be like, “Karin! You can do it! You’re gonna win this tournament! You’re gonna be an overnight success!” I would do all of this mindset work, and I would set my expectations really high, and I would go to the tournament, and the final posters would drop, and, yet again, I would not final, and I would be devastated. I felt self-conscious. I felt like I was the worst on the team. I felt like I wasn’t deserving of a scholarship. I was just a mess.
And then this girl named Kelsey came back from studying abroad in the spring semester, and she kind of decided to take a special interest in me. And so, she pulled me aside, and she was like, “Karin, why are you so bad at speech? What’s going on, here?” and here’s why I was bad. Here’s why I wasn’t improving: because I wasn’t practicing. I was not actually preparing for the tournaments. I was not actually doing anything differently week to week. I was only focused on my mindset around the tournament itself.
And so, exactly like Chris Crock said, I was not rising to the level of expectation. I was falling to the level of my own preparation. I tell you this story because when I did get very diligent about day-to-day preparation, Kelsey really forced me to start practicing on a regular basis. I was meeting more with my coaches. I was really focusing on specific techniques. When I did those things, that is when I started improving, and by my junior year, I became a national finalist. So, I was beating hundreds of other students from colleges and universities all across the country in speech and debate. I won the Interstate Oratorical Association which is the nation’s oldest national public speaking competition, and the only difference between my freshman year self (who was the worst one on the team) and my senior year self (who was in multiple national finals) was practice.
I tell you this story because I think a lot of us focus on our mindset. We focus on our limiting beliefs. We focus on what our thoughts are. And all of that, I agree, is an important thing to focus on. It absolutely paid off in the end. I needed that stuff in order to be in those finals, but in the beginning, I just needed to practice. I just needed to do something differently each week than I did the week before.
And so, my question for you, the thing I want you to think about, is have you practiced recently? Have you given yourself a chance to fail? Have you drilled down whatever you’re trying to do into a set of specific skills and figure out how you can rehearse those skills? Have you gotten feedback on your change journey from someone you trust? If you were gonna learn a language, you would practice. If you were gonna play the piano, you would practice. If you were gonna become a gymnast, you would practice. So, do not expect yourself to be able to change to run that half marathon or become tidy or pick up a monthly cleaning habit or summit a mountain, do not expect yourself to be able to mindset yourself into that goal. You cannot mindset yourself into anything. The only thing that changes what happens is not the level of our expectation, it is the level of our preparation.