The expectations of consistency

We’ve all eaten lumpy custard or bitten into a piece of meat to taste a mouthful of gristle. It’s the kind of moment that makes you shudder and screw up your face.

It’s a bad surprise, it’s unwelcome and it’s inconsistent with the expectations of the experience.

Interestingly enough, when you eat olives or a chicken leg there’s a great big seed/bone in the middle of it yet we don’t get surprised by this. Why?

It’s based on the expectation that’s setup with the experience before-hand that renders our version of what’s consistent and what’s inconsistent.

If you’re promised the world and delivered a rock, you feel that your outcome was inconsistent with the promise turning you towards anger and resentment. You can’t do this too many times before people just ignore your promises and you’re soon painted as a con man or just full of it. It’s why VCs often look at business plans then halve all the figures in it – they need to ensure the outcome is aligned with the expectation. They also have consumer laws setup to protect people from people that practice business this way.

If you were promised a rock and delivered the world, you would also find this inconsistent but you would turn to elation and satisfaction. One can’t do this either too many times before they get taken advantage of and actually create a world of imbalanced expectation. Car dealers are notorious for this, believing that it’s a positive marketing message when in fact it’s why no-one believes them when they start pitching the car at MSRP – we know we’d never pay it and so after a while it becomes annoying.

What’s worst is that it’s amazing how entitled people become when one day you can only deliver what you promised and now you’re appearing inconsistent to them.

Lastly, if you were promised a rock and delivered a rock, you would find this consistent and your experience would be relatively indifferent. It’s much like the coffee shop or the gas station or the trusty work mate. You know you can rely on them – whether it’s a good or bad result – and when you’re living in the world of inconsistent promises and outcomes, you can expect that you can find your harmony and peace with them.

Managing consistency whether you’re a racing driver, a musician, a salesperson, a friend or even just maintaing your diet is a constant effort – and it’s often the difference between a winner and a legend. It requires discipline and focus to always ensure that you don’t use too much or too little and create results that regularly differ. It’s easy to be zealous one day then dis-interested the next.

But in its own weird way even inconsistency can be a form of consistency – it just needs to be applied to the right set of expectations.

The key is setting and maintaining expectations that are aligned with the outcome you know you can deliver. If I know your custard has lumps in it before I eat it, I can at least choose to pass.

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