Have you ever been to Pizza Express? Well, many moons ago, it was my job to roll the big balls of dough into pizza bases. I would stack them in their black pans as quickly as my little hands could manage, ready for the next guy to sauce them, top them, and throw them in the oven.
I had a manager. I liked my manager. One time my manager was away for a few days, and so a different manager – someone from one of the Pizza Express branches in Leeds – took over. I remember almost nothing about this man. Just one thing.
The curse of expectations
You see, part of the manager’s job was to keep tabs on how well the restaurant was doing – how much money it was bringing in – and we had a target each day. It wasn’t a purely arbitrary target – someone from head office had worked out how much, based on past performance, all being well, the restaurant “should” be making on a given night.
Most managers would keep that number in the back of their mind, and just get on with their job – there was a lot to do – and if, by the end of the night, we hadn’t hit the number… oh, well. It could usually be explained away by one thing or another, and unless the target was consistently not reached – which probably showed that the target was a little bit high – then it really wasn’t anything to worry about.
If we made £1800 one night, then we made £1800 – that’s what happened – it didn’t matter whether head office expected £10 or £10,000. We made £1800.
The replacement manager’s attitude, however, was different. In his eyes, that number was gospel.
If £2000 was our target, and we hit it, then we were now at zero – reaching the target wasn’t winning, it was the bare minimum, it was everyone simply “doing their jobs.” And if instead we made £1800, then to this manager we had actually “lost” money. We were “down.” Never mind that throughout the day customers had put £1800 into the tills – £1800 that wasn’t there this morning – what we’d actually done was “lost” £200.
He was obsessed with the target. He spent the whole shift anxious about reaching the target, but didn’t seem particularly happy if we did reach it, and became truly despondent if we didn’t.
I was glad to see the back of him.
There is no “supposed to”
Now, that manager wasn’t stupid. He was just playing a very dangerous – but unfortunately very popular – game.
He had made up his mind – as well all do – that things were supposed to go a particular way. And if they didn’t? Well then he had lost, he was down, something had been taken away.
The problem with this is that there is no “supposed to” in life. There is just whatever happens. If you get less than you were expecting, it’s not because life wronged you. Life didn’t make a mistake. You made a mistake – you expected wrong.
You are allowed to have hopes and dreams. And you are allowed to be disappointed when things don’t go your way. But you must realise that as far as life is concerned, there is no “your way.” There is just “the way.” Things happen the way things happen.
There is no such thing as loss
You can either go on expecting everything to work out just the way you want it to, and continue being disappointed when inevitably some part of it doesn’t, or you can start throwing your expectations out of the window and accepting what actually does happen as what was meant to happen.
Friedrich Nietschze called this Amor Fati.
“That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backwards, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it….but love it.”Friedrich Nietzsche
I’m trying to live a life where I don’t need things to be a certain way. I want them to, sure – I’m only human – but the more I try to actively embrace how they actually are, I’m getting happier and happier.
As far as I’m concerned, life itself is a bonus. It was extremely improbable, statistically, that you or I would have ever been born. And we’re going to throw our toys out of the pram when one thing we thought “should” be a certain way isn’t?