Zero Expectation refers to the latest lesson I have learned in my journey from professional soldier to fully fledged civilian. Let me explain what I mean! Recent weeks have given a very interesting opportunity to re-assess the direction my career has been heading in and I have learned some interesting truths which are worth sharing.
When you set out on a new venture of any kind, you will start with a clear aim in mind, regardless of how obscure or niche it is. In my case, I wished to help other veterans on their recovery journey and back into gainful employment by sharing my experiences. This required me to bare my soul to a wide audience and expose myself to criticism, revulsion and a bunch of other negative reactions. At the end of the day, what had happened to me wasn’t pretty but that’s exactly the reason why I had to assume the role. Everyone needs a champion, even those who had been gripped by an ugly hidden illness. I felt well placed to articulate the experiences of other service personnel with mental health issues brought on as a result of their military service. But I was doing this as a vocation, a calling and therefore had zero-expectation that others would help me achive my goal. They may find it admirable or noble but that doesn’t pay the bills.
I wanted to demonstrate that they could follow me and get back onto their feet and smash it in the civilian world, regardless of what was going on inside their heads. So I worked all day every day with no let up, learning, building, networking. I’d follow avenues and see where they led. It was at this point that I started to get expectations. Surely others would want to support my efforts?
If you think of the analogy of navigating by compass, if you are just half a degree out, by the time you have traveled a mile, you are way off course. That’s what can happen if you are anything but true to yourself and your original goal.
One of the greatest catalysts for this is money. As you’ll know, we all have bills to pay and as much as we’d love to focus solely on charitable endeavours, if you don’t have an income, you’ll start to act in a manner not in line with your original plan. This happens with many businesses when they first start out. The owner will start to focus on short term gains to keep afloat and therefore forget the long term plan. Before you know it, you are doing something completely different than what you set out to do.
There are many accounts of military commanders throughout history arriving on a foreign shore and ordering the burning of their ships to prevent retreat. Well that’s what I did. I went full on towards building a business with no back-up plan so there was victory or failure. I know many of us thrive on pressure but it’s kind of irresponsible to not ensure an income. The reason why I did that was due to an unfaltering belief that I would receive funds from somewhere before I ran out.
Guess what? I was wrong. I had chance to reflect upon this as I sat in my house with no electric and no internet. Yes it was an interesting few weeks but it taught me a lot. You see I’d put all my faith into this notion that someone would see what I was doing with my business and want a bit of it. Well no, people want something that’s viable and profitable. Besides, I’d drifted so far away from my original plan that it wouldn’t have been what I wanted anyway. My expectation had led me off my chosen path.
So I won’t lie, I lost my cool briefly but then realised the alternative was to give in and get a job working for someone else and I couldn’t face that. I didn’t want to join the traffic every day, I wanted to make a difference to the lives of my fellow veterans. So I regained my composure and figured out the quickest way to get back into re-alignment with my original plan.
You know what happened then? I miraculous chain of events which saw me being given a once in a life-time opportunity to do exactly what I’d set out to do in the first place. So, I was able to re-calibrate and seize the opportunity with both hands. Literally the moment I got back on my correct path I was rewarded. I also realised that no-one is going to give me something for nothing, everything I am and do will come from my own efforts. But you know what? Victory will be all the sweeter as a result. When I am sat back in a year or two from now and looking what I have achieved, I will know it was down to my desire and efforts.
So now I have zero-expectation and have a sense of calm I haven’t felt for a long time. I have no-one to appease, no one to re-assure and so am able to just keep working towards my goals. I also realised the whole boat burning idea was too risky so have got another part-time job to pay the bills as I move forward. The moment you stop panicking about money, you can focus all your energy on driving forward in the correct direction. This is not to say I am completely cut off from the advice of others, it’s just that I don’t have to lose the essence of my ambition in order to satisfy the requirements of others.
In summary, it was that sudden realisation, that it was me sat in the dark, no one else and so I must not expect others to turn my lights on, that’s down to me and me alone. When you are moving towards goals, stay focused on them. Just don’t quit and don’t give in to the fear which will see you chasing short-term gains rather than long term goals.
If you want to read more from me, check out my blog at www.nomad-at.com
Also another interesting article on having no expectation can be found here