The Power of Shattered Expectations

by Jake Block

You can confirm people’s doubts about you by performing below an expected level, and you can pleasantly surprise people by performing above their expectations. We see this in our everyday lives with friends, co-workers, family and even those who lead our nation in peace and in war. These are metrics by which we as a society have chosen to stratify, handing out letter grades in schools, bonuses for employees who exceed their job goals, medals and promotions for those in the military ranks, and reelection for those in the political arena. We tell people that they have done well, or that they might need some form of remedial education to help them reach their highest potentials, thereby giving them the chance to succeed.

There are, however, times when our expectations for people are shattered when they go so far beyond what could reasonably be expected that we are confounded, confused and awed. A few exceptional people come to mind, like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates who, once successful and wealthy went on to astound us by becoming beyond exceptional as individuals, entrepreneurs and global citizens. Giants of science, from Albert Einstein to Stephen Hawking, Isaac Newton, Copernicus, Tesla, Pasteur and others changed our world and our visions of a future world to come. World shaking minds and visionary masters are foreshadowed by their accomplishments, and are the people who make others take notice and do things that make you say, “Hmmm?”

Ok. Let’s take it down a few notches from the stratosphere of human stratifications. Can the average person shatter the expectations that others have for them? Can they defy the limits of cultural or societal expectations enough to make those around them say, “Hmmm?” And, can their accomplishments actually change anything? There are TV shows that show us the unique skills of average people, and millions tune in to see just what they can do.

For example, Michael Lotito, is known as “Mr. Eat-All” and is famous for eating metal and other things you and I probably wouldn’t. He’s eaten tons of metal, seven TV sets, two beds, shopping carts, bicycles and a small Cesna airplane, which took him two years to complete. One commentator said of him, “I don’t know what’s worse, the thought of him chewing and swallowing the metal or what it might feel like coming out!” “Hmmm?”

Isao Machii holds several Guinness World Records as an Iaido Master, incredibly skilled with swords. This would be amazing in its own right, but he is also possessed of superhuman reflexes. Machii says this is accomplished by processing sensory inputs at a speed most can’t… and of course countless hours of practicing his skills. Knowing this, it is still amazing that he is able to use his sword to cut a BB gun pellet in half mid-flight. Accuracy and speed beyond that of the vast majority of humans. “Hmmm?”

I have often been told that my infrared photography is amazing, and I have always wished that I could also see in that spectrum of light. Tetrachromatic Artist Concetta Antico CAN. Tetrachromacy is “the condition of possessing four independent channels for conveying color information, or possessing four types of cone cells in the eye.” It is an extremely rare condition and and gives Concetta the ability to see 100 million colors in the full spectrum range of visible and invisible light, including ultra-violet. “Hmmm?”

These very rare people who, for some reason, nature has blessed with superior abilities and skills can shock and entertain with their gifts. You and I can be entertained by them and we can imagine what it would be like to make the world around us stop for just a heart beat, stare and give an appreciative expression of, “Hmmm?”

Now, after a lifetime on the planet I can get some idea of how that must feel, because recently there are times when I too, and Britt with me, have been amused by the collective sighs of those around us, the sometimes audible sounds of chatter, and clearly the “Hmmm?” sound. I’m serious… it’s enough to make you go, “Hmmm?”

Now, most of you have seen us through our picture on our Facebook pages. I’m an older guy, gray hair, gray beard and a bit worn around the edges. I do try to dress well and make a nice appearance, which isn’t that difficult, given that the sartorial expectation of today’s culture isn’t that high. Britt is a very attractive woman who dresses extremely well to compliment her beauty and stature, with beautiful eyes, a winning smile, and “legs for days,” which I as a leg-man, appreciate. OK… we also know that we aren’t your expected couple. I’m older than her, which is condemned by many, and she’s “out of my league,” aesthetically according to the standards of the day. OK. Not that either of us gives a rat’s ass what society thinks.

But, it’s an interesting phenomenon that when we dress up and go out we seem to cause a stir simply by just being there. For example, we have gone out to dinner, and people stop to look at us as we walk into the restaurant, with her holding my arm or hand, to whisper to each other, their faces giving them away in thinking, “HOW?” and “WHY?” would THAT lovely woman be with THAT older guy? We spend the evening enjoying each other’s company, but many in the restaurant seem to find us more interesting than the expensive steak on their plate. If we might share a drink and a kiss, we’re usually being stared at for moments after. (Hmmm?)

We went into a theater in the Memphis area and people unashamedly turned to look at her (I’m under no illusion they are casting those appreciative stares at me), and we became part of the entertainment for them. If you asked some of the single men in the place what the movie was about I would bet that few could tell you. And again, you could see the expressions of “HOW?” and “WHY?” on their faces. When they passed us going out, many made eye contact with us and smiled and nodded. (Hmmm?)

Any time we are going to and from somewhere from our hotel room, it is not uncommon for people to come up to us to ask a question or comment, perhaps on where she got her dress, how long we have been together, how happy we seem to be, and always the look in their eyes, asking, “What’s the story?” Britt is always gracious and engaging, and I try to be friendly and enjoy the humor in the situation. But clearly, simply by being there and vastly exceeding what they had expected us to be, we had made a change in their experience. On one occasion, a couple of attractive ladies even asked us to join them for drinks, but… well… we had better things to do! (Hmmm?)

Perhaps we were just enough of an attraction or distraction to break through the ennui most live with day to day, or perhaps we were providing a challenge to their long-held expectations of normalcy. But in doing so, in shattering the expectations they had for us and the environment to which they had chosen for the night, we had made a change… we hope for the better… in the way that they might perceive people presenting in an unfamiliar, unorthodox or unique way, be it a gay couple, mixed-race couple, or any other combination of those who come together to share their lives, including couples like us. For those who think that an older guy and a younger woman is strange, I’ll remind them of the old saying, “Just because there is snow on the roof doesn’t mean there isn’t fire in the hearth!”

I’m reminded of an old song sung by Frank Sinatra…

“Oh, the days dwindle down
To a precious few,
September, November…
And these few precious days
I’ll spend with you.
These precious days
I’ll spend with you.”
— September Song (Walter Huston)

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