“Your are not a product of your environment, but of your expectations”
- Wes Moore, New York Time’s best-selling author, TV host, Rhodes Scholar, businessman, and US Army veteran
This quote resonates with me mostly because of my personal story. In one stretch of my childhood, I went to five different schools in five years. My mom was a single parent, doing the best should could, but was never quite able to offer me the stability a long-term full-time job. We went from house to house, borrowing money, asking for favors, on food stamps at times, and shopping at Goodwill. Yet, she taught me to think big—be creative and find my voice in the world. Thankfully, I did in Grow Regardless.
My high school, Patterson High (Baltimore), was rated the second worse in the state of Maryland (1995). We started with 965 freshman and graduated 235 seniors four years later. Despite all that, the school has produced some of the most successful people in Baltimore: Peter Angelos (owner of the Orioles), Dick Bielski (former NFL player), Perry Sfikas (Maryland State Senate), John Paterrakis (owner of H&S Bakery and responsible for much of the development in Harbor East in Baltimore), and Dave Pivec (owner of Pivec Advertising and former NFL tight end) just to name a few.
At five feet, 8 inches and 175 pounds, I was both the center and middle linebacker for Patterson’s football team. Our football team was VERY good. We were ranked number one in the state for most of my senior year—this was not the norm for a Baltimore city team. In addition to three other players, I was named first-team All-State as a linebacker (the same year Tommy Polley—NFL player from Dunbar won, too).
I got a 400 on my verbal on the SAT. My spelling words in my senior English class were: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. And yes, I was still able to write a book, have it published and have it become the number one book in the world in 2013.
entreQuest lost nearly $1MM in 2008. We hired too many people too quickly. We put all our eggs in the basket of a business model dependent upon the economy and we also had way too much revenue concentration in one big company. Yet five years later, we have right-sized our balance sheet, grown our revenue significantly, become very profitable, and have been names one of the best places to work in Baltimore three years in a row. I honor my past. I covet it, truly. It helps me understand that life is really about the struggle and the level of expectations you have for yourself and the level expectations others have for you. See, the other-side of my story goes like this:
• If I came home from school, with less than an A, my mother would make me write hundreds of sentences to help me understand her expectation of me.
• If I missed a workout or practice in sports, my Dad and I would play catch in the alley… a game called “catch it or eat it” (not as bad as it sounds).
• If I wasn’t planning ahead for college, my teachers would pull me aside and give me a talk or “the business.”
• If my team at entreQuest sees me slouching on our values, they call me out on it and let me have it.
My point is simple: none of us can get there alone. We all need help. And the first step in getting help is recognizing that things (and people) aren’t always what we EXPECT—we all have the duty and responsibility to EXPECT more from each other. There is a great video by Benjamin Zander, where he talks about giving people an A. I love the message, but love even more, the concept of holding people to it. So here are a few questions for you to think about in relation to your team:
• What is your team’s true potential?
• What stand are you willing to take for your team?
• How can you expect an A from your team more consistently?
Joe Mechlinski is CEO and Co-Founder of entreQuest, where he’s helped hundreds of companies prosper through some of the worst economic times in history. Joe’s debut book, Grow Regardless, an instant New York Times bestseller, defines strategic growth, change management, and organizational development.