1. Question the criticisms and even suggestions of people with low expectations, even well-intentioned ones
The reason is that having low expectations is actually unrealistic. People are capable of far more than most people think. To lower expectations is to lower efforts as well, and thus the low expectations become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
When the lower expectations (but not, as a result, the higher ones) are met, the person with the low expectations then says “see, isn’t it such a good thing we lowered expectations?” But the answer is: not at all. The only reason you met only the reduced expectations is because you didn’t strive for the high expectations.
Good leaders are like the good teachers that hopefully all of us have had the experience of having — they refuse to let you settle. They have soft hearts, but are tough-minded in their expectations. They refuse to let you settle.
2. Test the self-limiting assumptions others accept at face value
“When people tell you you can’t do something, it’s important to keep a basic question in mind: What’s the worst thing that could happen? If you’re risking a small or transient failure for a potentially life-altering permanent benefit, it’s almost always in your best interest to experiment.”
This doesn’t mean you will always succeed. But it does mean that smart experiments are part of the necessary path to success.
Don’t close off a door because someone says “that can’t be done.” Test things out and give it a try. In doing so, feel free to start small, so if you fail, “it’s a fast and affordable failure.” But don’t let the small expectations of someone keep you from trying.