Extract from The EXP Factor (the Power of Expectations)

by Steve Vanstraaten




We are all expecting something all of the time. We fervently pursue our ambitions, hopes, dreams and desires, and we do this with a belief that we will actually achieve what we are chasing after. It is something filled with high expectations, something that we pack so much of our souls into that it ultimately defines who we are, what we do, and where we are headed.

These expectations energise us, fill us with anticipation that becomes the driving force behind what inspires us and motivates us to push through our present and towards our future. That is, until our expectations take a decent knock and suddenly our idealistic world gets pushed over the edge into a life that becomes a little tainted, more pessimistic, and perhaps more fatalistic.

Here is a life lesson that many will feel draws a most unlikely parallel from the brutality of boxing. Ironically, it has its place because of the many parallels to the brutality of life. This is why a quote by former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson resonates with me. It helps expand on the origins of what has become the expectation philosophy and model.


Very few people give much heed to the balance of this quote, or know of it. I feel that it has relevance within the expectation philosophy, so I have included it here.


So – what is the relevance of this quote to the EXP Factor story? In our ideal world, our plans and expectations for life are that everything should go smoothly for us and work out just the way we want it to. It should be everything according to our plans and desires, and definitely nothing that will upset the ideal world the way we envisage it, plan it, want it, or expect it to be.

If we are honest with ourselves, we really just want the boat of life to be on an even keel – as long as that even keel is producing what we want. It must simply play out the way we have seen it in our mind and expect it to be.

For so many reasons our universe does not subscribe to this model, nor is it capable of delivering on such a fairy tale. There is just too much going on across so many dimensions for this to be the reality we seek. Therefore, each day is filled with a combination of expectations that deliver, and those that don’t.

For the most part, we manage to cope with this roller-coaster ride of varied expectations and outcomes, and we somehow maintain some semblance of positivity. Then there are the times when something happens that dramatically upsets the positive balance and life screws it all up by delivering “a punch to the mouth.”

When this happens, our emotions immediately come into play. Reactions, actions and attitude change. The way in which we view our world alters accordingly, even if it is only for a short period. In these moments, we become someone, or something else, and the way we viewed everything until that point takes on a new hue and everything changes.


For me, the heavyweight fight of my life and the shocking “blow to the mouth” occurred when a series of disastrous events challenged much of what I held as my set of beliefs in people and business. Let me phrase it another way; it challenged my positive, optimistic, trusting, hope-filled plans and expectations. It turned the world of ideal expectations on its head.


The unfolding events tested the picture I held in my mind of my hopes, my aspirations, my trust in others, and ultimately challenged the way in which I looked at situations.

All these factors came together to deal a blow to my existing and future expectations.

Then, like a rat I stopped in fear and froze because everything that I once subscribed to, what I had confidently used as my frame of reference, my anchor point, was now ripped apart.

I no longer had a clear confident frame of reference, no valid blueprint or roadmap to operate from. I felt as stranded as a person in the middle of a desert with no compass, no map, and no clear-cut sureness for the direction to move in.

At first, all I could see was the red mist that had set in like a toxic fog within my soul. I was consumed with venting, angry, disillusioned and fired up all at the same time. I went through so many emotional states that I think there are some yet to be listed in the psychology journals.

My perception of how I once saw things now became tainted. I became aware that decisions I needed to make now became a tossing back and forth, a vacillating between what my new emotions and perspective were driving.

What I once used as my framework for success became something I regularly questioned and doubted. I was hesitant and double, and even triple questioned everything.

The spontaneous confidence I once had was now crippled. It deeply troubled me when I realised my expectations of others were more critical, more untrusting, more cynical.


What was it that had such an impact on me? What could so abruptly shift me from who I was, to what I now found myself having to face up to? The answer is found within the storyline of a thriving business I was once part of building. An enterprise that rapidly fell apart in the heat of a hostile takeover.

The relationships between everyone involved changed within the blink of an eye, and the very fabric that once united an inspired, vibrant, creative, entrepreneurial group of people in the business quickly changed character like Dr. Jekyll transforming into Mr. Hyde.

The meltdown of both the individual and collective team expectations was dramatic. As the business dissolved before me so too did everything I had believed this business would deliver. All the invested money, time, effort, energy, emotional equity – gone!

You are probably thinking that the greatest damage came from the hostile takeover itself and the loss of the business. That my animosity would be primarily aimed at the external parties involved.

But this is not the case. For me the greater damage came from within the team of people that were once strongly united by massive expectations, aligned vision and purpose, huge personal sacrifices, friendship and a solid belief in each other to accomplish what we envisioned.


As events played out, I became increasingly aware of how interwoven expectations had been in so many things leading up to this point. I began seeing how many expectations were in play at that moment – especially the outcomes of previously established expectations.

Here is something pivotal to grasp – one of the most impactful and destructive expectations we have is trust. It is a belief that those we are trusting, will not fail us, or harm us. There is no other expectation that can have such a galvanising, but also destructive quality about it.

In the course of business, there are many expectations established and put into play that are inseparably interwoven in trust. This is natural in the ramping up phase of business.

In the intensity of the ensuing business meltdown, many trust-based expectations became a matter of “selective amnesia”, denial, or they were just flippantly brushed aside. Trust has many common human dimensions that can be allies or enemies, depending on the triggers.

The number one dimension is our emotions (including frame of mind.) Our perceptions and attitude are equally powerful dimensions in the mix. With this volatile mix of dimensions, it is not surprising that relationships rapidly deteriorated.

For me, these trust-based failures, which are an inseparable part of the expectation realm, were the trigger that set me off. There were certain events (which I prefer not to elaborate on) that I could only interpret much of what was going on as a betrayal of trust.

The events upset me at a level I had rarely experienced before in my life. It continued to scratch my soul long after we had soldiered through the soul-destroying motions of the takeover of the business that left us standing empty-handed and soulless, long after we all parted ways.

But somehow this whole trust / expectations matter seemed all too familiar and not merely isolated to what I had just been through and witnessed. I had seen this side of expectations in many scenarios before – I had just not been that aware of it, or of the connection.

I had seen it many times before where people create expectations in others, but fail to follow through on it. Or where expectations are used to manipulate or coerce or trick others into giving something up to another person or group.


There was however a broader reaching impact and environment in play. When I reflected back on what had happened, I realised how my own expectations had made me vulnerable to the effects of the failed business, how it affected my family’s individual expectations, but also the expectations they had of me not to fail them.

I realised that there was so much more to this than what I had realised. It was way beyond how others use expectations for their purposes, but also how we can fall foul of our own flawed or self-inflicted expectations we create.

As I reflected more on the whole expectation “thing”, so much came flooding into my head and I felt compelled to write about it; to tell people about it – especially how to avoid being manipulated or trapped through the use of expectations.

It seemed that writing about it was the only way I could console the turmoil in my soul, and a way of trying to make sense and come to peace with what the heck had happened.

For me this entire process was interlaced with waves of dealing with the typical psychological demons associated with stressful or traumatic events. States of shock and pessimism.

Dealing with denial, anger, bargaining with myself, varying levels of depression, then eventually the acceptance of my situation – but only for a while. Then the cycle would repeat itself.

I realised I was going through the stages that people who experience traumatic loss go through. I found this a very strange place to be in because I have always been an extreme optimist and positive person.

But there was one thing that was clear to me – I knew that I had to somehow get myself out of this dangerous spiral.


It took a lot of soul searching and perseverance, but as I began to get my head back in the game of life and move on with new ventures, I realised that my writing until this point was nothing more than an acidic outpouring.

It was driven by emotions that were fuelled by failed and violated expectations. This was not going to produce anything positive or meaningful to anyone, and so I stopped writing.

I resigned myself to accept that the road until this point simply served the purpose of being a personal cathartic process. Something that allowed me to vent my disillusionment, frustration and anger in a non-destructive way – and what I was writing was not for other people’s consumption – it was way too dark.

Despite the fact that the tough and disappointing times in our lives are unpleasant, unwanted and painful, they have the potential to birth new strengths, resilience and innovation within us.

When you push aside the negative and painful aspects of any experience, and challenge yourself, push yourself to rise up beyond the events and look at them as moments of growth and opportunity to become better – then you are in a position to explore, learn, find answers, grow and share something that has the potential to make a positive meaningful impact around you.


Even though I stopped writing, the fascination that centred around personal and collective expectations just would not go away. In so many different settings and situations I began seeing patterns and examples emerging in everything I was engaging with.

As a business leader and practicing management consultant, I could see new patterns emerging where organisations and teams constantly struggled to find solutions from the wrong perspectives. I could see how expectations were at play in individual, group and corporate structures. I could see how the EXP (as I called it), seemed to be at the epicentre of it all.

The interplay of expectational scenarios I observed increasingly fascinated me. I knew that what I needed to do was unpack this into something that made sense. Something that could benefit me, but also benefit my organisation and a wider audience.

The journey has brought me to this point where the EXP Factor is something I want to share with you. It has been more than ten years of observing, studying and applying the principles associated with expectations that have revealed something very powerful.

Something that when you are aware of it, know about it, and understand its span of influence and impact, has the power to influence the direction of your life, your professional or business domain and even within an organisation as a whole.

It is something that will change how you look at the things around you, how you engage with your world, and it will profoundly change the way you approach life, relationships, work or business. It will change the results you expect to achieve, and will shape how you go about getting there.

What you will find here are the lessons learned from failures and successes, along with the ardent search for answers along the way. Not only mine, but of those I have studied, interviewed and worked with as part of my research (Individuals, relationships, teams, groups, business, organisations and even communities).

It has been a journey that has revealed many things with countless hours of searching, theories, interviews, solution model building and breaking down to reach something that can be of value to you, something that can change things in your world.

At the time of writing this book, I have been through many other challenging moments in my life and businesses. This is just the nature of life; it is filled with hills and valleys, challenges and success.

I have had to dig deep and fight through the fatigue brought on by expectations that did not deliver according to plan, and by the exhaustion of having to recover from disruptive events and endeavours. But I have not been alone in this journey, or the only one to deal with the effects.

This has also affected those close to me who have had to endure the storms along with me, and where they have had to deal with their own expectations taking a beating.

So what I have developed and written about is not merely a theoretical discourse. I have lived it. I have applied the philosophy, developed and used the methodologies and tools, and used them to move through the fatigue, the emotions, the perceptions and reactions of each event.

I sincerely want to share these with you so that you too can move from where you are, to where you want to be. And if you believe that your future can be better than the present – I want to help you embrace it, and equip you with the power to make it so.

Coming Soon

To help you manage expectations, the EXP Factor book by Steve Vanstraaten will challenge many of the preconceived perceptions in your personal life, and the collective spaces you operate within such as the workplace, business, education, and community.

What you are navigating through on this site is only the tip of an iceberg. In the EXP Factor book you will learn about expectations and how they impact on your life. The key impact dimensions in every human interaction (the Continuum) will give you a whole new viewpoint on life and business.

You will be able to look at any scenario and diagnose the issues at hand. The models that are shared will equip you to establish new ventures, whether personally, in your business or in the workplace, and set them up with a better chance of success right out of the starting blocks.

The book is in its final stages and is almost ready for launch.

Pre- order and receive an early subscriber discount on the book. Plus, you will automatically stand a chance of being one of ten people to receive a free module of EXP Factor course from Berkley Institute.


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