Shunning hyped expectations without being jaded.

There’s a difference between disappointment and having low expectations, or none at all.

Having low expectations is being realistic or cynical / jaded, depending on how you see it.

Disappointment is something else – it’s when expectations don’t match up to reality.

In binary terms: If Expectations > reality, disappointment ensues. Else not.

That’s why it doesn’t follow that having low or zero expectations is tantamount to accepting universal disappointment in advance.

In some ways, this cartoon is right, and low expectations can be a shield against disappointment.

Mathematically you’d expect that zero expectations means you can hardly ever be disappointed, because if disappointment sets in only when expectations exceed reality, you wouldn’t expect zero to exceed many things.

Unless reality is so bad it’s negative, like an accident or getting fired – in which case zero exceeds a negative number.

You could even take it one step further and create negative expectations if that’s your thing – expect an injury or something to go wrong all the time, and be grateful just for it not happening.

“Nothing happens to the wise man against his expectation… nor do all things turn out for him as he wished but as he reckoned—and above all, he reckoned that something could block his plans.”


That’s similar to what Seneca had in mind. When his ship set out, apparently he imagined all the calamities and accidents that could befall his fortune – so if it ever did, he wasn’t disappointed, because he’d “expected” it.

“With regard to whatever objects give you delight, are useful, or are deeply loved, remember to tell yourself of what general nature they are, beginning from the most insignificant things. If, for example, you are fond of a specific ceramic cup, remind yourself that it is only ceramic cups in general of which you are fond. Then, if it breaks, you will not be disturbed. If you kiss your child, or your wife, say that you only kiss things which are human, and thus you will not be disturbed if either of them dies.”


This is even more extreme.

But I’m pretty sure Epictetus wasn’t a prophet of gloom going around fantasizing about his kid dying.

In his defense, Epictetus probably means not that you should “expect” your loved one to die, but rather you should be aware that it’s a realistic scenario, and if it happens, not to let it overwhelm you.

Being Jaded

While having low or even terrible expectations might keep you from being overwhelmed, there’s a thin line between being expectation-free and being jaded.

It’s easy to cross that line, but it’s probably not a great thing.

It’s the guy who always shuts down any new initiative or who puts others down thinking it lifts him higher.

“That won’t work because…”

“That’s a stupid idea…”

It’s a very safe thing to do, because you never do anything yourself, so you don’t expose yourself to criticism, but you hide in the shadows and snipe at those who do.

Theodore Roosevelt put it brilliantly.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt

More pointedly:

“The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life’s realities—all these are marks, not … of superiority but of weakness.”

Theodore Roosevelt

I’ve been guilty of this often enough.

Many times, I didn’t do something because I was afraid of messing up, but I hid behind sneers and false superiority, telling myself I was above it.

It’s all too common especially when you put anything you’ve created or perform in the public domain – even with something as small as this essay.

It starts off while you’re working – anything in progress usually appears very lame, and you wonder why you’re doing it and who would care. Sometimes it looks so lame you just give up.

Then when you’re done and you’ve put it out, it usually looks like crap when you’re seeing it yourself, and you might wonder why you thought it was a good idea to do it.

And you’ll always find one of Roosevelt’s kind of critics (who incidentally won’t ever create something of their own) to tell you how lame your work is.

You’ll rarely find someone with negative expectations creating anything or undertaking any risky endeavor, because he’s already told himself it’s going to fail – so why bother?


The reason our hypothetical jaded 10 year old bothers me so much is not just that he’d be annoying, but that he’d have cut off his prospects for growth so early. To be jaded you have to think you know how the world works, and any theory a 10 year old had about that would probably be a pretty narrow one.

Paul Graham – Lies we tell kids

The other problem is that a zero-expectation mindset kills growth.

“I know this idea sucks because XYZ”

“This book isn’t worth reading.”

How could someone who accepts his ignorance, and more importantly, who wants to learn, be jaded?

He’s always looking for things he doesn’t know. Someone like that would want to be surprised or even proven wrong.

Being jaded means you’ve shut yourself to growth.

You don’t want to listen or learn because you’ve told already yourself that you know it’s not going to work.

That sentence has two implications.

One – you already know the outcome. There’s nothing more to learn.

Taken alone, that could lead you to the other extreme – supreme delusion that you know you’re going to succeed.

But being jaded also means that:

Two – It’s not going to work. Expect nothing.

You probably wouldn’t make the effort to consider a different viewpoint because you’re so sure of yourself, and because you’re so unwilling to consider the possibility of success.

So here you have one idea – the idea of low expectations, and two nearly diametrically opposite conclusions.

One – the Stoic conception of not letting circumstances rattle you.

And the other – the trap of cynicism that pulls you down mentally and emotionally.

It’s not really a conflict of “good” and “bad” – I think both have their plus points. After all, cynicism is a form of skepticism taken to an extreme, and skepticism is often a good thing.

Like with many ideas, here too I think it’s possible to believe equally in two diametrically opposite and extreme ideas, and more importantly, it’s possible to hold them both in your head at the same time.


This essay was supposed to be about something else.

When I began, I was thinking about the word over-hyped.

It’s the adjective I’ve believed to be most apt for most things – and especially big things, what The Little Prince would call matters of consequence.

Once, I thought my school boards were matters of the utmost consequence, things that determine your future.

And the same for subsequent tests to get admission to college.

And the same for many supposedly urgent and important decisions, choices and pursuits.

“Once you just do this, then you’re done.”

“You have to do this”.

“As soon as you get through, your life will be awesome.”

But it never really works that way.

Nothing lives up to the hype; nothing.

The expectation is simply too high, too unrealistic; reality can never match up to it or even come close.

Ironically, when I understood that most things, and especially those over-hyped, don’t matter nearly as much as you might think, I did much better at them.

Rather than feeling deflated after climbing a peak, I chose to deflate the bubble before it, and climb it without inflated expectations.

It wasn’t such a big deal, therefore there’s no sense in getting worked up about it – if it happens, it happens.

“I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.”

Groucho Marx

It might just be hindsight bias that makes you think it wasn’t really the matter of life and death it’s made out to be.

You often don’t value what you have.

It’s easy to be dismissive after you make it – if you talk to those who’re now in the same position you were then, they’d probably find it arrogant or hypocritical.

Yet, if you look around at people who didn’t make it – many of them are likely doing as well or even better.

Failure clearly wasn’t fatal, and success was neither final nor that life-changing as you might have thought.

Life goes on regardless.

There are many explanations why scaling any peak doesn’t determine your happiness.

It might be that your expectations adjust to the new reality; what you now have you take for granted and you set your sights on new, higher peaks.

Or the nicer, more profound sounding explanation that it was about the journey, not the destination.

Little Things

What I found then, was that the so-called big things, the matters of consequence, were never what they were made out to be.

Fancy jobs or colleges, holidays, big events – in short, anything around which a bubble was built up, which you eagerly awaited and counted the days to – the reality of the moment could never live up to what you imagined.

Maybe it’s the baggage of high expectations that kills it – you set the bar so high that it’s almost impossible to reach.

It’s hard not to be jaded here, and that’s why I find it impossible to share the excitement others have for holidays and birthdays and big events and ceremonies and stuff.

Invariably, you get the accusation of being jaded for lacking “excitement”.

It’s not to say they were worthless – I think some of these can shape you, and you might realize it later when you look back, if not in the moment.

But none of them are the life-changing experiences they’re made out to be; and those who don’t partake do not miss out on anything they could not otherwise get.

Instead, the smallest things, the ones people ignore, the ones taken for granted, the things that are too common, too routine, and too simple to have a bubble of hype built up around, are the ones that seem to matter.

A workout where you’re totally focused, a project built that finally executes, an interesting assignment or conversation with someone you like – they seem to mean more than any big thing.

Ironically, here the roles are reversed.

I can’t understand how people give up on the little things they like and don’t fight to make time for them, and instead look toward the big things to deliver happiness in the distant future.

To live, not looking forward to what you’ll do tomorrow, but to some long-off holiday appears strange, for it seems to mean dragging yourself for days for one brief moment of respite, and repeating the loop again.

Like living through the weekdays for the weekend.

It’s not my intention to preach that one is better than the other however; I probably don’t get the other view, just as others might not get this view.

But I think it’s sad to live without having anything at all to look forward to, whether big or small, and to be jaded about everything.

Just as you set yourself up for disappointment if you expect too much from everything, without being jaded about anything.



This post felt like coming straight from your heart instead of your mind.

Few questions if you can answer-

  1. Most of the thoughts I have, are not needed at that time, but these thoughts come and go with I having no control over them, how do you deal with it? [I would want my focus on the task at hand not getting distracted by random nonsense. ]
  2. Any habits that proved particularly beneficial to maintain high energy level, I have left junk foods a long time ago, have proper sleep routine and do exercise, So I have good energy level but I want more from the body, any suggestions?
  3. What do you do when you are fatigued during the day, At that time it is more likely to make irrational decisions like watching movies or playing games, that you wouldn’t normally do if you were not fatigued. So any suggestions for that?

1. Happens especially when I have too much time or I’m tired. When I’m engrossed in something then it doesn’t. When it happens I usually take a break, and come back later.
2. Something you look forward to everyday. For me it’s exercise. Food. Avoiding negative people or just tuning them out if not possible and minimizing the time spent with them, as well as keeping a circle of stimulating friends.
The realization that time is finite and not in my hands, but energy is, so that should never be an excuse.
Doing hard things – that are physically or mentally challenging, for which you need to be at a high level of performance.
Thinking about why you’re doing what you’re doing, and understanding you can always stop and quit. You’ve chosen it, it’s not imposed on you.

3. Accept it
Browse the net, message someone, similar ‘irrational’ things.
I don’t want to be an efficiency maximizing robot and don’t believe in or care for complete rationality.

singh amit

stop watching porn if you watch it (also stop any activities related to it😉)
your focus will be laser sharp after a month, very clear and rational thought process (you will start to things as they are, distractions become very minimal)
your plans for the day will be almost 90-100 % completed (high energy levels)

don’t do anything sexual apart from real sex.

1 mahine me kripya aani shuru ho jaayegi !


One of the best thing I learnt from Meditations is this quote :
” When we have meat before us and other food, we must say to ourselves: ‘This is the dead body of a fish, and this is the dead body of a bird or of a pig, and again, this Falernian [wine] is only a little grape juice, and this purple robe some sheep’s wool died with the blood of a shellfish’…This is how we should act throughout life: where there are things that seem worthy of great estimation, we ought to lay them bare and look at their worthlessness and strip them of all the words by which they are exalted. For the outward show [of things] is a wonderful perverter of reason, and when we are certain the things we are dealing with are worth the trouble, that is when it cheats us most”.

What you say about bursting the bubble like for example in sports- before entering (virtually or actually) the square field of tennis or circle/oval of cricket is bursting the hype : is shortest and apt explanation of objectivity.

What I got from your explanation of Nishkama Karma & other readings is same as : maintaining objectivity right at the onset & throughout the process and also tranquility at the end.

1. Did you meant the same for Nishkama Karma as you say it is bursting the bubble of hype.?

2. What are your views on visualisation of end result ? (So called Law of attraction). I think it has become a multi-billion coaching profession. And with ‘Sports’ leading the way for its spread. Although my reading about it says, what is taught by this law of attraction coaches doesn’t match with 10% of of what it actually used in sports. Although few people claim it to be a sure shot way to success. Even few civil servants who cleared exam and attribute there success to this Idea. What do you say?


1.Bursting the bubble helps because you’re no longer obsessing about the end outcome.

2.It’s motivational as compounding
And when you visualize a bad outcome like a rejection and realize it makes no difference really.
It helps in execution too, if you visualize doing the process rather than the result.


Thank you. It brings more clarity.

Shivam Yadav

Also, the creepy Punjabi music industry thrives on this principle. A 15 year would be listening to Sidhu moosevala all night and visualising himself as a Mafia of his school/society to find himself in the bubble of disappointment next day. Because, reality is oblivion to his expected visualisation.
Also, I guess some topper might claim law of attraction (visualisation) as a catalyst but however in long term, the visualisation would not,in entirety, tantamount to their visualisation but none the less can act as a motivator.


By the way, that’s one of the quotes I liked best in Meditations too.

singh amit

Teachers and parents should tell children at 13-16 (or maybe earlier) that they should not aim for happiness. instead, aim for challenges and struggles, enjoy the little moments. happiness is a byproduct of struggle and comes simultaneously with the struggle not much after it (just a little burst of happiness for few days after success)

I remember I was way happier solving physics and mathematics problems I liked in 12th standard than in IIT just after the 1st semester.

the expectations could not live up to reality.

that experience is greatly helping in UPSC preparation, because of fewer expectations and knowing that there is no finish line.

the moment you become comfortable and stagnate, the anxiety kicks back in. no matter how much “success” you have achieved.

just curious, when did you find this out, at an early age or in IIT?

singh amit
  • reality could not live up to expectations.
Koushik Das

Very nice read pratyush bhai ..deeply rewarding….especially the concept of bursting the bubble. Also if u could pls write an essay on where eastern and western philosophical basis converge


1.Sir do we need any backup for UPSC ?
Sir I wasn’t good at academics actually…so I thought if I will take some backup I would be confident enough to sit for UPSC.
Otherwise I will feel like I have a burden on myself.

2.Sir how to choose optional subject for UPSC cuz my graduation subject is also is in the list of UPSC optional that is agriculture.
But I don’t know whether it’s scoring or not…
The analysis I have done I found sociology is easiest and scoring one in very less time…
Sir advice what to take in optional subject?
Presently I am in 2nd year of my BSC (agriculture Hon.)

3. If you advice me to take my graduation subject so Sir I am not confident…like I personally don’t like it…
I am confused what should I do because that’s also a good option for me but if I will take that I need to work very hard and put extra effort for college as well as UPSC.

4. Sir UPSC se aapko darr nahi laga kyuki itne saare log padhte hain….aur bahot experienced rehte hain…aapko vichaar nahi aaya ki Mera hoga ya nahi…uss cheez ko kese remove kia Sir aapne?

5. Sir How to improve writing and spoken English?


I knew you have read ‘the little prince’ when you had written on your homepage that you write on everything except matters of consequences and people. Every time I read the book, I find something new in it. There’s an equally good movie too based on it.
When you said about enjoying little things, I don’t know why it reminded me of Rosé’s “On the ground” song and especially the lyrics of ‘Paradise’ song of BTS.
Is what you are trying to say is – Don’t make your happiness dependent on any one “big” goal. Instead focus on small things which you enjoy and makes you happy ?
I too find that I get better if I don’t care for the so called big things. I get better if I think “ok I need to give my best in it, that’s it and move on with life. ” instead of thinking my life is hanging on that big matter of consequences.
I feel the ones who expect the worst beforehand are so afraid of being hurt by sadness /failure/uncertainty that they just ‘know’ something bad will happen. Then they convert the uncertainty of future into certainty of failure by actually giving up to do any effort. (better explained by the book six pillars of self esteem by Nathaniel Branden.)

Prakhar Nema

Always wondered why you said “Dead lifting 3 times your body weight” was the biggest achievement till date. Makes sense now! Keep writing and bringing in these perspectives. Thank you.

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