Broker Check

Times Have Changed, And So Have Our Expectations

May 08, 2023

I still wear a suit to the office. Not every day, but on the days I'm going to see a client. I've heard other Advisors say, "My clients don't expect me to wear a suit anymore." This statement is yet another example of how we get what we expect. Few things are as powerful as an expectation. 

Think about it. An expectation is to hold someone or something to a standard. 

Expectations heavily influenced my behavior as a youth and young adult. Those expectations helped push me, build my character, resolve, and now my expectations for myself. It still bothers me today when I think of the times I know I fell short, sometimes very short. 

We get what we expect from co-workers, friends, family, and life. We have continually lowered our expectations as a nation, a society, and species. If you are one of the rare ones to draw a line and say "no," you're suddenly the bad guy. Parents, teachers, employers, and politicians express the troubles we face by setting expectations. 

Today's youth, students, the workforce, current social norms, our political system, you name it, "it's not like it used to be." No kidding. How did it get that way? When I hear someone saying, "How did we get here," my toes curl in my shoes. Are you paying attention? None of this is a surprise, and we let it happen. Every one of us can do something. Draw a line. More than one would be even better. 

The willful lowering of our collective expectations of acceptable human behavior has put us in a predictable place. Some portions of our population don't show up for work, commit crimes in public office, sue others for their stupidity, don't know what fork to use, and can't have a conversation with you without looking at their phone at least twice. And our collective reaction was, "Well, that's just how it is these days."   

Once upon a time, it was an embarrassment not to work. Teachers weren't babysitters, teens could have a verbal conversation, and families looked at and even spoke to one another over dinner. In April, I spent two weeks in New Zealand. It wasn't a trip built around culinary exploration, but I did have the opportunity to dine in a few nice places. Tourism is New Zealand's number one source of revenue. It's a melting pot of travelers. Guess what I saw? People were looking at their phones while having dinner, and kids were watching movies at the table (and eating). "That's just how people are these days." Sorry, I've chosen not to participate. If you're with me, you're old fashioned, and antique.   

Some may say," Times have changed." I agree, but there is a difference between an intentional change in the name of real progress and an unintentional change resulting from laziness. One of the root causes for the erosion of societal expectations is an unending desire to make everything as easy as possible. And if you want to make just about anything in life more manageable, lower your expectations. Look around. If you're a merchant delivering excellent service, you're bucking the trend. It works. You risk getting laughed at if you write a letter in a long hand. 

Or expectations have become the moral equivalent of our currency. Both have been eroded slowly over time. Then one day, you need help relating to the world or, in the case of our currency, paying for groceries. But there is some good news. Where inflation is like gravity, you can't get away from it, and even if you don't understand, it will affect you. We can all change or hold up our expectations. 

We may be forced to participate in our country's inflationary environment, but we don't have to join the collective erosion of expectations. You can still expect to see me in a suit and feel free to label me old-fashioned, out of touch, or grumpy. I've drawn my lines. Where will you draw yours? 


Brian Pitell

BPG Planning