OPINION | A. L. Austin: Have We Become A Society of Low Expectations?!

A fireman saves a young child from a burning building.  A policeman rescues a motorist from a burning car.  A good Samaritan stops to help…

A fireman saves a young child from a burning building.  A policeman rescues a motorist from a burning car.  A good Samaritan stops to help an injured motorist.  A tenant in an apartment building knocks on the doors of his neighbors to warn them that the building is on fire.  A policeman shoots and kills an armed person in the middle of a mass killing.  A pilot safely lands a plane after engine trouble.  I could go on, but these are a few examples of things that have earned people the title of Hero.  My question is, are they really heroes or are they benefiting from a society with “low expectations”.  Were they simply doing their job, acting like any self-respecting, decent human being would act, or did they truly go above and beyond to serve their fellow human beings?

When was the last time you walked into a restaurant or department store and the service you received blew you away and you were not surprised?  When was the last time a service provider made an appointment for 10:30am and showed up on time, rather than setting a three-hour window and missing that?  When was the last time you bought a new product and it outlasted the one you bought 20 years ago (planned obsolescence is one thing, crappy quality is something else)? When was the last time you called a provider and was placed on hold for 30 minutes by an automated voice system, because they were “busy helping other customers”, that I can only assume are more important than you are and still never got the help you needed?  My question is, where is the outrage, where are the people screaming from the rooftops- “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”.

We must ask ourselves, what are the consequences for a society with low expectations?  I believe they are an erosion of accountability, a lowering of standards and a rapid migration to mediocrity as the accepted level of performance.

In the Texas Church shooting, 26 people were gunned down by a shooter because the US Air Force failed to flag a conviction that would have prevented him from buying the rifle used in the shooting.  The gunman in the recent Florida high school shooting that left 17 students and teachers dead, was known to local police and the FBI as a person with mental challenges, yet nobody acted.  Why?  More importantly, who will be held accountable for that inaction. Or have we reached a point where “oops” has become the acceptable response to poor performance that is sometimes deadly?  What should be obvious here is that the absence of any consequence for poor performance, also jeopardizes the effect of incentives for High Achievement.

What are the long-term implications of giving our children a trophy just for showing up at the soccer game?  Low expectations not only erode accountability, lower standards and promote mediocrity, they also destroy optimism and paint a picture of an uninspired future for our youth. Thus, this will not allow them to maximize their talents and will not challenge them to make the world a better place for all mankind.

So, yes we have become a society of “low expectations”.  But I say we’re better than this.  We don’t have to accept the status quo.  We can demand more from ourselves and all those around us.  When things are bad, we must say so.  When people screw up we should hold them accountable.  We have to return to a time when Heroes are truly extraordinary people doing extraordinary things, and thereby raise the level of performance for everybody in the process.

By: A. L. Austin, Retired Business Executive



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