The All-Powerful Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Fist breakthrough white wallRecently, I re-watched one of my favorite movies,  The Karate Kid II.   One thing that stood out to me as I watched the Yoda-like Mr. Miyagi was his absolute faith in his protégé Daniel LaRusso.  In the movie, both characters head over to Okinawa and in no time, Daniel-San finds himself in trouble with a local youth.  In one scene, he is egged on to karate-chop and break six sheets of ice with his bare hands.  With Miyagi putting his faith (and money) on Daniel-San, he is able to break the ice.  Miyagi’s confidence in his protégé’s ability is powerful.  Later, Daniel-San defeats the local bully in a bone-dance brawl – motivated by Miyagi’s warning: “Daniel-San, this not tournament, this for real.”

Can you think back on someone who had faith in your ability and pushed you out of your comfort level?  Did their faith in you cause you to succeed?  If so, then it’s something we refer to as the self-fulfilling prophecy.  If we expect great things of people, we’re more likely to get them. If we expect people to fail, we won’t be disappointed.

If you’re in a management role, how about doing an honest evaluation this week on how you view your direct reports.  Do you have a “go-to” person that gets most of your attention?  Do you have a “dirtbag” that you clearly don’t trust?  In both cases, I wonder if their success or failure is not a result of their abilities as much as it is your view of them?

How about your family members?  Again, going back to old movies, it’s pretty evident.  Remember that 1980s biography of Ritchie Valens, La Bamba?  Valens’ mother is constantly praising his abilities while referring to his brother Bob as “my flunkie.”  Bob constantly lives down to her low expectation while Ritchie becomes a success.

This week, let’s all take a look at the people that we have influence over.  What type of expectations do we have of them?  Are we breathing life into them or inadvertently breaking them down?

Finally, if you have or had someone that believed in you, have you taken the time to look them up and thank them?  I’m sure they would appreciate it.  Why not put that on your “to-do” list this week?  I know I will.