When Did Having High Expectations Become A Scarlet Letter?

I‘m so excited.  This is my first post with BizCatalyst 360º.  A big Thank You to Susan Wideman, also a Featured Contributor to this site, for encouraging me to call Dennis Pitocco (the Publisher & Editor-in-Chief) to discuss writing and contributing.  Thank You to Dennis, as well, for allowing me to contribute.

She didn’t waiver in her enforcement of her rules.  I think I may have even had my hands slapped by a ruler once or twice.

I still recall my third grade teacher with both fondness and fear.  A women of stern discipline and high expectation, she expected us to sit up straight, turn in homework on time, and be respectful of others.  As a third-grader in 1971, these expectations may have been the norm, I don’t recall. But I do know all my classmates from this period still remember her the same way I do.  She didn’t waiver in her enforcement of her rules.  I think I may have even had my hands slapped by a ruler once or twice.  As I think back upon this teacher, the most amazing aspect (that I didn’t realize at the time) was that I even had an African-American teacher in 1971.  I can’t even imagine the discrimination she had to overcome, and the odds she surmounted, to become a teacher in this era.  I know I haven’t exhibited all the attributes she demanded, but this makes her influence no less important.  Rather, the fact that I still remember her, what she had to overcome, and what she taught, speaks volume about her influence.

Two other influential teachers were in middle school; one an English teacher and the other a History teacher.  My English teacher taught me the importance of the written word; the sublime beauty in a clear, well-constructed sentence, with proper grammar, and unique word usage.  I still try to practice this today, even as a lawyer who is too often besieged by legalese.  Of course, my writing skills in middle school were amateurish compared to today, and my grades reflected that.  Ugh!  However, my constant zeal of intentionally writing with clarity of thought, precision of word choice, and even a sense of beauty, has hopefully resulted in improved writing over the years (Maybe this post even reflects those skills J).  For me, creating a well-crafted paper is a challenge to my thinking, grammar, vocabulary, and editing skills.  A challenge I look forward to.

My History teacher, like my third-grade teacher, was a stern disciplinarian (Did I attract these types of teachers, or did I cause this characteristic in teachers?).  He demanded nothing but the best.  Papers and tests were filled with red edit marks, areas for improvement, and modest grades.  Yet even today, I love reading about history, the people involved in historical events, and how it has impacted us over time.

The common thread of these teachers is apparent.  They all demanded the best of me and were unforgiving in their feedback.  They did not sugarcoat how I performed or how I could improve.  They did not lower the bar when I did not live up to expectations. They did not live down to my standards or abilities.  It was their standard I had to live up to.

But the key factor that really made each teacher stand out was that each was also willing to help you when you faltered.  When you needed extra help, they were there.  When, as a third-grader, you had an argument with a classmate, they helped mediate the problem.  When you struggled with a paper or analysis, they gave you thoughts and tips on how to work through the block.  The high expectations were not simply stated and you were then left to your own devices to achieve them.  Rather, my teachers backed them up and helped you achieve the expectations they set.

Psychologist and people smarter than I have written volumes about the virtues and unfairness of having high expectations of others.  I don’t opine (at least not in this post) on that or how another might react to high expectations.

As I conclude this post, I realize there is much more to be written on this topic.  In future posts, I’ll discuss the impact of setting high expectations for myself; setting high expectations of others (especially my kids), and how to manage these expectations.

Stay tuned.

Andrew J. Goldberg
Andrew J. Goldberg
Andrew Goldberg is the President of the Law Office of Andrew J. Goldberg. His clients come to him because they want Confidence and Clarity in the decisions they make and the direction they are heading. He loves working with entrepreneurs and using his 35 years of business experience to help them navigate the opportunities and risks of their entrepreneurial journey. He guides clients in thinking and viewing situations from new and different perspectives, and vigorously challenges them on their finances, marketing, production and manufacturing, HR, and more. And he does it with Passion, Energy, Knowledge, Experience and a large dose of Humor. Also a CPA, he is frequently involved in matters where legal, accounting and business issues intersect. He regularly counsels clients on business formations and corporate transactions, business succession planning, the accumulation and preservation of wealth for business owners, taxation, and general contract matters.


  1. Congratulations on your first article with BizCatalyst360 and Welcome!

    I was born and raised in Jamaica which was a British colony and even after Independence continued to use the British system. My three daughters were born in Jamaica but lived most of their lives in the U.S.

    I can relate to teachers like yours who took personal interest in their students, who had high expectations of their students, and nurtured my growth by encouraging me to be the best I could be.

    Even though classroom sizes are so large, especially at the high school level, here in the US, I’m grateful for the teachers who showed an interest in my daughters.

    • Yvonne, Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m glad your daughters have had the opportunity to learn from teachers who showed a special interest in them. Nothing can be more influential or encouraging, especially for a female, than having a teacher believe in them and encourage to reach new heights. All the best.

  2. I really like this post.. It is so important to have high expectations personally and in business to do less is is self defeating. eWe cannot allow ourselves or those we are mentoring or teaching or coaching or consulting with to expect reaching a level of mediocrity .







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