At one of my very first “career” jobs after college I had the good fortune to join a large, reputable organization and work in their head office. It felt like quite a prestigious opportunity. My boss was the head of finance but my position worked more closely with the IT department, so I physically sat by, and with, the IT team. Finance wasn’t far away, but it was down the hall and in a section much more conducive to team bonding and collaboration. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed my job and it was a great challenge for me. [Fast forward 20 years and it was a hell of a position that, through time, led me to my extremely diverse years of experience …. that I wouldn’t change for the world.]

Not sure if it was my first day or 40th, but the IT manager, with whom I worked with the most and from whom I learned how to do my job, told me that I had to work 50 hours a week just for my 40 hour a week paycheck.  While I thought it was maybe a little odd at the time, I accepted the challenge. [I think I get that work ethic from my dad.]  Now, I’m not saying that was the right message or lesson, and nor am I actually saying it’s the wrong one, but for sure it made an impression for this 20-something freshly minted college graduate — and it has stayed with me over all of these years.  

As I was going about my steep learning curve I had one amazing mentor – my predecessor, Jackie (Jack I call her). I had the pleasure of learning from her, not only my job, but so many life lessons. I’ve credited her once already in my blog posts as the person that got me interested in running. She is also the person that inspired me to pick up a tennis racket for the first time in my mid-20s and enjoy trying new things. She also taught me how to drink red wine, and … that you can be sophisticated and worldly even if you live in Edmonton, Alberta.When-mediocrity-is-intolerable-Kent-Healy

So as we were going about our transition there was one time where congratulations were in order for something I/we accomplished. I brushed it off and pretty much discredited the achievement pointing to the long list of other accomplishments that were not yet complete. Some time period later (days, months … I can’t recall), when a similar situation came up and I once again discounted the accomplishment, Jack advised me of something very interesting about my behaviour and the level of expectations I set for myself. She told me that I wasn’t able to enjoy the accomplishments that I have achieved because somewhere along the way, once I realized that I was going to achieve them, I set the bar higher and established a new level of expectations. And when I was close to reaching that new goal, then I didn’t celebrate but instead yet again, added more onto the expectation spectrum. Jack told me that I still needed to celebrate those wins, regardless of the next expectation level set, otherwise I would never get to truly enjoy the fruits of my labour. 

While Jack’s lesson {and well described reasoning} has always stayed with me over the years, dare I admit that I’ve not always been able to live by it. Oh it’s not because of lack of effort or unwillingness to want to enjoy that feeling of accomplishment, I think it is because I’m sort of hard wired that way and the change is just really, really hard (to the point sometimes of impossible). 

Over the years I have confused this pattern of consistently raising the bar for “being stubborn”. I’m sure I am stubborn – no doubt – but sometimes it’s just not about that … sometimes it is truly my inability to accept a level that is deemed below what I wanted to accomplish. Even though at one point, that previous level was the bar. 

This “feature” [as my old friend Jeanmaire liked to call it] has crossed into my personal life over the years in addition to my work life. Yeah, you can imagine how well that has gone sometimes … Not. But alas, sometimes we are helpless to the way in which we operate and one day you look back and realize what has happened – and you are in serious shock because you know better.  Isn’t hindsight always 20/20. 

I am not actually sure that my “feature” is a bad thing if I’m perfectly honest. I don’t see anything wrong in setting higher expectations once you know you’re going to reach a goal. Humans do it all the time in a variety of formats, so I’m really no different. The only difference is that sometimes my inability to enjoy my accomplishments does rob me of a layer of happiness and contentment that I bet would feel really amazing.


I believe that every person on the planet can change, if they want to. The degree to which they can depends on a million circumstances of course, but time and time again people have proven that the past does not always equal the future. And for that I am grateful. We get to see the evolution of personalities, the softness of concern, the increase in enthusiasm and the happiness brought about when there is a fundamental shift that takes place within a person. I know that a true feature of mine is to take a step back from a scenario, see it with a different set of eyes and be able to act/react in way that benefits everyone but costs me barely anything. 

Except, perhaps, my own expectations. 

I am actually OK, to a large degree, that I have high expectations of myself. [Now remember, its not like I’m the President of the free world or this blog is winning me a Noble Peace Prize – keep in mind my expectations are not that high.] So, I ask … is it really so bad that I set the bar above my head and continually push it higher as as result of my accomplishments? Maybe the world around me is OK with a gentle push?? Maybe I’ll inspire someone to do something they didn’t think they could do?? Maybe I’ll actually learn more and fill up my soul because I pushed just a little farther. Maybe. 

Because here is the main point (and yes, I have one). That bar that I set, 20 years ago in Edmonton, that I have continually reset and reset again …. it has led me to exactly this spot where I am now. And now, if nothing else, I can appreciate all that those accomplishments meant to me and my growth — as a professional as well as a human being. 

A very wise man once taught me, mediocrity is not an option. And I believed him.