Skip to content

What did you think was going to happen?

My mom taught 6th and 7th grade (often a gifted/STEM) class for the better part of two decades. If you think back, you may remember this as not your peak decision-making time of life. You can spot my mom’s former students by their love of history, language, learning and connections, and by a slight flinch that they have around the phrase “what did you think was going to happen?”

She would ask this with genuine curiosity, not in the sarcastic “of course you’re getting what you deserved” way, but in the “you obviously did this for a reason, and maybe you can explain that reason to me in a way that makes sense to me”. The truth is, we don’t often stop to question the full depth of our choices and the actions we choose. We’d be in trouble if we did, because it takes a lot of thought.

When your preschooler decorates the wall of their room in crayon, you can ask them what they think will happen, and they’ll tell you that the wall is prettier, or that it was physically rewarding to color on a vertical surface, or they might know that they’ll “get in trouble”. But they don’t think about that until you ask them. In the moment, they have a crayon, and a wall. As an adult, you are the one who knows how hard it is to scrub crayon off paint, and how hard it is to paint over.

I’m having a discussion with a colleague about something they did, and I want to take them by the shoulders and ask, with genuine curiosity, what outcome they expected from their actions, and how it compared to what they got, and if they have any theories abut the divergence.

When I publish this post, I expect only a few people will read it, because it will be off-hours. I don’t have comments on my blog posts, so I won’t get blowback that way. I might get some comments on LinkedIn. I think it will just be a little droplet of a thought in my blog, and in your days, and if you remember any of it it will be about toddlers having no predictive ability or impulse control.

We talk a lot about disaster planning and recovery, and about mindfulness, and about resiliency and robustness. I think a lot of that comes down to asking ourselves:

  • What is the outcome I expect from this?
  • What are the possible negative outcomes, for myself and others?
  • What known-unknowns can I anticipate?

What did you think would happen?Mars Lander encased in balloons so it bounces on impact

I think this Mars lander will bounce, but eventually arrive safely

Heidi Waterhouse

Heidi is a mercenary technical writer and travelling salesperson of better process and product thinking. She loves writing herself out of a job and teaching people to save themselves from future pain.

Upcoming appearances

Velocity Berlin
Minneapolis DevOps Meetup
DeliveryConf

Scroll To Top