David Heinemeier Hansson

September 26, 2022

Expectations are everything

It's well established that Olympians who finish 2nd are less satisfied than the ones who finish 3rd. It's "I was so close to winning" vs "I'm just happy to have made the podium". Expectations at work!

I got reminder of just how true this is racing at Spa in the European Le Mans Series yesterday. We started the race with the absolute lowest expectations possible, and as a result, the 2nd place finish felt better than most wins I've had before.

The car had been terrible in practice. I blew a tire at 280 kph from an overly aggressive setup, which meant I got very little preparation. My codriver spun in qualifying, after being two seconds off the pace, so we were starting dead last in 39th position. I was ready to pack up and just go home.

Then the magic arrived. That codriver who spun? Took us from P39 to P2 in just over an hour. My terrible run in practice? Replaced by stellar race pace in a car that had just switched on. The extreme turn-around made the whole team euphoric as we crossed the finish line.

It's all about expectations. You think you deserve to win? Anything but is now a loss. You think you're nowhere? Reaching the podium is now a triumph.

This is true in sports, this is true in business, this is true in life.


About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.