Many moons ago, in a former and more Ann Taylor–filled life, I had a summer internship in the finance world that consisted mostly of the sending of FedExes, the kissing of asses, and the assembling of spreadsheets that would almost immediately become obsolete.
After two weeks of militant training in which I and the rest of the summer analyst class were repeatedly and ominously told to think of our jobs "as a 10-week interview" and instructed to "leverage this opportunity into full-time conversion," I finally got my very first assignment.
The project was straightforward, if time-consuming: My boss had a meeting the following week with some super-rich dude who he hoped would one day become a client, and it was my job to corral the motley dribs and drabs of bank statements, handwritten Post-it notes, and dusty stock certificates the man had shipped over to us into some sort of workable and comprehensive dossier about just how much he was worth. (And, of course, about how we would best "put his money to work.")
As a lifelong goody-two-shoes thrilled by the prospect of being able to finally prove myself with an actual task, I decided I wouldn't leave the office until I'd finished the assignment, which wasn't expected to be completed for a few days. I labored through spreadsheets. I ordered dinner. I anticipated questions and problems and prepared explanations and defenses. I formatted fonts and pasted photos. I went home at 3, showered, and came back at 5. I finished. I felt immensely industrious.
I sat there, exhausted but proud, as my boss — a whip-smart, slicked-back man whose wife would call in every day that summer to complain about the temperature of the pool at the Hamptons house they were renting — came in, sat down at his desk, saw the thick packet I had so speedily slaved over, and smirked.
"Looks like they didn't teach you in training," he said, "how to manage expectations."
I thought about the dark art of managing expectations Wednesday as the L.A. Kings dropped Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals at home and missed out on what would have been a Stanley Cup sweep.