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The “Happiness Ratio”:

OVER-Deliver / UNDER-Promise

Your client or customer wants to see a report as soon as possible.  It’s almost impossible for you to have it ready before next Wednesday, but under pressure, you promise it to her by this Friday.

“Why did I do that?” you ask yourself.  Your intentions were good.  You didn’t want her to be disappointed.  But now, when you miss your Friday deadline, struggle through the weekend and, after working 36 hours straight, deliver it to her on Monday, she’ll probably be even more disappointed—because you didn’t keep your word.  On a scale from 1 to 10, next Monday’s delivery with this Friday’s expectation registers with the client as a certain “1”.

Imagine if you had simply been honest with your client and told her that you couldn’t realistically generate and deliver the report to her before next Wednesday.  Sure, she would have been disappointed right there on the spot, but likely, she would have also given you a reluctant go-ahead for the deadline you suggested.

In this new scenario, when you work through the weekend and hand off the report first thing next week, that same “Monday delivery” is suddenly a whopping “10” with your client.  She didn’t expect her results until Wednesday, and because you were way ahead of the schedule you proposed, you seem to have gone above and beyond to make her happy.

This, then, is the “Happiness Ratio”:

Recipient’s Happiness =
Satisfaction (based on your DELIVERy) /
Expectation (based on your PROMISEs)

If you deliver more than you promised, the ratio will be greater than one, and the recipient will probably be happy.  If you deliver that same amount or more, but it is less than you initially promised, the relation will become fractional, and he or she will be unhappy no matter what.  This relationship applies to both your business and your personal life.  Promise your spouse, date, or friend front row seats and instead, deliver seats somewhere in the middle, and you’ll undoubtedly render some disappointment.  Promise “nosebleed” seats, however, and deliver seats in the middle, and suddenly, you’ll be a hero.

I take my car to an auto mechanic who always gives me an estimate that’s steeper than the final bill he gives me.  If his estimate was cheaper than my final bill, I’d be upset when he handed it to me.  But by limiting his assurances at the outset, he makes me far happier to pay him when the time comes.

The key to keeping anyone happy is to under-promise and over-deliver.  Promise them an “outside” date.  Estimate a smaller quantity, or a higher price.  The terms you can ultimately satisfy might be unchangeable, but you’ll keep your friends and associates happier if you don’t get their hopes up, or set yourself up to fail in their eyes.  When you’re working hard and doing your best for people, keep their expectations reasonable so that you can still surprise and delight them with your unexpected results.

Where in your life or practice have you been overpromising and under-delivering?  It’s probably a habit we can work on changing together if you contact me.  I can’t promise you’ll transform overnight, but you can expect that I’ll help you to keep REACHING…

16 Disciplines

I suppose it would have been more fun if I called them 16 “hot tubs” for advisors, or less intimidating if I called them “practices,” but after 17 years of working with and observing how the most successful advisors, it's clear that there are branches of knowledge involved. 


Practice these simple 16 disciplines daily and watch how quickly and easily your practice grows.

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