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Know when to disappoint others instead of yourself

I came across an excerpt from a book which read, “Every time you’re given a choice between disappointing someone else and disappointing yourself, your duty is to disappoint that someone else. Your job, throughout your entire life, is to disappoint as many people as it takes to avoid disappointing yourself”, and it really got me thinking about how often some of us, myself included, CHOOSE to disappoint ourselves instead of others and often to the detriment of our peace, goals, reputation and even our integrity.

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The morning I read that excerpt, I had been struggling internally with a decision. I was to host a workshop later that day for small business owners, I wasn’t as ready as I would have liked and I really needed a bit more prep time. The challenge, however, was that I had an already scheduled client call but proceeding with that call would have left me inadequately prepared for the workshop.

Now, this call could easily be rescheduled and I knew the client wouldn’t have minded but I continued to wrestle with the thought that I would be disappointing them if I did reschedule. I even considered lying that I had a “family emergency” so that I’d get a sympathy exit and not feel too bad about dumping the meeting but this approach was grossly misaligned with my personal values.

On the flip side, I knew that I’d lose much more if I failed to deliver a solid workshop – the knock-on effects on my brand reputation and potential clientele would leave me with too many regrets I may not be able to move past. I didn’t want to disappoint myself and certainly not in this way.

So when I read that excerpt that fateful morning, it became clear as day that I needed to CHOOSE to disappoint the client. When I informed them, they weren’t even disappointed.  My request was granted with zero fuss, my conscience was clear and I was able to finish my workshop preparations.

Why is this story important? 

In business, and in life too, you’re often faced with scenarios that need you to choose whether to disappoint yourself or others. Nonetheless, it remains your responsibility to set criteria that can help you decide.

Here are some questions I personally use to evaluate such scenarios:

What was my promise and am I breaking that? It’s very important to do what you said you would do – this is known as integrity. So if you there was a clear agreement with the other party especially where there is a value exchange, you cannot choose to disappoint the other person. You have to make it work.

Can I create a win-win outcome? Yes, I may need to disappoint the other party but if I can present alternative solutions to mitigate the disappointment, everybody stays happy.

What do I stand to lose? Compare the cost – time, money, peace of mind, reputation, relationship etc.-  of disappointing either yourself or the other party. Whichever option is likely to cost you more, avoid it. The regret is rarely palatable.
Could my personal values be violated by this? Values are one of the most underrated guides in decision-making and every time we go against those values, we don’t feel too good about it.

Good luck!

About the contributor

Stephanie Anyamele is a Small Business Consultant & Chartered Accountant with over 7 years’ experience in financial advisory, operations management and business strategy. She is the Founder & Principal Consultant of Charles Ardor & Company,  a boutique management consulting firm working with owners, leaders and managers of small businesses to improve their financial and operational performance. She is also the Founder of “What Next, Coach?”, a business support membership platform that prepares small businesses to grow into medium-scale enterprises. Connect with her via Instagram (@stephanyamele), email ( or LinkedIn (Stephanie Anyamele)

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