The present-promise gap

You and I constantly deal with promises.

We make promises to ourselves, we make promises with other people, and other people make promises with us.

It’s easy to believe promises that are very near to the present, especially if the person has constantly kept their promises. Correspondence: “Let me get back to you by the end of day.” Deadlines: “I’ll have this back over by the end of week.” Presence: “I’ll see you tomorrow.” 

Some days, we choose to make big promises, further away in time and space than the present. We’re making new plans (which could be considered more to be like guesses than promises), we’re building schedules to work back from, and we’re setting our ambitions and goals for ourselves.

We might want to move to an entirely different continent. We might want to change our physical or mental states. We might want to develop proficiency at a brand new skill.

The further these ambitions, goals, and visions—these promises—are from our present, the greater the present-promise gap. The larger this gap, the more difficult it will be for most people to generally believe you.

In The Business of Expertise, David C. Baker writes (p. 33), “In a way, positioning is fake for a brief period of time. You’ve noticed just enough patterns to gain some credibility. Then you make the most of that driver’s permit to keep exploring, keep learning, and keep articulating insight. Eventually it feeds on itself and then you step into your expert clothes and really fill them out.” 

The key is, of course, how the promise-maker and the promise-receiver define the word temporary. How much evidence does the promise-maker have, how feasible is their plan, and how transparent are they? How much patience does the promise-receiver have, and how much time can they afford to wait?

When you’re an honest person, without much evidence, trying to earn someone’s trust, shrink the present-promise gap. Make them a promise to support them with something that they care about (listen carefully and do research!), that isn’t too far from the present, and that won’t cost them too much (or anything at all).

See SPACs.

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