How to Overcome the Lie of Lowered Expectations | Len's Lightbulbs

by Len Wilson

Draw a circle. In it, write the words “I stink.” Next, draw a second circle, slightly overlapping the first circle, and in it write the words, “I rock.” In the overlapping space where the circles meet, write the word “creativity.”

The diagram you just made, if you were to actually do this, or even if you do it in your head that’s fine too, captures something about what happens when we lose wonder: the ability to create it and eventually the ability to even recognize it.

This note is about the “I stink” part of the equation.


It’s the first demon we encounter in life. It appears somewhere around the fourth grade and trades on the fear that comes before we’ve ever done anything life-changing with our creative gift.

We could call it failure, though this is unfair to failure, because failure, as a representation of unfulfilled past attempts, is a wonderful teacher. What we often describe as failure isn’t regret for what has already happened but uncertainty for what happens next.

This lie tells us we stink. It offers the false belief that we are not capable of the greatness that burns below our surface, that we can’t actually do the dream that we dream. It causes us to grab the first and lowest piece of fruit we see and say, this is good enough.

It renders the vast majority of inspiration from heaven stillborn with the simple and seductive temptation of lowered expectations, which becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. It has us believe in a lesser story for ourselves.


We fear for tomorrow’s meal so we accept what the lie gives us, even when our acceptance of it sells out the greatness of the Holy Spirit’s descending spark. The lie seems solid and secure. We are led to believe that if we accept this gift, we will allay our fears and satisfy our future.

The devil said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.Luke 4:3

It works when we are starving artists. It hits us when we are weak. It hit Jesus in his weakness, after a long period of paucity, with the temporal satisfaction of sustenance. It tells us we’re eating a 5-course meal when all we’re really getting is crumbs.


Jesus knew, even in the vast open landscape before the whirlwind that was to come, that he had greater passions and purpose and could deal with the short-term trouble of not eating. He dined on the imagination of what was to come.

Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread.”Luke 4:4

The starving artist, the one with only an idea to own, must do the same.

Pursuing creativity means we must dine on the imagination of what may come.


This is an excerpt from my book, Think Like a Five Year Old. Learn more here.