The Gerber Baby Syndrome

Managing Expectations

Not sure who started that idea, the ‘ideal’ expectations we have for things and the management they require.

My mother, a nursery and NICU nurse for 25 years, told me about the “Gerber baby” syndrome. Sometimes people expect a “Gerber” perfect baby and sadly blame themselves, or look for others to blame or fix it, when things don’t go ‘perfectly’ as promised in the brochure of life. Somehow it’s gone from the simple wish of ‘hoping and praying for a healthy baby’ to the full expectation of such.

I don’t have kids, but I thought of this as an example of our high (sometimes unrealistic) expectations, perhaps in a dichotomy with our fear of failure.

Perfection or Failure, nothing else?

When did tragedy or even a bump in the road turn into a ‘failure’ by default? When did one mistake become a firable offense?

Something has happened as we try to orchestrate the perfect experience, exceed all expectations in that we’ve lost the acceptance and/or the apprecaition of failure, of what it can teach us. Any non-runaway success is deemed a failure no matter if it is or not.

A good movie does OK at the box office, yet doesn’t break records; but it failed even though it maybe launches careers and becomes a cult favorite. A long-term relationship doesn’t work out, both parties split amicably and for the better, but it’s a failure because it didn’t last in cliched “Hollywood forever” fashion. Apple isn’t Apple unless it’s the next iPhone or iPad every time.

Read a post that quoted a Disney seminar about how Disney World doesn’t sell vacations, they sell experiences and memories and they don’t want anything to hurt that.

Really, one longish line or one off dinner would ruin a vacation? Those experiences are subjective; I know that a 35-minute wait for Test Track is nothing, much less during peak season. Sorry but I don’t ding the tip on my server just because one Coke refill took an extra minute, pretty much any restaurant.

Lessons yet to be learned

Goals are good, big aspirations are worth striving to achieve but we have to stop blaming ourselves or assigning failures to everything. Mistakes happen, tragedies are terrible, the world is not always a perfect place.

This post has asked more questions because frankly I don’t have the answers. Why? I’m still learning. No I haven’t figured out where my biting fish are, yes I struggle just as much as the next person.

You can do everything right yet things will still go wrong. It doesn’t mean you failed. FWIW.

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18 thoughts on “The Gerber Baby Syndrome

  1. Mine was a NICU baby. When she was born, the anesthesiologist said, “She’s a peanut, but she’s pretty.” It was funny because I knew that wasn’t true on a strictly aesthetic sense but she was still the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. The first coherent thought I had when I saw her strapped in the little nest within the isolette, her skin transparent, her arms and legs like straws, with no whites showing around her prominent eyes? “I want another one, even if she’s just like this one.”

    A colleague of mine always finds it necessary to mention the day it rained while she was at the lake for 5. I don’t even meet her eyes as she says it anymore for fear of what I might say.

    It just hit me reading this that the state of our social, intellectual, and even spiritual growth is so stunted that a blog really is often the most monumental personal achievement (forget professional) we make in those areas. We learn to grow, correct mistakes, find acceptance, persevere, behave ourselves, be honest–or we don’t. My blog was an ugly baby, but I kept it because there are so many things I’ve left incomplete, and I wanted to see this one through.

    We always say “mistakes happen,” but very few of us understand what that means. From spilt milk to a decimal place that brings a building to the ground, we have to learn they can happen _to us_, and how to deal with it. I see so many “live life without regrets” reminders in the social sphere and they make me grind my teeth. Really? Some hot potatoes ought to burn your fingers for just a little bit before you heave them into the acceptance pile, or you’re in danger of never being human.

    Love your thoughts here (finally I remember your post, right?). Thanks for letting me vent, Davina.
    Shakirah Dawud recently posted..Genuinely Curious Monday: Do You Keep Score On Social Media?

    1. Vent anytime you want Shakirah. You’re right about blogging.. it’s a great way of gaining perspective; some people journal, maybe others use FB for that or just have epic long calls with friends.. lots of way to take a closer look at ourselves. We will make mistakes, should have regrets, need to question things and second guess.. not take things for granted. Glad to get to know you, your NICU baby and appreciate your thoughts.

  2. Davina: Hey, I think this is my first time to your blog, but I’m highly impressed with this article. It was really a great inspirational read, and it couldn’t of come at a better time. I’ve heard over and over that after you take a few steps backwards it’s twice as hard to recover, and right now I’m going through that phase.

    When I first started blogging I worked hard and I was seeing positive results from my hard work. Everything seemed to be going the way I hoped it would go. I later got a spell of the “I’ve had too much blogging sickness” and didn’t feel like having anything to do with blogging. My inconsistency really put a beating on my blog, and now I’m working just as hard if not harder to recover.

    Even though I’m working hard it seems like my hard work goes in vain. It’s really been a struggle over the past couple of weeks. I thought I’d come back into the blogging game with a bang and get things right back on track, but that hasn’t been the case.

    It has been hard to keep my motivation up, but I’m tying my best and at the end of the day that’s all I can ask of myself.

    Thanks for the post it was really needed!

    God bless,
    William Veasley
    William Tha Great recently posted..Round Up 1: Learning To Fight Through The Struggles!

    1. First time.. and I hope it’s not the last William. I think it all depends on the goals for your blog… what you want that work to mean. I know this blog is so different from a personal one, it’s not a hobby blog, and it’s not a biz site blog monetized as my business. It’s the blog for my business, meant to represent myself and my thoughts – and yes, attract new business via keywords, inbound marketing, forest nymphs and maybe mentions of bacon. 😉 I jest because that’s really my way – try to entertain and amuse while also informing, educating.

      If your blog got positive results in the beginning then maybe it’s ok for you to backtrack. If you’re burnt out.. step back, blog less often as you build up a stockpile of posts; let readers know your blog is taking a shift, shaking up the routine. If it’s ‘blogging’ that is bugging you, change what you watch and read, which can only help change what you write. Best of luck to you, FWIW.

  3. I always try to keep in mind the idea of diminishing returns when I find myself striving for that over-the-top level of perfection (which is often). The idea of the 80/20 — meaning that it will take 80% of the effort to achieve the last 20% of the ideal. Of course, the numbers are not real, but the concept that once you hit a certain level on a project, blog post, etc., you really are getting diminishing returns on the time invested after that is. As the expression goes, “the perfect is the enemy of the good.”

    Can’t believe nobody’s mentioned airbrushing yet. 🙂
    Adam recently posted..Effective Small Business Hiring Practice: The Phone Screen

    1. Love the expression Adam. This may sound like I’m contradicting w/ I just told Nancy – I totally get your 80/20 example and it’s not a cop-out to stop working when you can’t control that 20, diminishing returns. Closest example I can give is college, those classes when I busted my ass for a B. Why bother committing that last 20% of effort for a long-shot A? Sorry but it wasn’t worth it, not when I could better use that effort elsewhere. Work smarter, right?

      Airbrushing? Next time I see some Photoshop fails, I’ll send them to you. I follow the @fuggirls who catch a lot of magazine covers that look ridiculous b/c of too much airbrush. 🙂

  4. I suffer from this pretty badly. I want to be perfect at everything. The perfect blog post, the perfect girlfriend, the perfect Mom…etc. I drive myself crazy with a goal that cannot be achieved.

    That does not mean I don’t try to give my best effort possible. It just means I stop trying so hard to control the outcome. I am by no means good at this all of the time. I go through cycles with this just like I do with other things.
    Nancy Davis recently posted..A Learner’s Mind

    1. I am tough on myself Nancy, for sure. No you can’t control the outcomes and yes the boss’s wife’s niece will get the job over anyone more qualified, that’s how it goes. But when I see it used as an excuse to not try, as a cop-out Nancy – it’s just as frustrating as expecting ‘perfect’ like it was guaranteed. Thanks for jumping in.

  5. The yes, but mentality. No caveat’s, just enjoy the moment and look for the good.

    In my day job, I try to create some ‘wow’ moments by under promising and over performing, but I’d be lying if I told you I’ve never been fired. It’s easy to look around and try to find the blame, or you can just carry on and be smarter from the experience.

    Unfortunately, we’ve been spoon fed the perfect body, the perfect experience, etc. I probably like you more for your imperfections because that is what makes you who you are. The nose picking might be a stretch, but everything else seems to be tolerable…….:)

    Good post, thanks for sharing. Did you know I was the Gerber baby? FWIW………..
    Bill Dorman recently posted..How music helps shape my decisions

    1. Really? Can I have your autograph? Or at least see a baby pic. 😉

      Not sure they are all ‘imperfections’ Bill… they are what make us who we are; I just wrote that it’s the differences that make it us interesting. I’ve been fired; I am still having to grind it out, but I don’t expect things to be given to me. I have to earn them, yet I can’t be too hard on myself if everything doesn’t always fall into place. Thanks for your thoughts.. a little bit of a departure from me.

        1. I keep circling back to the expectations of perfection, I expected to work hard but not you know, this 😉 And no one tells you that it’s a never ending cycle. The way I am could use some change and improvement, not because I am perfect or imperfect. Because we’re all perfectly imperfect and change, growth is part of this whole living thing. Or something pithy to that effect. FWIW.

  6. I definitely get a little swept up with Gerber Baby Syndrome when I first start on a client project. I pressure myself to produce the most brilliant work that’s ever been done. I get stressed and worried, thinking that my work will never be good enough. But then I go back to the client’s goals and what I really need to do. I’m trying to communicate with the client’s customers, not win the Pulitzer prize. As long as I stay focused on that customer, I won’t need to be a Gerber Baby.
    Marianne Worley recently posted..What is Social Media Friendship?

    1. OMG I do this too. There are times I have to remind myself what the client’s goals are.. and even help them see that it’s not about what they think is perfect but what their client does. And yes, their clients will expect “Gerber baby” perfection, for everything to go off hitchless.

      I put more pressure on my work, I know I project higher expectations on myself. It’s part of that work ethic Marianne, to always aim for 100% and WTH w/ the slackers shooting for 80% then settling for 60? I didn’t get it; don’t misunderstand.. I’ll goof off and play as much as the next person, when my work is done and done right. FWIW.

  7. Davina, funny you used the example of your Mom and parent expectations of babies. As a new father I just realized that as soon as you become a Dad, suddenly everyone around you has kids. It’s weird, like suddenly all your friends have kids.
    One thing I noticed is that there is so much talk and one midwife even asked Ameena to write a ‘birth plan’. I always thought it was a pile of crap. If there is one thing we can’t plan its definitely nature and what happens when we don’t expect it.

    Perfection doesn’t exist, we can only strive for it but reaching it? Come on. Just like your Mom said “Gerber Babies’ don’t exist, our expectations are often misguided by these powerful brands.
    Let’s enjoy the journey and the company we keep during this experience.
    For Wine I will
    John Falchetto recently posted..When to accept limitations and ask for help

    1. Hee John.. I have a sister who’s also an NICU nurse, she’ll probably enjoy a healthy eyeroll at the ‘birth plan pile o’ crap.’ 😉 Nothing wrong with striving for perfection, aspiring to greatness and doing your best… but when did it become expected? Or even, an entitlement? It’s not just brands that create these false ideals.. think of sitcoms and dramedies that get kudos for taking on ‘real world’ issues, but conveniently wrap it all up at the :52 minute mark in a life-lesson epilogitude.

      Congrats to being a new father.. I’m sure you and your family will enjoy quite a ride with plenty of good wine I hope. Thanks.

  8. Lots of ‘amens’ on this one Davina. I really love your point of ‘whatever happened to satisfaction when something is ‘good’ but not ‘the greatest’?

    This syndrome is quite the commonplace in blogging as well. We start building momentum, get to a certain point, and then if we write an article that doesn’t get ‘X’ comments or ‘X’ # of views we think we’ve failed. What the heck is up with that???

    You can’t hit home runs every time. It’s impossible. We’re going to hit some singles other moments, and then even strike out when the game is on the line. Such is life, and it’s all an important part of it. Managing expectations, and seeking the positive from every experience, is easily the great key to business and life.

    Great stuff my friend.

    Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion recently posted..The Amazing Power of One Tweet to Change Your Blog Forever

    1. Know what you mean Marcus, the off-the-wall doubles can be just as good of a post as the homer; comments and RTs are just metrics. It’s one reason I did decide to give the “Tweet Old Post” plugin a try (set very low) so that some of my personal fave posts see a little more light. Not to mention, we do learn from the strikeouts as well.. they have value if we let them and don’t let the ‘failure’ get to us.

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