WEEK 34 - #VoidDeckWriter: Focussing on the Wrong Thing (Thy Name is Outcome)
Week 34 and the days continue to be rainy and cool. My life coach released a spin-off podcast and this first episode brought up a lesson that's highly useful - Focus on the Process, not the Outcome.
Week 34 and the days continue to be rainy and cool. How are all of you? I’m just wary of turning into a couch potato with all this downtime thanks to post-vaccine rest obligations and restrictions. That said, I’m hoping to get back to the gym and Taichi soon.
Speaking about couch potatoes, my life coach released a spin-off podcast called “Couch Potatoes” - a snippet into his coaching calls for members of the LITO Academy, and this first episode brought up a lesson I thought would be highly useful for us as creative entrepreneurs or creators:
Focus on the Process, not the Outcome.
Picture this - you are a creator who has been doing okay. And then, one of your creator friends gets a book deal. And another one is launching their title during a festival. And another one is invited to speak on a panel. All posts appearing on your social media feed or in your messaging platform within the same day.
How do you feel?
While it is common to have a few pangs of professional jealousy or wisps of, “I wish I had that too!”, what happens when you end up obsessing over your results?
And that’s how you end up focussing on the thing that may not serve you - the outcome.
Outcomes are a double-edged sword
“Jo, are you saying that I shouldn’t care about my results or outcomes? Then what do we have goals for?!”
Let me just get this out of the way first -
You can care about the outcome, but the outcome should not be your sole or major focus for the best results. Why? Because outcomes are NOT in your control.
Outcomes can be anchorpoints you set for yourself to get to your goal - like the milestones that give you an indication of whether you are closer to your destination or on the right track. For example, the outcome of a book deal can be an indication that you have reached your destination.
But what happens when you don’t get the deal?
What happens when you feel like you have “no choice” but to self-publish?
Does this mean you are “less of an author”?
Thus, the other edge of the Outcome Sword - you cannot control what you cannot control. And that is the decision of external circumstances. (E.g. Maybe you didn’t get a book deal this round because the agent or the publisher don’t align with your work NOW. It doesn’t mean your work is any less awesome. It doesn’t make the publisher or agent any less of one.)
And to be honest, are things truly in the doldrums? Are you in a position where you cannot practice or tell stories anymore? So why do we feel like something is wrong?
“But Jo, it’s only human to feel bitter or resentful. Don’t you wish you could have a lot of readers and fans? What about my stakeholders?”
All these concerns are 100% legitimate, so let me address them with two main points -
Wallowing in “wishing” and negative emotions doesn’t serve you in the long-term. Do you want to spend the rest of your life blaming the system and angry at the people who “didn’t give you a chance”? YES - you need to process your emotions and let yourself feel what you need to feel. However, do you want to be in this headspace forever? Because a mindset that is set on seeing “your enemies grovelling to you to apologise” will influence your actions later. More on this in the next point.
You have a responsibility to yourself and a responsibility to any stakeholders who need a “report back” from you. However, you still cannot control your stakeholders and how they will act. You might be able to deliver on all your outcomes but they might still think you are not capable enough. That said, this is where process is important - You might not have hit your “outcomes” but did your processes hold up? Then perhaps the outcomes might have been misaligned and need adjustment. A common example - KPIs: how do you know if a KPI is outdated or misaligned? Objective, process, and practice.
Which brings me to my next point...
Do you see your “goals” as processes (habit / lifestyle-based) or destinations (milestone-based)? Let me know in the comments!
I’m going to side-track a bit here to talk about the importance of your state-of-mind when you obsess over outcome and outcome only.
This was something I learnt when I entered the working world while I was still writing fiction on the side - For most things, we often see correlation, not causation, but mistake them to be the same thing. In simpler terms - we don’t 100% know the thought process of an external decision.
So what happens when we stew in anger at the “unfairness of it all” in the industry?
At best, we play victim to the system and blame everything on everyone instead of taking the time to take action that truly serves us and our mental state (Note: Being angry is NOT an action). At worse, we fawn and pander (whether it’s through obsession over “gaming the system” or writing “only for the market”) in a desperate attempt to get applause. In both cases, what happens?
Self-fulfilling prophecy. Like so:
I get rejected from a publisher I really wanted to get published with >> I get angry that I wasn’t given a chance, and blame it on the “crappy” industry >> I’m convinced that the industry will never change and it’s on the way to the doldrums >> Every time an open opportunity (whether to learn or to share) pops up, I reject it because “I’m above this” or “They only want this one thing, why should I give it to them and pander?” >> I don’t jump on opportunities >> I sit and complain that I have no choices or opportunities because this industry is lying to aspiring authors who don’t fit into their stereotype. >> I still don’t get published.
I get rejected from a publisher I really wanted to get published with >> I study the market and write for the market. I NEED TO GET PUBLISHED AND WILL DO ANYTHING. >> I learn every hack, and try to game the system >> I spend so much time and energy trying to hack the system, I forget about my audience or my practice >> I don’t improve or come up with new work that I feel confident or true about >> I might be published but I don’t feel like I have made it and often have to seek external validation.
TL;DR - Your mindset and how you view things AFFECTS your actions. If you have dismissed your circumstances permanently, you are going to make decisions accordingly. Whether you’re aware of it or not.
What can I do about it?
Hence comes the meat of this podcast snippet - FOCUS ON THE PROCESS.
How? Simple, ask yourself - “How do I want to show up everyday?” Though I will caveat this by saying that this piece of advice is “simple, not easy”.
Focussing on the process or your practice is very much tailored to each individual, but will often consist of these aspects:
Acknowledging that the practice is the goal
Deciding your practice action
DEVOTING (not committing) to your practice.
And what do I mean by that? Here are some examples:
You failed an examination? You go to school and attend classes anyway.
You missed your last workout and need to catch up quite a bit? Turn up for the session anyway.
You sent your manuscript out to five places and they haven’t responded to you? Write anyway.
You don’t feel like writing today because no one liked your Instagram post? Write anyway.
No one downloaded your last podcast? Record it anyway.
And if you fall off the wagon?
GO BACK TO YOUR ANCHOR POINT (a.k.a. YOUR PRACTICE). Start over, start again, and be better. And your devotion will help you get better. Experts have “failed” more times than an amateur has started, and sometimes, what you need is just constant practice and / or process.
WHY? Because you want to work on this practice in the first place.
Again, it goes back to the question of - How do you want to show up? And do you want to show up like this?
Like I said, simple, not easy.
But like a wise meme said - if we called self-care, “making yourself so uncomfortable for the betterment of your soul that you feel like spiralling”, no one would do it and hope would just fall to pieces.
But when will I succeed? Won’t focussing on practice mean I lie to myself about outcomes?
Short answer - Everyone wants the picture perfect life, but no one wants to take the journey to it.
The more complex answer - At the core of creating is the practice of creation. You can’t really be a creator without creating right? Therefore, would not winning the Pulitzer make you any less of a writer? Would you rather pander and game the system for a result that is equally not guaranteed as when you practice deliberately, or devote your authentic self to your work and be as true to the story you want to tell as possible?
Or if you reverse it - will you stop writing or telling stories after your big break? Do your outcomes or practice matter more in this case, or in career sustainability as a whole?
To be honest, I am also working on this, and that’s how practice is - constant working in progress not just to release books and/or stories, but also to better my craft.
Again, you can care about the outcomes, and they are also out of your control. (Thanks Dan ;))
And that’s it from me, see you all next week!
Note: Many thanks to Dan and the LITO Academy for always giving me these lessons to ponder on. If you want to check out what LITO has in terms of mindset and life lessons, click the link below!