Posted on February 24, 2012 by Dan Blank
Do you measure your success by the amount of effort you put into it, or the outcome? Will your legacy be: “Gee, she tried to accomplish these goals, but these three things got in her way,” or “She accomplished so much, here is what we learned from her.”
Today, I want to talk about the value of focusing on the EFFECT of your work, and how to begin considering how to measure that.
Process vs Outcome
This is a phrase you see over-used on so many resumes: “Results-driven.” What this is meant to convey is that you won’t be someone full of excuses. That we all face challenges in the process of reaching our goals, but you won’t be the person who will spend your time telling your boss about the many reasons why you couldn’t reach your goals. That excuses aren’t good enough for you.
I am a HUGE believe in the value of process. I was an artist for much of my life, I married an artist, and have always been lucky to have many creative friends. Process is critical in creating true art – something that breaks boundaries, that builds a body of work full of meaning. Sometimes it takes years to go through that process.
But the key is: do you come out the other side? I know many folks who were artists or musicians or writers years ago, who today are accountants, managers, administrators today in other fields. They no longer create art, music or writing. It is an identity they gave up a long time ago, but also an activity they let go of as well. They reflect fondly about how they were these things a decade or two ago, but no longer.
For some, their lives and interests changed. For others, the process never lead to an outcome they dreamed of. They never connected their process for creation with the dream they hoped to achieve.
Yes: there is TONS of value in the process alone. The experience of creating art can help one evolve their life, work through issues, etc. And that in and of itself, is awesome.
But if you want more than that; to not spend your future talking about how your writing career never panned out; to not talk about how you intended to make a professional leap, but didn’t; to not be focused on the challenges that stopped you, but how you moved past them; then focusing on measuring and accomplishing outcomes needs to be addressed.
Milestones & Measurement
How you measure progress before you reach your goal is critical. Few people go from being a nobody to total success in one single step. As an outsider, it may seem that way, but the reality is that you simply never noticed that person as they struggled towards their goals. You only noticed them when the succeeded.
Create milestones that lead up to your end goal. Specific thresholds that you focus on reaching that, when strung together, bring you to your end goal.
The idea here is to break down the larger goal into smaller more easily achievable steps. Measuring each of these steps gives you insight as to whether you are on the right path or not. When you are working hard towards a goal, it can be easy to get disoriented and miss the big picture. Maybe you feel as though you have made no progress, or not understand how much progress has been achieved. Or maybe it’s the opposite: you feel you are doing AWESOME, only to find out when you look critically at your effect, that you haven’t made the progress you hoped. EG: a business that people talk about, but don’t buy anything from. That you haven’t made any measurable progress towards your goals, you are just spinning your wheels. That maybe you didn’t know how to translate all that awesome stuff you do into truly building a business or career.
Consider what measures you will use to show accomplishment of goals beyond just launching a project, website, career move, or any other goal. There is a huge difference between someone saying: “I want to start a coaching business, my goal is to launch the website by March 1st,” versus someone saying: “I want to start a coaching business, and want 3 new clients to sign up via my website by April 1st.” One shows intention alone, another the measure of their effect. In the second example, it will be clear to measure success or failure to reach that goal, and they can easily create milestones to help ensure they get those 3 clients.
I work with a lot of writers, and often see them focused on the wrong “goal.” Merely “getting published” is not a goal, but a milestone. The goal should be something that shows your effect and builds your legacy: “I want to sell 3,000 books; I want to build a following of 1,000 fans; I want to help 500 people feel better about their lives.” These are specific, measurable, but mostly: these are goals that matter. And these are goals that will make an impact and build your legacy.
Return on Investment & Iteration
Another example of focusing on effects not the intentions: so if I am going to a job interview, the goal is not to “dress professionally, bring resumes, talk slowly and clearly…” the goal is “impress the hiring manager, get the job!” Think of the effect you want to have in others and how that will be measured. Yes, those other tactics are necessary. But they are merely one part of a larger process.
Focusing on goals and not intentions allows you to adapt quickly as needed. You aren’t following a rote process in that interview, you are adjusting based on new information, on the personality or requirements of the interviewer.
Intentions are filled with excuses. “I would have gotten the job if only I hadn’t stumbled on that answer,” or “I would have gotten that job if only I were five years younger.” But focusing on goals – you find a way.
We all have limited resources. I see people work long hours, juggling multiple functions in their jobs that used to be handled by two or three people in the past. Our challenge is no longer to do more, but to have a higher return on investment from our resources and processes. When you focus more on the goal, and not the intention, you are more likely to learn, evolve, and iterate your way. This, instead of being entrenched in a single mindset, a single task, trying to prove that a single idea will work. That you can get trapped in process because you don’t see the forest for the trees.
This is not to devalue process. But I have seen people focus SO MUCH on process, that it justifies any result. If things didn’t pan out, there is almost no measurement. You will hear them say: “Oh well, I did my best. Time to move on.”
If this is your hobby, that’s fine, you can afford to fail. But if this has to feed your family, or if this is the ONLY way you will achieve a lifelong dream, then this is much more serious. Failure is not an option.
And perhaps that is the first question in this process. Whatever your goal: is this a hobby or is this something you NEED to accomplish in order to build your legacy? In order to feel as though you have left your mark on the world.
If I can help you do that, please feel free to reach out.
973-981-8881 | firstname.lastname@example.org | @DanBlank