Effort vs. Outcome


Over the years I’ve noticed something a bit peculiar about myself when it comes to striving for outcomes. In short, it seems that I thrive at difficult things while having fun doing them, but the moment I tell myself to “take it seriously” and really “try”, my ability goes all to hell.

I’m aware that there are many cliches covering this phenomenon, e.g. “You’re trying too hard.”, but I think this is something else entirely. I almost feel as if any talent I have with whatever I’m doing is directly correlated to my enjoyment of that activity. The motivation that makes me go to bed thinking about it (infosec, golf, table tennis, whatever) is the very same thing that makes me do well at it.

Once I try and “get down to business” and really excel at the discipline, I seem to immediately lose the ingredient that made me decent in the first place. What follows then is either boredom or violent rampages frustration due to not reaching my goals.

I think I need to focus on one simple idea from now on when approaching things I’m trying to get good at. Stop trying to get good. It’s completely counter-intuitve, of course, but it seems to be my only path. It works in golf, it works in table tennis, and it even works in my career.

I need to basically enjoy my love for the activity above all else. The moment I focus on the outcome, I lose it. As such, and given my love for being good at what I do, I guess my main problem then is going to be finding a way to do two things simultaneously:

  1. Study ways to get better, and practice doing those things

  2. Don’t expect to get better as a result of having studied and practiced

Basically, I have to learn about my disciplines out of love for them, but then turn around and do my best not to care how good I am at them. Only then can I actually get good.

Interesting. Likely impossible, but interesting nonetheless.

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