Part 1 in the series How to Get Things Done.
The other day, Moz Content Strategist Ronell Smith put into words something I’d been pondering but hadn’t fully processed.
Inputs > Outcomes
The secret to standing on the top of your goal mountain, taking your shirt off, spinning it around on your first and screaming “YESSSSS!” is to stop drooling over outcomes.
(If you’re a grantwriter tearing your hair out over logic models, you probably just dropped your coffee mug into smithereens on the floor and said “Shut the front door!”)
This secret is how Ronell made strides in weight loss. It’s also how he motivates his young daughters to succeed.
Let’s say your outcome goal is for your weight to be 160 pounds.
- If you keep checking your weight every day, that act will not influence your weight loss very much. Your weight will fluctuate here and there from day to day. You will get discouraged. You might give up on what you’re currently doing and skip to the next hot diet. Your weight from day to day won’t tell you much.
- However, if you are consistent with your inputs (the daily work you do), you will more heavily influence the outcome of your weight over time. For example, you could focus on the end goal of your weight, but that won’t get you very far. But if you keep up with your diet and exercise, and if you track its consistency, this will have a greater influence on your weight outcome.
This is the way Ronell raises his daughters.
- He’s more concerned that they practice piano 45 minutes every day (inputs), rather than they master a song.
- He’s more concerned that they’re doing their school homework every day and learning to think critically, rather than just making all A’s. If they’re satisfied with a 90 (since it counts as an A), he’ll ask why it’s not 100.
It’s not about getting by or doing the minimum to get the right outcomes.
It’s about putting in the work that makes great outcomes happen naturally and consistently.
“Identify the work that creates the improvement,” Ronell said.
You can study for the test and score well, but then forget everything you learned. On the other hand, you can diligently absorb the material, and when there’s a pop quiz, you won’t sweat.
“When you focus on the process, the outcome becomes the byproduct, not the focus,” Ronell said.
He compared this idea to being a hunter. Hitting the target is really incidental because you’ve put in the work beforehand that will get you there.
“The goal is baked into the process,” Ronell said. “The process allows you to reach the goal.”
When Ronell shared this, I immediately thought of goal-setting pointers by Keith Ferrazzi, Chip & Dan Heath, and BJ Fogg.