The Results Paradox – Is It Right To Focus On Anything Else?

Today I was unexpectedly reminded of my sixth-grade report card.

Someone mentioned how proud of their kids they were to be getting straight A’s.

They explained how their approach of paying for grades was their best decision yet and that everyone should offer rewards for “success”.

If you’re like me you were thinking, “wouldn’t that be nice!”

I lived close to school in elementary and can still vividly remember the scene… cars double parked all around the block.

All the adults dressed up trying to prove they had their shit together and were doing everything they could to help their kids.

In grade 6 the majority of my close friends happened to be in my homeroom class. I was especially nervous for parent-teacher interviews this year.

As my parents headed out the door my anxiety levels started to rise. I was sure my teacher was going to rat me out for goofing off in class too much.

The two hours they were gone seemed like an eternity.

Finally, I hear the garage door around 8:30. Do I hide? –

I decide to gamble and not move.

My parents come through the door with the silent treatment.

Do I speak? Maybe I just won’t ask and this will go away? I’ll wait.

Two seconds later my mom calls me from the Kitchen, “Broc, come up to the table we need to talk”.

I’m quickly replaying the last month, I don’t think I did anything that bad did I? My brain starts thinking of all the things I’ll have to give up for being grounded.

I sit down across from the two interrogators.

Quick stare off while looking as innocent as possible.

My mom quickly breaks, “we’re pulling you out of math class.”

“Uh, what?

Am I getting expelled???”

I was doing good in math! Or so I thought.

I mean, I didn’t study, but it wasn’t because I was especially smart. I just happened to spend a lot of time working with my dad and he taught me the basics. (You think I mean studying, I mean renovating.)

To his credit, I’m 90% sure he let my mom think I was a genius. It would explain a lot of the studying she let me skip to go play street hockey.

“The junior high math teacher is going to take you to study with her”

My instant thought is ..”damn, dad!.. you still haven’t told her.”

Such a seemingly insignificant decision with such dire consequences.

The high-school math integration ended up being a complete flop.

For one, they obviously didn’t have a plan for; “kid’s parents think he’s a genius and needs to be in a modified program”. Who can blame them?

Instead of “excelling” where I was supposed to be, I not only missed out on that info but didn’t learn the new stuff.

Lucky for me I spent a lot of time renovating those next few years (sarcasm), picking up just enough info to get by.

Fast forward to high-school, where the consequences of this one simple decision start to multiply.

I’m not proud to say it but I chronically cheated.

My rationalization is that the whole system from my rewards at home (not having to study because my grades were good) to school were aligned to only care about the results.

So if I could pull it off, use memorization to fill in the gaps I’d skate by just fine.

Not so. The problems started stacking.

My habits were terrible to say the least. I would procrastinate so bad that I wouldn’t even start assignments until the morning of their due dates.

You’re probably thinking, “who cares.. grade 10 science is a cake walk anyway”.

Well, I’d agree with you except the unfortunate thing about bad habits is they stick with you.

At this point in high-school, my inherited, “results mindset”, is being sabotaged because I’m not doing especially well.

My only solution was to stop trying. I didn’t consciously make the decision but my ego did. I couldn’t destroy thinking of myself as “smart” but only be getting 60’s and 70’s.

While my curiosity and willingness to learn on my own prevented complete self-corruption, this mindset actually followed me into my first job as a college graduate.

I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time, even writing an entire handbook about focusing on results.

In hindsight, I was encouraging what Netflix calls the “brilliant jerk” syndrome. If you haven’t read their slideshare on company policy it’s a must-read.

Brilliant jerks aren’t even necessarily brilliant, it just means that their ego thinks they should be treated differently based on their ability to produce results faster, more effectively, etc.

Needless to say, this is extremely unproductive. It won’t matter if you have the most brilliant person in the world building your software or selling it, if they can’t work in a team it will cause chaos.

Lucky for me, this mindset got wiped out almost in an instant.

Save the details, I broke my leg when I was 22 and after about 6 months of recovery I picked up running.

It’s a completely different experience when you know what it’s like seeing the possibility of never having the luxury to run again.

This event changed everything for me because of the hidden analogies that running brings to life.

For example, if you have a goal to run a specific time in the 100m or 1000m or a marathon would you expect to “get lucky” in the days leading up to the race and find your wings?

Seems absurd, doesn’t it?

So why is it acceptable to use that rationale when it comes to studying or investing or sales or product development or progress in almost anything else that you’re working towards.

“Yeah, I skipped {insert activity} for the last six weeks but I’m really going to buckle down this week and I’ll be fine.”

There’s a reason why the lottery is called a tax on the poor. It’s a losing strategy. Simple as that.

It’s impossible to deny this with the running analogy. Common sense tells us there’s only one sure way of accomplishing your goal for sure. Emphasis on for sure.

Put. in. the miles.

Day after day after day, sticking to the process and accomplishing the necessary tasks.

The egotistical “smart” teenager I was still wouldn’t have taken the hint so I’ll leave you with some thoughts on WHY…

If you’re focused on the process you naturally build a long-term, goal orientated mindset as opposed to being opportunistic.

Your dedication to the process of accomplishing necessary tasks will build your skills, ability, and self-confidence.

By focusing on yourself rather than the results you are forced to take responsibility for what you definitely can control.

A high level of self-confidence and belief means a high level of resilience when things don’t go as expected. You’ll not only be better prepared for upward mobility in life but you’ll be proud of yourself and happy.

For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and forfeit his soul (Mark 8:36)