Focus on the Process and You’ll Never Quit Again
Tl;dr: substantive success takes time to build. If you’re in, you should be in for the long game. Focusing on the process instead of the results enables you to rest instead of quitting.
I have started countless things in my life that I never finished: books, movies, movie scripts, relationships, learning Russian, cakes.
No need to bullsh*t some lame excuses as to why I never finished them.
I lacked courage, motivation, discipline and I behaved like a lazy spoiled useless bastard.
Then one day, I came across a quote.
I don’t remember who said it nor its exact phrasing, but it sounded like this: “learn to rest instead of quitting.”
That got me thinking.
Why Are You Doing What You Are Doing?
I believe we can approach the realization of a project from two different mindsets: consumption, and production.
A consumption-based approach of the realization of a project is hardwired into the desire to see the end-result, such as buying something.
When you go grocery shopping, you don’t do it for the sake of pleasure to be in a supermarket. You go buy your groceries because you need the food.
If you could avoid going in the first place and still getting the food, you would.
As such, the consumption-based approach aims at obtaining as fast as possible the end of a project.
The process is not agreeable. Its purpose is to get to the end of it, as soon as possible.
The production-based approach is different. It does not aim so much to reach the end-result – it focuses on the process.
Making music, for example, is realized from a production-based perspective. People making music don’t make the music thinking about the end of the production process. If they did, there wouldn’t be any music in the first place.
They make music because they enjoy the process of making music.
The production-based approach is rooted in the desire to “be doing” something. With the production-based approach, the purpose of a project is the making of the project itself.
In most cases, in fact, the end of the project is interpreted as a sad event because the undertaker needs to find a new project to focus on.
The Differences Between the Production and Consumption-Based Approaches
What sets apart production and consumption-based approaches is the “why” of a project.
While getting ice-cream seems to be a consumption-based activity, it could be part of a production-based approach if its aim was framed into the context of taking a walk or spending time with someone for example.
In this perspective, the purpose shifts from eating ice-cream (an end the result) to spending time taking a walk, which is (most of the time) realized from a production-based perspective.
Know Where You Want to End up, but Don’t Focus Too Much on It
The problem with the consumption-based approach is that it is too much end-focused.
As a result, the work is carelessly botched because what matters is the end of it.
This can only lead to tensions. The production-based approach, however, fulfills the pioneer in that it enables him to practice what he wishes to practice, disregarding the end-result.
I like to think that Leonardo Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa so well because he enjoyed the process much more than he was interested in the end of it.
Similarly, I doubt Zuckerberg knew what Facebook would become that tragic night he got dumped by his girlfriend.
All he wanted to do was having fun.
If you wish to decrease your chances to quit, you must shift your approach from consumption-based to production-based. This will enable you to enjoy the process and you will produce much higher quality work than you would have otherwise.
Not so long ago, I approached traveling from a consumption mindset. I wanted the end result. I wanted to say “I have been there” instead of actually wanting to “be there”.
I was so addicted that it’d be up to the point where I’d schedule trips to a random country just to cross it off my list.
I believe that it’s what most people travel for today. They identify traveling as a cool activity and hope to become cool too by doing so. This impression is subsequently reinforced by the validation they receive from Facebook and Instagram.
Rest Instead of Quitting
It’s difficult to rest when you start a project from a consumption-based perspective.
The difficulties and setbacks question the worth of your work. Since you’re not getting the end-result, wouldn’t you be better off quitting altogether?
This question does not exist in the case of production-based initiatives.
For sure, not the entire production process is agreeable, and there will be setbacks and difficulties.
But since the end-result does not matter too much compared to the actual process, the approach enables you to rest and get back to it later on.
Over the long-term, the difference between resting and quitting is huge.
Rest means that the potential to succeed still exists, even if it equals to 1%. Quitting means you downgrade it to 0%. And do you know how huge the difference between 0 and 1 is?
Nope, it’s not 1.
It’s much bigger.
Let’s say you have a magic bowl inside which you can put anything, and that bowl will multiply what you put inside infinitely.
If you have nothing, the bowl is useless.
Zero multiplied by a billion is still zero. You can’t put anything inside the bowl and as a result, you get nothing.
But if you have something as small as 1 cent, you can multiply that cent infinitely with the bowl.
That’s how big the difference between 0 and 1 is.
Anything multiplied by 0 will always be 0.
Not even “the infinite” multiplied by 0 can get you somewhere.
0 is the strongest.
1, though, represents almost infinite potential.
If you sell one piece of junk for 1€ to a million people, that makes a million euros.
That’s a lot.
That’s how big the difference between 0 and 1 is. That is how big the difference between quitting and resting is as well.
1+1+1+1+1…repeated a million times will make you a million.
0+0+0+0+0…repeated a billion times will always make you zero.
The slightest progress is progress, and will always be worth more than zero.
The Bottom Line
If you shift your mindset from a consumption to a production-based perspective, you’ll significantly decrease your chances of quitting.
If you enjoy the process, you’ll produce much higher quality work than if you do not.
Knowing why you initiate an activity helps with switching your perspective from a consumption-based approach to a production-based approach.
Should you adopt the latter, you’ll get far before you realize it, and won’t even think about the end anymore.
You’ll be enjoying the process.