I had just finished my second book, and I was feeling great. The caring, wonderful woman I am married too wasn’t feeling nearly as great.
“I’m worried about you,” Celeste said completely unrelated to our conversation.
“Why?” I asked.
“If this book doesn’t sell you will be crushed.”
“No I won’t.”
“Yes you will.”
“I can assure you, I won’t be.”
“Your mom is worried too.”
“She is? Why is she worried?”
“She knows you will be crushed.”
Now it was getting comical. Everyone was worried about my feelings except for me. I tried to reassure her with, “Hon, I don’t know why, but all I can tell you is that I won’t be crushed. I just know it.”
I did know it. I knew I would be fine, but I wasn’t sure why or how I knew that. What I didn’t understand then but do now is this: I knew I was going to be fine because I had separated myself from the outcome. I was releasing a book that took 7 years to write and a lifetime of planning. I finally finished it by getting up at 4:30am for a year to write before heading to work at 6:45am. I spent months more editing it myself, figuring out how to self-publish it, and creating the website for it. Finally, my 313 page mental game training manual was ready to sell.
With all that, you’d think it might be hard to divorce myself from the outcome of sales, but it wasn’t. I realized that the book wasn’t about the outcome. It had to be written, and I had done it. I loved the process, and the process, the experience of writing, was the real point.
I can’t say for sure, but I am certain it’s true for me: I am at my best when I am engaged in my work, not the outcome. I’m not suggesting that you should care less about outcomes. Sometimes we love outcomes. I’m just asking you, is the outcome the point of what you are doing? Is the outcome more important than the work, the craft? Hopefully both have some meaning to you, but if you mentally attach some sort of self-worth, self-image, or happiness to the trophies other people attach to your work, I think you are probably pointing yourself in the wrong direction.
If I were so concerned about outcomes, I might well have been crushed at the lack of sales of that labor of love, but because I wasn’t strongly attached to the outcome, I was able to move on.
Now, this isn’t to say that I didn’t want the book to sell. I did want it to sell. I very much wanted it to sell. I simply understood that the sales of the book indicated nothing about me as a person other than that I wrote a book that didn’t sell. I could live with that, so I was free to take that chance. I experienced many wonderful moments through the process of taking that chance, and now I know that I can take more risks because I understand the outcome does not define me or control my happiness. I am married to a wonderful woman, not the outcome of book sales or blog statistics.
A few questions for you to ponder: Do your thoughts about imagined outcomes prevent you from taking action on your dreams? If so, what are those outcomes? Are the outcomes the point of your dream or is the experience the point? Could you live with the worst outcome you can imagine?
What did you find in asking those questions? I hope what you found is what I found when I took a chance: Mental and emotional freedom from the outcome (even if you have great desire for a certain outcome). It’s okay to feel the sting of losing. Understand the pain won’t last, pick yourself up, and get back to making plays. Best wishes on turning those dreams into reality.