Taking Responsibility For Unwanted Outcomes
15 July 2020
When it comes to pursuing goals… one of the strangest and probably the most heartbreaking lessons I have ever had to learn, is that you have to take some level of responsibility for unwanted outcomes.
Hindsight. The ability to understand a situation or event only AFTER it has occurred or developed.
You see, there is usually something you could have done. Or something you should NOT have done. Decisions you should have made… etc.
So why am I even writing about this?
Because there’s a habit, or a set of related habits, that we tend to fall into when things don’t go our way.
We complain about how things are not setup to make us succeed. We blame other people for directly causing our failures. We get angry at something or someone… for a whole host of reasons.
And usually the only person we don’t find fault with… is ourselves.
Now, let me very very very clear. There are many situations in which the core fault of the outcome was never yours. But I’m not trying to find a villain. Nor am I trying or trying to identify a “bad” or progress hindering environment.
Also, I am NOT saying you should blame, shame, and curse yourself for the unwanted outcome. That is not the very best use of your time and energy as a person pursuing goals.
Instead, I am trying to say this… “Hey. You see that disaster over there? Wanna buy it? It’s real estate”
I am talking about taking responsibility for the outcome.
Now why would anyone want to do that, you ask?
There are a number of reasons. But one of the more important reasons that I want to bring to your attention… is so that you can prevent yourself from being distracted by pain and failure. Which tends to mold your habits and personality after the outcome.
It is very hard for us as humans to sometimes fully appreciate that failing, falling, and getting stuck is NORMAL in a fully lived life. No matter how many times it re-occurs. Usually undesirable, but normal.
Your reaction towards a negative outcome will determine your course of action going forward. And you do not want it to be tainted or infected with negativity from previous experiences. This may only make things more painful when you run into yet another failure.
However, if you choose to own the outcome, you might start to attract more constructive points of view. Meaning, you might start to notice seeds of improvement. Not just on the actions, you take… but also on your character. Hopefully making you ask questions such as, “How does this experience make me better? What can I learn from this outcome?”.
Back in the day, I would do logo design as a side hustle. I am a graphic designer and back then I figured I could help people out with helping design their brand.
Now. It took me a while to learn how to do what I do… and I am pretty darn good at what I do if I do say so myself. So I obviously wouldn’t help you with a logo design in exchange for a sandwich. However, since I was freelancing on the side, I was crazy cheaper than actual professional design companies.
And yet, I still got cheated out of commissions. I was paid in excuses.
Now, you may have been in this kind of situation before or know someone who is and so you will start thinking/criticizing the approach a designer like myself took to get such a sad outcome. And that is EXACTLY why I’m talking about this very topic.
I did not begin thinking about how I made my approach to those clients I engaged. When I realized that the payment I was getting was an excuse or an “I will sort this out at a later date” or worse “exposure points”, imagine my initial reaction.
I was pissed.
And you know what happened next? With anger and suspicion in my blood, I vowed to never let this happen again. I planned that next time I would have a down payment before I worked. And I would eliminate any personal attachment to the work I was doing.
So… how did that work out the next time?
More disappointment. I got even more pissed.
I got to a point where I realized that this was not what I wanted to do. Something that was once a passion of mine, had slowly turned into the most thankless jobs I had ever done in my life.
I hated to design.
So I quit it.
Thankfully, after years of being beaten up the corporate world… I gained some wisdom about working and pursuing passions.
I realized that not owning up to the outcomes I was getting in life, was the biggest chokehold on it. It was the reason why I wasn’t making the kind of progress I wanted.
I wasn’t thinking about reviving my graphic design dream… but I did want to revisit the things I should have done.
First of all… I realized that I didn’t have a goal. Especially one that considered the business side things. All I wanted to do was do more and more of what I was passionate about… and somehow make a decent living from it.
Secondly, because I had no business-like goal… I didn’t have a business-like strategy.
I should have thought about a more structured approach to serving people who needed logo design services.
- Key targets: I should have thought about who I wanted to have as a client. Instead of targeting businesses, I was targeting people who were more or less in the same situation I was in (at least financially). How far can you honestly get with that?
- Marketing: I did none of this. There is a difference between having a website/portfolio online and ACTIVELY marketing yourself or what you offer. I was hoping people would be “impressed” enough to give me a call.
- Service Delivery: I didn’t really have a structured approach to how I worked on projects. And I’m talking about the technical stuff. I didn’t have a client briefing session where I would ask a set of pre-defined questions about the brand. Well, I did… but it wasn’t the best. I didn’t have a revision-limit policy. So much more.
Thirdly, I allowed the outcome to affect the work I would do going forward. It’s no secret that creatives or developers put in these types of situations tend to re-think just how much quality they should put into their next projects.
Meaning, they start letting the “payment” affect the quality of the work they deliver. This is very toxic to your brand-building efforts. I later realized that whether or not I was going to deal with a not-so-perfect client, the work I did for them… would have to be better than anything I did in the past.
Not for them… but for me. To help me attract people more serious about the kind of work I did… and in turn… distance me from the people that didn’t. Hek, there were times I did pro bono work so that I could communicate my level of commitment to the craft and service I was offering. That the immediate transaction was not going to be as valuable as the long term brand strengthening it was going to need.
Imagine having a portfolio of crappy work.
Forth, I let the fact that a few not-so-perfect clients poison and distort my overall view of what a real client was. This discouraged me from wanting to grow in that industry. It discouraged me from wanting to get into business ever and have to deal with clients. I found it better to deal with a boss than a client.
Foolish, I was.
I am wiser now. I know what an actual client looks like. I know my role in helping convert people into the kind of clients I want to interact with. I know just how important it is for me to work on my character/personality to better fit in the service-delivery (business) landscape of what I do.
As long as I am willing to own it. I believe I can better control it. Especially for the next opportunity that comes around.
I used to think that pursuing goals is just about failing your way forward. It is instead about learning your way forward. Because with learning, there is more focus on self-change. You will be surprised at the kind of people and opportunities you tend to attract… when you learn to not let unwanted outcomes mold your view of the world.
One last thing I will say is this. I am not blind to the fact that in general… things are NOT easy. But I assume that you are dreamer, like myself, that’s why you are reading this blog.
I learned that the challenge of pursuing goals isn’t just about attaining those goals. But also about not allowing yourself to get shaped by the inevitable negativity, you will encounter on your journey.
Sometimes, the unwanted outcome presented to you also comes with the opportunity to recalibrate yourself in some small or big way. It is important to be mindful of how such outcomes could shape you from that point going forward. Over time, you will turn into someone that will have either a net positive or negative impact on the people that matter most to you. When you ultimately succeed or fail to attain your goal… you will have to face the life you have built for yourself.
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