July 8, 2020

Do not focus on results, focus on progress

Yesterday, I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine who is doing an awesome job side hustling her way through her creative talents. She paints, sketches, draws and set up an Etsy shop to sell cards, prints and custom prints. Given that I have my own side hustle of books, she asked me something that made me think about why I do the things that I do.

She asked: “How do you reconcile the fact that your side hustle will never replace your day job?”

It is a good question and the first thing that I thought was “I wouldn’t say never” but what was important here, and what I think the question was getting at, was that “Why do all this work to do a side hustle if it will never amount to anything?”

I have had similar philosophical conversations with some of my closest friends in management consulting. If you do all this work to develop an amazing business case, or strategic roadmap, and all the client does is print it out and put it on a shelf somewhere to collect dust (i.e., not do anything with it), do you feel at all depressed for putting in a ton of work into something that will never say the light of day?

My answer at the time was no – for me, doing excellent work was reward enough. And as I thought about what to say to my friend, the same thoughts went through my mind.

To me, with side hustles, it’s not just about doing excellent work. Sure, I would be proud of the fact that I self published a book that I myself like and that my friends enjoy. I wouldn’t worry about whether or not the books sold a lot of copies or not. But there’s also a bigger concept here that I would focus on – the fact that I’m developing skills, learning new things, and slowly doing the things that the person I want to become would do.

Something that I think about every single day, and this I learned from James Altucher, is how I am going to improve by 1% every single day. What small but practical things can I do to improve by 1% in my physical (for example, what kind of new activities or exercises can I do), in my mental (what new books can I read to learn something new and implement), spiritual (did I practice some sort of silent practice), and my emotional (who can I connect with today to build or grow the relationship).

The side hustle is a part of this but it does not have to be for everyone. To me, my side hustle of writing and publishing books is focused on improving the skill of writing, understanding how to market books, graphic design and getting into that practice every single day. Selling books as a side hustle to replace my day job would be an incredible outcome, but one that may or may not happen. However, improving my writing skills is a definite outcome if I get into the habit of writing every day, reflecting on my writing and the comments that I get, and trying new things. Will I become a best-selling author? I hope so one day. Will I become a better writer day after day? Definitely.

Focus on progress and magically, the results will come. Would you go to your boss and ask for a raise promising all of the results that you will bring to the company in the coming year? Probably not – you would do the work, prove that you can get the results and then go to your boss asking for a raise. The results come after you do the work so focus on doing the work.

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