I have been thinking a lot about accomplishments lately. Like most people, I have a list of things I would like to do in my life. But if you stop and think about it, how much do the accomplishments actually matter? Not a whole hell of a lot. If I could wake up tomorrow and call myself a best-selling author, or a record holder, would I be a different person? Not at all. Because it is not the accomplishment that actually means anything. It’s the process that means something, that means everything.
Edward Tufte is a pioneer in the work of data design and visualization. He has written multiple best-selling books and helped to inspire things like the writing culture at Amazon. But when asked about all the work he has done, he doesn’t talk about those accomplishments. He talks about his process. The amount of time and attention he puts into learning and distilling information. Often he doesn’t even care about the outcomes (several times he has let others take credit for or patent his ideas). On a recent podcast, he paraphrased Chuck Close in saying, “inspiration is for amateurs and the rest of us just go to the studio every day and go to work.”
This type of mentality runs through many of the most prolific writers and creators of today. Steven Pressfield, Seth Godin, and Austin Kleon; all share similar love for doing the work for the work’s sake. It may seem easy for them to say this, as they have all written multiple best-sellers. But they all attribute their success not to a desire for success but to a devotion to the process. And they all say their fulfillment comes not from success but from the process. An example of this is when Pressfield completed his first novel, he didn’t take a day off and instead dove into the next one.
The change in mindset is hard. But when you realize that the process is what it is all about, things change. The pain involved doesn’t seem so bad. You crave for the chance to get back to work. The process becomes enough. Outcomes no longer matter. If you follow the process for the rest of your life and nothing big awaits you at the end, you will still feel satisfied. So, instead of waiting and wishing, get to work and remember that the process is reward enough.
“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.” ―Chuck Close