Most writers don’t fear writing. They’re to hit the publish button. They fear the judgment of other people, the stats, the response, the outcome.
If I worried about how well each blog post would do, I’d never publish anything. Of course, I want my work to do well and I’m glad when it does. But more and more I realize that doing great work for the sake of doing great work often causes the outcome you want.
By not trying to angle my writing a certain way just to get clicks, I get clicks. Regardless of what you think of my writing, I’m writing what I believe to be the truth. I put forth my best effort and leave it at that. That’s the best I can hope for and so far it has worked out well.
But this isn’t a post about writing, it’s a post about true confidence.
Confidence has many definitions, but here’s the one I prefer. Confidence is doing what you truly want to do without caring about the outcome.
You want to succeed. You want positive outcomes. But you’re not a slave to your wants and desires. You’re the true embodiment of the “you win some, you lose some” mentality. You’re never too up and you’re never too down.
What about you?
I bet you have many desires. You want to accomplish your dreams but you’re so worried about how your effort will pan out that you end up doing nothing. And you behave this way for one simple reason.
Imagine you went from being a millionaire to losing $900,000, only being left with $110,000.
Also, imagine you went from having $50,000 to $100,000.
Even though the absolute dollar is higher in the first scenario, psychologically you’d much prefer the latter.
We don’t think in absolutes. We think in terms of gains and losses, and losses get ten times the weight of gains.
And the trick we play on ourselves makes things even more difficult.
Sometimes we count situations as losses that aren’t really losses.
For whatever reason, when you get rejected, you feel like you lose a little piece of your self-worth each time. It’s hard not to take rejection personally, but this is exactly what the person with outcome dependence does.
You walk up to that cute person and get shot down. The normal person takes it as a personal affront. The outcome independent person thinks, “Eh, maybe I wasn’t their type.”
You submit your book and get rejected by a dozen publishers. The normal person translates that into “I’m a shit writer.” The outcome independent person thinks, “This will be a good fit with another publisher.”
Either that or they’ll go back and revise their draft because the work itself isn’t worthy yet, which is a huge difference of the person not being worthy at all.
There are only three ways to handle rejections:
You’ll never not care about rejection altogether, but if you can get to a place where you take it with a massive grain of salt, your confidence will increase tenfold.
You’ve probably never really failed at your dream.
Starting a blog and quitting after six weeks isn’t failing, it’s quitting.
Starting a business that never got a single customer isn’t failing, it’s a hobby that never got off the ground.
Any scenario where you kind of half-try for a short period of time isn’t failing. In these scenarios, you’re hiding. You’re hiding because you’re afraid of the real loss you may face:
“The short answer is that it’s really risky to work hard because if you fail you can no longer say you failed because you didn’t work hard […]It’s far more psychologically dangerous and difficult to prepare for a task than not to prepare.” – The Last Psychiatrist
He credits Tiger woods as the model for how to prepare and perform. Regardless of whether he wins or loses, he practices just as hard for the next tournament as if the prior didn’t just happen.
It’s no coincidence that top athletes often fit the description in the above quote. Athletes want to win, bad, but if they spent a whole season trying to win the championship to no avail, they just start over.
They don’t retire because they didn’t win the championship. They’re not dependent on the outcome of a single season.
Life is very much a game. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way, you fumble, you swing and miss, but you keep playing.
This is a good attitude to take when you’re trying to achieve your goals and dreams.
Your life is like an athlete’s career. You have many seasons and you know for a fact you won’t win a championship every single season. That doesn’t deter you from playing the game.
Your life will never change until you “get off the bench.”
For some reason, we have this fear of shining so brightly that people don’t want to be around us.
But as Marianne Williamson said:
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
Now, this doesn’t mean you go around bragging about your accomplishments, because that will turn people off. But if you have to downplay who you are to get people to like you, are they really people you want in your life in the first place?
Which would you rather have, a large circle of friends you have to contort yourself for and perform like a dancing monkey? Or a small handful of friends who like you for who you are?
It’s funny, usually, the most charismatic people with tons of friends are the ones who don’t need a bunch of friends.
Neediness — outcome dependence — repels people from you. Nobody likes a desperate person.
Again, you don’t have to get on your soapbox, espouse all your views of self-actualization, and cut people out of your life who don’t agree with you a hundred percent. But worrying about what other people think is a surefire way to take your dreams to the grave with you, having never accomplished them.
So far, I’ve talked about all of the negative aspects of outcome independence, but what are the solutions? How do you develop outcome independence?
Still, to this day, I have no idea how well one of my articles will perform.
So what’s my personal antidote to outcome dependence? I write a lot. Like a lot, a lot.
I don’t try to produce quantity over quality. I aim for both. After years of writing, I have a large library of articles, 20 percent of which account for 80 percent of the views I’ve gotten.
Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard about the 80/20 rule before, but if you truly believed it, you’d behave differently. You wouldn’t worry so much about each individual scenario, goal, moment of effort, etc. You’d keep ‘shooting your shot.’
As you progress, you’ll come to find that if you both work hard and smart, success will occur at some point, you just don’t know which one.
Anything you want in life comes from repetition. Repetition is how you get good at stuff. Keep trying. See what works and what doesn’t. Avoid what doesn’t work, double down on what does, and repeat.
All the while you’re not overly concerned about all of these specific outcomes. When you care less about the specific, you get abundance, confidence, and success in the general.
But…most people focus on the specific outcomes of teeny tiny instances in the grand scheme of things.
It’s so ironic.
We deeply fear wasting time, but we constantly waste it.
I get this comment or email constantly:
“I want to try to do [x], but I don’t want to waste my time.”
This is false.
You don’t fear wasting time. You fear the same fear I already wrote about in an earlier section — trying really hard and failing, the outcome.
You’ll gladly squander away your time when you know the outcome:
Humans are weird in that they both desperately crave certainty but also desire uncertainty.
You’re tired of living your monotonous life and want to try something new, but at the same time, a predictable life, while not exciting, does provide a perverted sense of comfort.
You may hate your job, but you know exactly what time you have to show up and what to do.
Your friends are kind of losers, but you know they’ll be there to party it up with you without judging you (but also without pushing you to be better).
Your life, in general, is kind of meh, but you more or less know what to expect.
Stepping outside the box isn’t about spending your time. It’s about spending your time on an uncertain outcome. You fear it, but you crave it, so how do you actually do anything about it?
Negative emotions are hard to deal with. I’ve learned to deal with my negative emotions by using them to my advantage. If I’m jealous of someone, I turn my envy to curiosity.
I try to reverse engineer what they did to get what they have. I know having a chip on your shoulder isn’t always healthy, but I might as well use it until it goes away.
When it comes to fear of outcomes, I flip that on its head, too. Since I know how much I care about outcomes, I think about the outcomes I don’t want.
I was scared to build my own career and make my own money, but I knew I definitely didn’t want to work for someone else.
I’m not super excited to go to the gym by any means, but I know I definitely don’t want to be overweight and unhealthy.
As far as my life in general, I’m scared of many, many, many things, but I know I don’t want to die with all this potential left on the table.
So I ‘shoot my shot.’ But I’m human, too. Deep down, I’ll always care to a certain extent.
But it does lessen over time. The more you produce, the less you have to rely on a sole piece of effort. The more you do succeed in the general, the less concerned you are about the specific.
It will get better, trust me. But you have to start. And I know what I’m asking of you.
This shit is hard. And counterintuitive. I know how you feel.
I just told you not to care about specific outcomes, but kind of care about long-term outcomes, but also not really.
Life is complicated. Binary thinking and digestible prescriptions for success won’t help you.
Me promising you anything won’t help you either, because no matter how much I wish for your success, you’re the one who has to pull it off.
That push and pull of desire and contentment, effort and outcome independence, short-term indifference and long-term persistence — these things are hard to master.
And you’ll try to master them your entire life without even getting close.
But it’ll be worth it. And you’ll have many of the outcomes you want when it’s all said and done.