Some might argue there’s an errant word in this blog post title. “It’s ALWAYS about the end goal!” I’ll concede that many projects require an intense focus on the end result in order to achieve the expected result. And I agree wholeheartedly that results matter. But let’s talk about process. Two things converged that brought this to mind.

The first wasn’t so much one thing but a series of conversations with students with a common theme: “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.” Some students are blessed with this driving sense of purpose; they know they are going to be an analyst working in corporate finance, or a marketing person working in the fashion industry. Others are less certain about their path, and this (understandably) can be the source of some anxiety and frustration.

The second thing that precipitated this post was an article on another blog, BuiltLean, by Marc Perry. (unpaid endorsement: Marc is a Yale-educated fitness guy with a knack for writing.) In this article, Marc interviewed a woman who had some very astute observations:

“Charles Staley once said, ‘focus on your effort, not the outcome.’ The effort is what you do. The outcome is the byproduct of what you do. So if you fall in love with doing…then the results will come.  Shift your perspective and make your main goal the quality and quantity of effort you put in. Try to become a person who enjoys the effort.”

I’ve chopped up that quote for space (you can read the whole thing here). Dani Shugart, isn’t talking about career advice but she might as well be. Focus on the effort. Often, MBA students get fixated on this idea that there is one dream job out there and they just have to find it. What if, instead, we focused on doing the right things and then trusted that the effort would yield the results we wanted? Something to think about when the end goal isn’t always as clear as we’d like it to be.