What I learned from outcome chasing in my careerFeatured

From co-founding a startup to failing, building my career as a product marketer to starting my own coaching & consulting business - here’s what I’ve learned from chasing outcome after outcome.1. We have very little control over outcomes (but our brains like to pretend we do).Our brains love to believe that we have a lot of control in our lives, but the truth is we don’t (we’re seeing this play out right now with COVID-19). The only thing we have control over is our thoughts and how we react to circumstances.The first time this sunk in for me on a professional level was when the startup I co-founded in 2015 failed. I gave it everything I had and it wasn’t enough. I felt a lot of shame and thought it meant I wasn’t “entrepreneurial”. It took me a while to shift my mindset from “I’m not capable” to “it didn’t work out this time, but I can try again”. It’s easy to say, “if I just work hard enough and put in the hours, I’ll make it work.” While hard work is non-negotiable for success, it doesn’t promise success. Believing hard-work promises success is what fuels hustle culture and leads to burnout. In 2018 after working at early-stage startups for three years, I jumped through all the proverbial job interview “hoops” and got an offer at a dream publicly-traded tech company - only to have the offer rescinded five days before my start date because of visa issues. I’d already quit my old job and told everyone about my new exciting gig. I kept thinking, “How could this happen? I did everything right!”. There were lots of tears. When we believe hard work promises success, we feel entitled to results - entitled to outcomes. That entitlement is a poison to our future success, satisfaction in life, and keeps us ruminating and stuck on what we should have or could have done differently. There are so many variables that contribute to our success that are outside our control and the minute we accept and embrace that, we can move through life with so much more grace and peace.2. Outcomes are fleetingThis desire to control our lives and outcomes tends to manifest as rigid practices in our day-to-day lives. For me, this rigidity looked like working 60 hour weeks and using weekends to “catch up” on whatever I thought I was “behind” on. Note: these hours weren’t pressed upon me from the startups I was working at - they were self-imposed. I thought that any free time I had should be devoted to learning - growing - not chilling or enjoying. All of this rigidity in my life was geared towards chasing certain outcomes: smashing my OKRs, getting a promotion, etc. I spent so much of my 20s living in the future, miserably chasing these future outcomes, rarely stopping to breathe and enjoy the process or embrace where I was. When the outcome I desired actually came, I rejoiced for what felt like a moment and then quickly moved onto tackling the next thing on my wishlist. Outcomes are fleeting. We can spend weeks, months, hell, even years chasing certain outcomes and when they finally arrive, we quickly move on. That’s why it’s so important to enjoy the process - most of life happens in the process. If we aren’t enjoying the process then what kind of life are we living? Joy and fulfillment don’t happen if and when we achieve something - they ought to exist while we’re working to achieve those things. Even if we don’t get the outcomes we want, we can at least say we enjoyed the ride. The time to enjoy your life is right now. How can you approach your work and challenges from a place of playfulness? 3. Ignoring your intuition is costlyBeing too rigid blocks us from listening to our bodies. When we’re set on following our logical mind and the rigid processes we set for ourselves, we actually shut out our intuitive side - our subconscious mind. We need both sides. When we’re dealing with uncertainty or ambiguity and our logical mind starts short-circuiting trying to figure out what to do with not enough information, that’s a great time to check in with your gut - and listen. In my experience, your intuition communicates with you through your body - that lump in your throat, tightness in your chest, pit in your stomach - all relevant data points. In my first year in business, I launched a program in my coaching business that I wasn’t excited about. My logical mind told me to be excited about it - I’d spent months putting it together, but in my gut, it didn’t feel quite right. I launched it anyway because pivoting felt like a step back from achieving my desired outcome. I went on to make a whopping zero sales (and “waste” more time).It’s like if you got on a bus and then realized you were headed in the wrong direction. In your gut, you know you need to get off the bus, but the other part of you is thinking, “You already went through the trouble of getting on this bus! Just see what happens!”Your body gives you so much information. If you’re tired, in pain, or uncomfortable - don’t just dismiss it as something to overcome - take it as an intuitive hit. In my experience, chasing outcome after outcome means you’re likely ignoring the signals from your body that something is off balance. The unexpected can be scary, but other times it can be utterly glorious. By releasing attachment to outcomes, enjoying the process, and trusting my intuition as a reliable compass, I’ve been able to build a career and business doing what I love and find success on my terms - even if it’s a different version than the one society glorifies.
Love this, thank you for sharing! Especially the point about taking the subconscious/intuitive/gut side of ourselves seriously. So important, in my experience.
So glad it resonated Sandra! The way I see it, biologically our subconscious/intuition developed over millennia to help make decision making easier for humans and I think a lot of rhetoric has written it off as "fluffy", but really it's a powerful tool that nature gave us for a reason 💪🏻
This is great, I am in my 20's and can relate to this so much. I feel like burning myself out is the only way to achieve everything that I want and need to but this advice really helps me realize that burnout shouldn't be the norm!
I feel you Deb! I think a lot of what we see, especially in tech, tells us that if we don't run ourselves into the ground we're not worthy or "serious" enough about what we're trying to do. It's so messed up IMO. Also, just from a productivity and impact standpoint, how great will your contributions be when you're running on empty and feeling fried? We gotta fill up our cups!
Love, love, love this!! And I think so much of the startup hustle culture rhetoric tells us we need to ignore / push through those feelings and perform anyway. I've started learning to be more observant about my own bodily reactions and it pays off enormously. Thanks so much for sharing!
So true. When did it become a good idea to stop listening to what our bodies are telling us? Like if you're running and feel sharp pains in your knee, any sane person would tell you to lay off running until it's healed. Why do we ignore that when it comes to work in the name of "productivity"?
This is wonderful, thank you so much for sharing! "Hustling" seems to be so hyped up with such a focus on spending your "free time" working or learning something new -- hopefully with more awareness it will start to change.
Thank you Daisy! Agree - what's wrong with boredom? Some of the best ideas or epiphanies come from boredom - from mind wandering - from doing seemingly "unproductive" activities for the sole purpose of enjoyment. Sometimes doing "nothing" is the most productive thing you can do.
This is such a valuable post. Thank you so much for writing this. I am in my early career days and found the first point especially valuable. Hustle culture and burnout really are toxic mindsets.
Thank you for sharing this Michelle ❤️
Great article! Thank you for sharing!
Thank you for reading! 💞
Thank you so much for sharing this, what a read! I can relate to so much of it, especially the voice in my head telling me hustling is the only way. Your experience is incredibly eye-opening and make you one hell of a coach!
Thank you *so* much for your kind words Abigail! I'm glad it resonated - thank you for reading 💞.
Thank you so much for sharing! Every point that you hit on, I was like - 'yep, check, check, check'. This completely resonated with me.
That makes my day Gina! I'm really happy it struck a cord - thank you so much for sharing your thoughts 🌻
Thank you for writing this :) I just turned 20 and it's really helpful to have advice on what people wished they focused on instead. I definitely resonate with what you said about using the weekend to "catch up". I'm guilty of having said "grind never stops" too many times but it's so important to take breaks. The more I relax during recovery time, the more i can turn on my focus and "grind" in the times when i am working. As opposed to operating at a mediocre level all the time, which doesn't set you up for long-term high-performance at all
💯. Rooting for you Amy! Thank you so much for sharing.
Wow, it’s like you’re writing about the story of my life. I know how it feels to chase your desired outcome for years only to be left unsatisfied. Learned this lesson the hard way and trying to unlearn it is even harder. Than you for the reminder and wise words!
Thank you for sharing this Leah! What you said about "unlearning" really resonated with me. I feel like I spent so much time "learning" as a kid/teenager, and then a good bulk of my 20s "unlearning" a bunch of stuff.
This hit close to home! So hard to focus on the process and not on the outcome though. I struggle with this every day.
I think we all do 💛. But it's something we can get better at over time with practice - like a "muscle" we can exercise to increase its strength.
This post really touched me. It's something I really needed to see. The philosophy of enjoying the process and going after your gut rather than following social trends is something I was subconsciously doing but doubting from time to time, because people around are so "hard working" in manifesting the opposite things. Now I feel more confident about the priorities I put in my life. Thank you once again!
This just made my day Yasmina. Thank you for your kind words and for taking the time to share this with me 💛.
This is allll so true. I felt the same way after quitting my first business last summer and returning to a full-time job. That entrepreneurial shame is real. Plus the naivety (?) of thinking if you SIMPLY work hard can do it. I definitely was completely burned out because of that mentality. I feel you on all of this!!
💛 💞 Thank you so much for sharing this Katherine!
Arielle, this is so great, and resonates with me deeply. This year I had to take medical leave as the stress of a toxic work culture lead my chronic pain issues to flare up to the point that I couldn't use a laptop without horrible pain. My time off from work gave me time to really listen to my body and trust my intuition and I'm now planning to transition to freelance work, or a remote position that is flexible and understanding of the fact that I can't sit in the same chair for 8 hours a day - I can get the job done without sticking to old school corporate rules!
I'm so sorry to hear about the toxic work culture and the health issues you experienced Jaime 💔. But I'm really glad you gave yourself the space to listen to your body and your intuition and are finding a path that feels more aligned and conducive to how you want to live your life 💛. Rooting for you!
Thank you! :)
So powerful. Can you please share the steps you took to navigate your rescinded job offer? I can't imagine how difficult that period of your life was. It would be really helpful to know how you overcame it.
1. Cried. Felt my feelings.2. Accepted the circumstances. Adopted the mindset that something better was meant to be.3. Re-engaged other companies I'd been speaking to in my job search process (luckily I had some other runner-ups I was excited about. Lesson: don't put all your eggs in one basket, even if you feel like it's a sure thing.)4. Used my "time off" to work on some things I'd never had time to before. Projects I'd never gotten around to on weekends etc. I'd never taken more than 10 days off at a time in like 4 years, so I embraced this new stretch of time and freedom to be bored (a luxury) and work on those things. 5. This happened in April. So I had just gotten money back from taxes. So I wasn't terribly stressed about money and had savings. I also had a supportive partner who covered rent for one month which I was really lucky to have. It was another reminder for me about how important an emergency fund is.6. Started with a new company 6 weeks later. This was largely because I kept conversations going with other companies throughout the process, so they were still "warm". Hope that helps! No magic pill here. I think it's really about embracing that you can't change circumstances, you can only change your thoughts and feelings which in turn change the actions you take and the results you get. If I wallowed in self-pity too long I wouldn't have been able to recalibrate and get back on the horse.
Yes! I went through a similar process, realizing that I was chasing career success and promotion above my happiness. I did it for years until I just couldn’t anymore. Now my focus is on having a daily life and job experience that I love and am grateful for, with the hopeful potential to have a good outcome. But if not, at least I was enjoying myself along the way. Even still, I have guilt when I get tired or when I need a break on the weekends. I feel guilt when I’m not working, but I also know that down time is what gives you the energy to get back at it fully on Monday morning and to keep going. All about sustainability. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you for sharing this! 💜
Honestly, this is exactly what I needed to hear. I switched careers after "wasting" my early 20s in an industry I didn't want to be in, and I've felt like I've needed to play catch-up ever since to achieve outcomes commensurate to my peers, because everyone around me didn't have this "setback." It's so hard to reframe that narrative once you've internalized it.
I’m glad it resonated ❤️. Reframing can be challenging. I like to think of it like a muscle we need to exercise. We don’t just build strong muscles in one shot, it’s repetitive tries over and over again until one day we realize we’ve got new muscles 💪🏻. Good for you for following your gut and making that shift ✨
I love this line- "your intuition communicates with you through your body - that lump in your throat, tightness in your chest, pit in your stomach - all relevant data points." At my current job, and even before I started, the knot in my stomach was there but I wanted the control of having a job... "just see what happens!" 🤷‍♀️ As I'm transitioning away, I'm nervous, but excited nervous, and it feels so different!