Effort vs Results

I am working with one of the guys in my firm, and when I asked him why we hadn’t moved a specific project forward, he told me with an exasperated tone, “I’m trying!”

I’m sure he was trying. And I didn’t doubt his effort for a moment. There is no indication that this guys is lazy or avoids his responsibilities. And I’m glad for his effort.

But, here’s the thing… As Bill Parcells was so eloquently quoted in the book about a week in the NY Giants 1989 season, “there are no medals for trying.” I know that’s harsh, but that’s the truth. 

It’s also crap.

The reality of this discussion is that there are two sides, and it just depends on your perspective.

When you wake up in the morning and go to bed at night, all that matters is effort. You have to look yourself in the mirror and know that you tried your best, you broke your ass, and you gave it everything you had. In those moments of introspection, success and failure don’t matter. What matters is whether you can look yourself in the mirror and be proud of the effort you put forth.

But at the same time, life is a results-driven business. Everybody around you only cares about outcomes. There is no concern about effort. If you woke up, did the bare minimum, but exceeded every external goal and measure that your peers, coworkers, family, etc put on you, then they will be happy with your performance and the value you’re adding.

It’s easy to beat yourself up when you fall short of your goals despite your best effort. This is useless self flagellation. Have pride in your work, and focus on process, results be damned. 

It’s also easy to get seduced into cutting corners, doing just enough to keep those around you happy, and only feel validation from outside praise. This is shallow victory. Know that these people will be gone the moment you are no longer adding value to their lives.

The trick is to balance these competing dialogues. Understand that you have to be happy with your effort, but don’t expect anybody else to care about anything but results.

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