Focusing on the Process Instead of the Prize

Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/21651911@N00/2332490291/">Justin Gaurav Murgai</a> via <a href=”http://compfight.com">Compfight</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>
Follow the process and not the prize- Ryan Holiday

In a culture driven by achievement, accolades, unicorn, twitter followers, Klout scores, and countless other metrics we end up focusing on the prize over the process.

  • We focus on the finished book over the daily writing practice.
  • We focus on the score over the current play
  • We focus on the moment the startup gets funded over building a great product
  • We focus on the ideal weight instead of the workout and calories we need to burn today.
  • We focus on the revenue goal over the numbers over actions we have to take to move the needle on those numbers.

What Ryan is referring to as the process is entirely within our control. We can do something today to move the needle on the project we’re working on.

  • We can write more words of a manuscript
  • We can write the first post of the blog we want to start
  • We can sketch out the user interface of the app we want to build
The prize is often out of our hands. We can’t always know what the prize will be. If we focus on the process and abandon our expectations, we increase the likelihood that the prize will exceed our expectations.

A focus on process also allows you to detach from the outcome, and as a result creates much more flow in the work. For example, I can’t control how many people will read or like something I write here on medium. The part that I control is the process, the daily practice of writing 1000 words.

Because the so-called “prize” only exists in the future, it pulls us out of the present moment, away from the action, we could take today and into a fantasy about tomorrow. If instead focused on what we could do TODAY, in this moment, how much more would we actually accomplish? Daily progress and small wins create momentum.

What appears in the eye of the observer to be some gargantuan accomplishment is often the result of 1000’s of small things that nobody every sees.

Small things, done daily with no fanfare or attention called to them. It’s the thousands of small things that we do every day that shapes our destiny. And the paradox is that our focus has to be completely off destiny, which from where we’re standing remains some elusive concept in the distant future.


I’m the host and founder of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast.

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