Letters to my sons

A collection of thoughts and lessons I've learned along the way for my little men, and anyone else that's interested.

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My sons,

Something that corporate America puts a large emphasis on is this concept of owning outcomes. It is so deeply rooted in our professional culture that at the time of my writing this, the exact phrase “owning outcomes” is one of the things that my company measures my performance on.

We are a capitalist culture that is hyper focused on outcomes, on the output of the individual, the team, the company. So much so that we’ll often sacrifice other things to get the results that we want.

Now, don’t get me wrong - I believe that owning your outcomes is a good thing. It’s good to be intentional, to be deliberate, to have the organizational mindset that enables planning for success and for achievement. But as always, too much of a good thing can and likely will become a bad thing, and I believe that we’ve gone overboard with this notion of owning outcomes. Here’s why.

First, when we put ownership of outcomes so much higher than other attributes such as empathy, balance, and mature judgment, we miss out on the fact that in pursuit of those outcomes, we may in fact cause pain to others. We ignore the fact that we may be causing a natural imbalance that has other rippling effects. And we may not spend the time to thoughtfully assess the impact of our actions on other areas of our concern.

Second, when we focus too much on outcomes, we lose sight of the fact that in the journey of life, the destination isn’t the only important thing. We are sometimes so incredibly focused on where we want to be, what experiences we want to have, what the notch on our belt or the line item on our resume will be that we forget to take into consideration who we are becoming. How will these experiences and choices shape the men that we are becoming, the values that we are acquiring, and the natural inclination to repeat these choices in the future?

Lastly, when we focus on outcomes, people become an afterthought at worst, a resource or asset to tap at best. And resources over time tend to be exploited selfishly for their worth to us.

So my challenge to you today is to recognize that while planning well and having a thoughtful strategy for your life is a good thing, ultimately the outcome is out of our control. Be content with the way you handle factors that are in your control; factors like the way that you respond to stressful situations, or the patience you have with the person who cut you off. Don’t focus so much on the outcomes here, because chances are, many of these outcomes aren’t as important as the men that you are becoming.


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