Process vs. Project

In 1 on December 20, 2009 at 6:42 pm

In his book The Art of the Start, Guy Kawasaki makes a great distinction that has helped me recently when I have a lot of energy that has no idea what to do.  He says that one of the reasons so many people get stuck is that too often they choose projects to do over refining their processes.  Wow!  I know that feeling.

So part of this process for me is to make sure I only take on projects that fit my process.  I can also say that I know a lot of people who fill their lives with projects simply to burn off energy that is driving them crazy because it is uncomfortable.

So here is what I am trying to follow.

Promise leads to Wonder (energy looking for what matters) to Work (doing what matters) to Power (doing what matters well).

Clearly, there is more to this, but this where I am.  I am wondering, looking for what really matters, not what someone else tells me matters.  At 48, I should have enough of an idea of what matters and what works.  But without holding onto those, it is easy to sink into projects that make me feel engaged, but simply eat up time and energy.

A good friend of mine who is a Grammy award winning drummer was once asked how he keeps from burning out when he is on the road.

I get paid to travel, to be away from my family, to be dehydrated and exhausted, to spend days on a bus.  But I play the drums for free.  I don’t confuse that with what I get paid to do.”

I knew all of this for years, but to some degree doubted it enough to trust it to put it into play.  Then I found a bool called Happiness:  The Science Behind Your Smile.  Here is what made me realize what I had seen, what I had felt was probably true:
“The distinction between wanting and liking is of use here.  Our minds are equipped with a dopamine-drunk wanting system that draws us to compete for a promotion or a higher salary: a larger house or more material goods; an attractive partner or 2.4 children.  It draws us to these
things, not because they will make us happy, not even because we like them, but because the ancestors who got the stone age equivalents of these things are our ancestors, and those who did not are biological dead ends.  Although we implicitly feel that things we want in life will make us happy,
this may be a particularly cruel trick played by our evolved mind to keep us competing.  The things we want in life are the things the evolved mind tells us to want, and it doesn’t give a fig about our happiness.  All the evidence suggests you would probably be happier not caring about your
promotion and going and building boats or doing volunteer work instead.  Moreover, the more important people believe financial success is, the more dissatisfied with both work and family they are.”
Daniel Nettle

And Champion Poker Player Phil Gordon summed this up nicely when I interviewed him:

“I was living the American Dream and not my own.”

I have done a lot of projects, but somewhere along the way, I lost sight of the Process and in doing so put my Promise at risk.  I stopped wondering and therefore lost sight of what matters.  This is not so true in my personal life, but in my professional life it certainly seems real.  No process, just projects.

  1. Discovering your FeelingFifty posts is one of THE best gifts of 2009. Thank you!

    You say you have been writing for over 20 years, can you point me to some of these so I can learn and discover more?

    • Hey Wayne, thanks for the compliment. Check out The Most Important Lesson No One Ever Taught Me at I will also post a pdf of a small book I did on the blog itself. Also at Amazon is Powered by Feel by Jim Clawson and myself….

      Thanks again. I f you read these let me know what you think. Hope all of this is helpful.

  2. Appreciate the quick response Doug, and as you correctly guessed in your recent posting, I was quite curious about you and your past experiences. I’ve checked out the books to learn more and will continue to follow your path of discovery.

    In part I’m hoping to learn how to be a better writer as I’m most impressed by how well you are able to articulate such profound ideas in so few words. What has been quite fun and amazing about reading your posts here is how it feels like I’m reading my own thoughts but so much more succinctly captured than I am able to do as I pursue a similar journey of living, loving and learning and try to share this with others on my blogs Off Course – On Target at and Learnativity at Using constrained forms such as Twitter (wwwayne) are also helping me improve my concision and I learn much by studying masters in this such as yourself.

    However, much more so than the wording is the meaning and you do an amazing job of communicating so many of the feelings I too am experiencing on this latest journey of life. Much appreciated and please keep up the great work.

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