Don’t Shortcut the Process

High school Spanish class seemed like an eternity ago.  Probably because it was!  At the time I wasn’t motivated and I really couldn’t see the value in learning a new language.  It wasn’t until several years later, in 2011, that I decided to learn Spanish at the local community college.  This time I was motivated, because I had more opportunities to use Spanish than I did in high school.

My thought was that I would quickly pick up and be speaking Spanish semi-fluently in a few short weeks.  After the first class, I realized it was going to be a longer pursuit than I thought.  There was no quick fix for learning Spanish, short of total cultural immersion.  Even that would have taken significant time.  I was presented with the realization that learning Spanish is a process.

Most worthy pursuits in life are like that.  There is a process to their achievement and mastery.  A shortcut rarely exists.  How, for example, would you shortcut the process of raising healthy, productive children?  Could that be done over a couple of long weekends, or in a few short days?  What about earning a degree or becoming proficient at a skill or profession?  Does a person earn a college degree in a week?  Are significant weight loss goals achieved in a couple of hours?  Hardly.

So why then are we surprised that our big goals, dreams, and desires should take any less time?  Are we so hungry for instant results that we’ll ignore known processes for success because they take commitment over an extended period of time?  Sure, we read about the individual or business that seems to have “made it overnight”.  What you’ll rarely hear about are all the countless weeks, months, or years they repeatedly followed a process in order to become an overnight success.

I’ve learned that you can’t shortcut a process.  You can take steps to speed up the process, like devoting more time to practice and preparation.  You can avoid common mistakes by talking to people who have already followed the process and can point out common pitfalls.  You can even give up on the process; deciding that it’s just too hard.  (If you’re reading this blog, I don’t think that’s a choice that sounds very appealing to you.)  The one thing you can’t do is reach your goals by short-cutting the process.

The process is the road we travel as we pursue our goals and dreams to reality.  It’s continually making the choices that move us in the direction we want to go.  We build this road daily by repeatedly causing something to happen that will move us closer to our goals and dreams.

As you set out to do great things, realize that there is a process to get there.  Embrace it, and don’t attempt to shortcut it.  You’ll be amazed by the power of the process.


3 Simple Steps That Cause Something to Happen

I’m a big fan of Columbia Sportswear Company in Portland Oregon.  They have great clothes for outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, snow shoeing, or just for wearing around town.  If you need clothes for the great outdoors, Columbia has got you covered

Fortunately for me, I’m relatively close to several Columbia outlet stores.  These stores are great!  They sell Columbia gear (obviously) at prices far lower than you’d pay at a full retail sore.  If I’m anywhere near a Columbia outlet, I am instantly drawn to the parking lot and into the store.  I can’t help it.  It’s like the mother ship is calling me home.

Every time I enter a Columbia store, my first several seconds are spent in a state, where I’m overwhelmed by all the choices in the store, and don’t know where to start looking first.  I usually begin by halfheartedly looking at one section, and then quickly jumping to another, before I finally calm down and think about what I need, or want, and then start looking around with focus and purpose.

It can be like that when deciding on a big goal or challenge we’d like to pursue.  We’re motivated and fired up at the thought of a new endeavor.  However, we quickly become overwhelmed, or even immobilized, by the scope of our undertaking and don’t know where to begin “causing something to happen”.   If we stay in this state too long, our motivation and enthusiasm will soon leave the scene, and our desire or goal will be relegated to the domain of wishful thinking.

So how do we avoid this?  What can we do to gain clarity in our thoughts and direction so we can determine what we need to do to get started, on whatever pursuit we set for ourselves?  I believe there are 3 simple steps we can take to move us forward.

Step 1: Decide where it is you want to go.

It may sound obvious, but if we don’t know where it is we want to go, or what it is we want to achieve, we’ll become unclear as to what actions we should take, causing confusion, frustration, and discouragement on how we should move forward.

I have applied these steps in my own life.  In 2012 I decided that I wanted to get into doing voice overs professionally.  This was clearly the goal I had set for myself and the direction I wanted to go.  Step 1 had been decided.  I knew where I wanted to go.

Step 2:  Determine where you are currently, in relation to where you want to go.

This step is important because it helps determine the starting point of the journey.  It’s like planning a road trip.  Everything begins with your starting point, right?  You determine how long the trip will take based on how far your destination is from the starting point.  The potential route you’re going to take is all predicated on where trip begins.  It’s no different with a goal or desired achievement.  The planning begins with determining your starting point.

After I had set my goal of doing voice overs professionally, I took stock of where I was.  It didn’t take long to realize that I was as far away from doing voice overs as I could get.  I didn’t know anything about the industry or how it worked.  I had no knowledge of how voice over artists operated or how a person goes about becoming a voice over talent.  All I had were some decent public speaking skills, an eagerness to learn, and a good attitude.  I knew where I currently was.

Step 3:  Take the next (or first) step.

This is where you cause something to happen.  Once you know where you are and where you want to go, it’s time to determine what that next small step is that will move you toward your goal.  Once you know that next step, TAKE IT!

For my voice over pursuit, I realized that I needed to learn how people get started in the voice over industry.  So I took the next step of researching how people get started.  Once I learned that people got started by getting trained in voice over techniques, I took the next step of researching trainers and coaches.  I again took stock of where I was, and knew I needed to get trained by a voice over coach.    The next step was to find a voice over coach and sign up for training, so that’s what I did.  I am currently in the process of completing my initial voice over training, but I’ve already begun looking ahead at what my next step will be.

These 3 simple steps keep our focus on what we should be doing right now.  As we move toward a specific goal, we should constantly ask ourselves:

  1. What do I want?
  2. Where am I right now?
  3. What’s my next step?

This simple process eliminates confusion and frustration that come from a lack of clear focus and direction.  It’s a simple process, and it works.

What about you?  Where are you right now and where would you like to go?  What’s the next step you need to take today, to cause something to happen that will move you closer toward your goal?

Your Dreams Are Calling

I like to start each year with a new set of goals or an area in my life that I’d like to change.  In the past however, I often got to the end of the year and realized that I hadn’t done anything in the previous 12 months that moved me any closer to where I wanted to be.  At the beginning of 2012 I decided to get serious about moving toward the life I desired.  The same pattern of empty wishing and wanting, without results, was getting me nowhere.  I needed a new approach.

As I was thinking about what I needed to do different, I remembered a favorite quote from Legendary Alabama Football coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant, “Cause something to happen!”  It’s so simple, yet so powerful and encouraging.  It doesn’t say, “Hope something happens”, or “Wait for something to happen”.  It says, “CAUSE something to happen!”  It is clearly a call to action.

When I reflected on this quote I realize that if there’s something I want in life, nobody is going to walk up and hand it to me.  Sitting around waiting for perfect conditions isn’t going to bring about the changes I desire.  If there’s a specific outcome that I want, the ONLY way it’s going to come about is if I take repeated actions to move me in the direction I want to go.  I am responsible for the cause.

This became my motivational quote for 2012.  I strategically placed it so I was certain to intersect with those wise words during my daily routine.  This quote soon became a small voice inside my head that grew ever-louder, encouraging, and pushing me to action. Whenever I have an idea to move me forward I hear this voice encouraging me to “cause something to happen”.  The more I am exposed to this quote, the louder this voice becomes.  Early in 2012, it started small and quite in the back of my mind.  Now, when presented with a decision point to move toward my goals or to shrink back into the comfort of the status quo, this voice is loud and commands me to ‘CAUSE SOMETHING TO HAPPEN!”  It’s like my ambitions and goals are shouting to me from inside my mind, urging me to take steps to bring them to life.

How could I read that quote or hear that voice commanding and encouraging me to pursue a goal and respond with anything but action?  To do so would be to sentence my goals and dreams to the realm of wishful thinking, destine to remain void of any hope of ever becoming a reality.

What’s the primary goal or dream in your life that you need to take action on?   Is it a career change?  Getting out of debt?  Getting in shape and losing a few pounds?  Is it having better relationships with significant people in your life?  Or is it pursuing a new skill, hobby, class, or degree?  Where do you need to cause something to happen?