Home Posts Artwork CV

Performance vs. effort

Created 11 July 2019

Updated 8 May 2021

Something I struggle with is the tension between effort and results. People preach process. Effort. Do the work and everything will work itself out. However, we live in a results-oriented world. People generally don’t care about the effort expended to create something. They only care about if what is offered to them meets their needs.

So I say to myself: Why care about effort, then? It doesn’t matter!

I recently listened to podcast interview with a network scientist who described the difference between performance and success. It gave me an opening to allow myself to become process oriented in a results-oriented world.

The key idea is that there’s a difference between performance and success.

Performance is how well you do what you do. Success is how others acknowledge your performance. Performance is internal. Success is external. To a large degree, you can control how much of your resources you dedicate to something. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to control how others acknowledge and evaluate your performance.

When you can measure performance, your success equals your performance. If you want to be a professional runner, it’s easy to measure performance. How fast can you run? It’s also easy to measure your success: Can you run faster than everyone else? Is one person faster than you? Two? More?

When you can’t directly measure performance, your success, past a certain point, isn’t based on your performance. Your success is based on your network. How many people know and support your performance? For most knowledge workers, performance can’t be directly measured.

Learning that made me realize that much of success outside of my control. The best I can do is to do the best work I can, and then let go of the outcome, because the outcome is uncontrollable.