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poolWhen I was younger, I used to think that process was a waste of time. Only results mattered. I would get annoyed at people who emphasized procedure, but now I realize that they were right. Life is the process of figuring out Plan B.

One of the reasons is that the world is weird and goals shift all the time. The results you think you want when you start out end up not mattering. If you concentrate on the work, then you’re in a better position to adapt to what changes. As you do the work, you’re more likely to see how things are changing than if you have a singular focus on a goal that will not matter soon.

And, if you enjoy the work, you’re more likely to stick with it. Achievement is nice, but it is fleeting.

I spend a lot of time watching swim meets, and the number of hours that go into preparation for a heat that lasts less than a minute is almost comical. The glory of a sectional-qualifying time in the 50 free is very little consolation for putting in an hour at the pool in the dark hours of the morning. You have to do it because you want the exercise, you benefit from the discipline, you like your teammates, the laps are meditative.

I’ve been self-employed for almost 18 years now. Every year, I write a business plan and set goals, and every year, I laugh at what I wrote the prior year. Hardly any of my goals have been met. That’s not because of me; it’s more because of how much the financial and publishing businesses have changed. I work on a business plan update every year, though, without fail, because it is not a futile exercise. I set goals, sure, but I also figure out what I need to work on, and who I need to talk to, and what I need to learn. I think about what I do well and what I could do better. The process of setting goals and the process of working toward them has gotten me pretty far, even though the goals themselves are elusive.

Life is so very strange. Plan B ends up being the operative plan, no matter what we do. And that realization caused me appreciate process.