Pursue the Goal Not the Method

finish line In the back of a town car hired to take me to the Kansas City International airport, talking to Jeff, a driver with two kids, self-proclaimed ADD, and a history of quitting rote sales jobs every few months, I realized something of importance to the story of what’s brought me to this place: I am a seeker of the goal, not the method. Now, to unpack.

The Method Is What We’re Taught to Pursue

We learn our times tables. We learn the 50 states (in the US, at least). We are taught all these rules, these patterns, these systems, these methods. Musicians learn their scales. Painters copy the Masters. Copy. Learn. Make patterns.

Repetition. Finding grooves. Fitting into our assembly lines. Aligning to the way we understand how to measure.

Method. The process by which we get somewhere. Kempo karate is a method of fighting. Kicking the other guy’s ass is the goal.

You see this, right?

“New” is Rarely a Byproduct of Repetition

Except when it is. iPod was a whole new way of framing the music story: 1000 songs (not megabytes and gigabytes). iTunes store not just an orphaned player. Wheel and single button, not a slew of buttons.

And the Nano is the baby of the original, but the iPhone is nothing like the original, except they removed the wheel and left only one button. New. Again.

Now, repetition isn’t the only facet of method, and method isn’t bad. I need to be clear about that. But focusing on perfecting one’s method isn’t as useful as focusing on solving for the goal.

Pursue the Goal, Not the Method

I addressed the International Association of Business Communicators at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City, a painted lady teetering between demolition and emotional buttressing. The room was, as it always is, filled with that mix of the converted, the confused, the naysayers, the proof (that it all works), and me. Me, the street preacher, the jester, the irreverent, the addle-brained and yet target-minded sayer of what everyone swears they already know and blogs that they’ve seen it all before. Common sense. Be human. Be real.

I imagine some of them at their desk today, looking at their monitor, digging into their email, looking at their stats, settling back into the warm cottony folds of what they know how to do, what they were taught to do, what they practiced and repeated and did again and again. Trenchwork, some of it. And some of them are damned pleased and okay to be pleased by performing it.

But some of my people, some of those who saw something, felt the sparkle, caught a whiff of what I’m cooking, they got what I was saying. Old roads have precious little to do with new paths. What came before doesn’t have to explain what should be done next. We don’t have to repeat repeat repeat repeat.

I read once that every cell in our body completely recycles every four days. Perhaps I have it wrong, but when I think of that, I’m caught. I wonder why my scar from cutting my left ring finger while pulling a fern out of the ground during a Boy Scout survival weekend still persists. I wonder why I still have cowlicks in my hair. If every cell is new again, why can’t I be someone else every four days? But this is a side thought. This is a distraction for you to ponder. Scientists need not apply: I’m a disciple of accepting mystery instead of seeking truth. (Delusional, maybe, but pleasantly surprised? Yes.)

Methods change. It’s not that you shouldn’t learn methods, but rather that you should be ready to switch methods by facing the goals.

And Here At the End, The Goal

You will do so much more with your pursuits should you become a pursuer of the goal, and not a student of the method. Okay, SOME of you will. Others, you need the repetition, the ritual, the comfort. That is so very okay. Religion is all that. Okay, most religion is all that. Most religion is the method.

Seek the goal. The goal is equipping people. The goal is satisfying need. The goal is seeking to better others. The goal is to provide. The goal is to make everything work better.

See how that works? Think about your goals. Think about your company’s goals. What if you threw out EVERY method you were using before this very moment? The goals would still be there.

What if you left email behind and used ONLY voice? Could you still reach your goal? What if I stopped blogging and only sent you emails? What if we all shut our computers off? (Not sure we could ever get that genie back into the bottle.) What if we switched to mobile-centric design?

Goals. Not. Methods.

And you said…

Photo credit Dru Bloomfield

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