When I was in high school, I started reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I'll be honest - at the time I didn't "get it." It was a slow read and very detail-oriented. About two-thirds of the way through, I gave up and moved on to something else (Stephen King is probable). I wasn't ready for that book.

My father had studied Buddhism, along with Judaism and psychology and a million other things (he was a genius with an insatiable curiosity) and noticed I had given up reading that book. He wanted to explain to me why I had given up and that not making it all the way through was ok. His words have stayed with me and come to mind almost daily: it's the process not the product. 

How you get there is more important than getting there. 

That, in his interpretation, was the point of the story. He likened it to the writing of Melville.  The detail in the writing is extraordinary. At times it feels almost unreadable and yet it weaves together to tell an epic tale. It takes the reader on a journey. Regardless of the ending (and I admit I never finished a Melville novel either,) the journey stays with you. 

When I'm hiking up a mountain or creating a piece of art, cooking a meal, designing a workshop or training session, this concept sticks with me.  The process or journey is what is important - the final result will resolve itself.  There is positive energy in the creating and experimenting, the iteration and honing. The learning.

How does that translate?

In my professional life, it's the consultation process that I focus on - what are we trying to create? What is it we are trying to achieve? What do we need and already know? Connecting and collaborating with my clients to design and facilitate a discussion or teach a class. We don't ever really know what the end product will be. There are people at the other end of that session or workshop and they bring to it their own journey. I'm constantly surprised by the direction conversation heads in, or the questions and debates that ensue when the session is in progress. 

It's the process not the product that gets the energy flowing. And not worrying about the end product lets you experiment, risk and learn.  More often than not it will also surprise you. 

Which do you focus on the process or the product?

About the Author

Andee Gerhardt is the Founder and CEO of Makestuff Workshops. She has honed her professional skills in learning session development, leadership coaching, strategy, and change management consulting and facilitation.