What Teddy Roosevelt taught us about “Process vs Outcome Goals”

Teddy Roosevelt

“It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
— Teddy Roosevelt (1858-1919)

by Dr. Stephen Walker, CC-AASP

Roosevelt was an American Icon – the president who took on the Panama Canal and saw technology and great enterprise thrust men and women to stretch their limits, expand their horizons, and make possible the impossible. He inspired, cajoled, got tough when necessary, and used shear determination to do his part to solve an incredible array of problems from the failed reconstruction efforts in the south to getting a handle on organized crime as police commissioner in New York City. He served as the Secretary of the Navy and was perhaps best known as a war hero…leading the charge. Most of all, he was one of America’s forward thinking leaders possessing an ability to inspire the country, motivate innovators and bring out the best in people in all walks of life as the 26th President of these United States.

America’s Coach

He was America’s coach at the turn of the 20th century – and he was a stickler for “focusing on the process.” He knew that the process dictates the outcome …. and even though unfortunate events can sidetrack even the best prepared – their best performance can only be realized by attending to the little things, the fundamentals applied to the most challenging of tasks….that the “flow state” in the process precedes every great accomplishment.  Our concentration on the task at hand, the drive, determination, purposeful discipline to focus on our objective every second of every minute… is what helps each and every one of us remain consciously in control of our life’s work.

Focusing on outcomes may be wonderful in a dream state and can be helpful in picturing the process.  Yet again, we must come back to that pesky “process” if we are to be successful.   Roosevelt pushed people to have a vision but engage in the action steps necessary to build the resources, skill sets, effective methods, and integral pieces necessary for realizing success.

Those who malfunction in maintaining a focus on the process – oftentimes – see only the outcome they dream of – and fail to adequately concentrate their attention on the methods for accomplishing the goal.  Many set a goal and immediately begin to panic at the prospect of not succeeding.  The “fear of failure” has claimed many a victim.  Those promising talents who never quite lived up to their potential are just a few.

Talent may be God given – but the “development of talent” delivers the goods.

Stephen E. Walker, Ph.D.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *