“Process saves us from the poverty of our intentions.” That’s the quote Seth Godin says inspired his latest book, The Practice: Shipping Creative Work. If we want to get our work out and into the world, we have to start somewhere. Once we start, we have to keep going. If we keep at it long enough, we might just end up with something of real substance – which is probably why we wanted to create it in the first place. Snowflakes don’t turn into snowballs on their own, somebody has to roll them up. Process is all about rolling.
The quote comes from sculptor Elizabeth King. It’s the idea that process and the act of doing are how progress is made. The poverty of our intentions, or the obsession over only accepting narrowly defined outcomes, is the toughest obstacle we face. Fortunately and unfortunately, it’s self-imposed. We can dream of a giant snowball, but we can’t control the snowfall. All we can do is work with what we’ve got.
When we make the decision to just act, when we do so with vulnerability and take the risk, we embrace process. If we only accept perfection, if we think we need more confidence or we convince ourselves we don’t belong, we‘re stuck in the poverty of our intentions. We’ve got to let that stuff go. There’s a form of success in each successive rolling of the snowball. We have to find it.
As Godin often says (paraphrased), “Doing what you love is for amateurs. Loving what you do is for professionals.” Eventually, we have to stop brainstorming, stop negotiating with ourselves, and start working. Even when we don’t love it, the snowball gets another roll. Even when it breaks or crumbles, we assess and continue. The process only compounds by our sticking to it. The snowball only grows by snowflakes stacking on top of each other.
We all mean well with our intentions. But, only loving the outcome we might someday reach that sits a million miles away – it’s a hollow dream. It’s true for our projects, it’s true for our careers, it’s true for the businesses we want to start. Take that Elizabeth King quote in one more time and check out Godin’s book. “Process saves us from the poverty of our intentions.” Amen.