Balancing Efforts Vs Results!

Do you worry about errors creeping into efforts you’re putting in?

Do you tend to procrastinate on putting efforts, thinking that they can be managed as deadline approaches?

Do efforts not put in by others according to expectations bother you?

“Is it possible to be free from error? Not by any means, but it is possible to be a person stretching to avoid error.” — Epictetus

These golden words from Epictetus contain wonderful insights on mitigating the issues arising out of human nature!

Being Free from error has two sides, just like a Coin.

One side is Entitlement — expecting others to deliver results for you without putting in requisite efforts from your end.

You might wonder why you need to put in efforts when others are supposed to deliver results for you. And how its tantamount to entitlement as such.

An example would make it clear.

Consider a salesperson who expects orders to pour in from prospects just based on the brand image of a product. While there could be some early adopters, many would need to be convinced for buying the product.

If the salesperson doesn’t do proper preparation and just goes on harping about the brand’s popularity, chances are that not many sales could result.

This is the perfect case of entitlement from a salesperson because a great product doesn’t sell by itself! It needs good selling skills to be sold!!

So, its arrogant behavior from the salesperson that’s making him feel entitled. And its leading to less efforts from his side.

However, such a salesperson would typically be blind to his own shortcomings. Rather, he or she would be blaming the prospects for not giving orders!

Now, let’s look at the other side.

The other side is Negligence — settling for too little i. e., not giving one’s best or 100%, hiding behind Mediocrity whilst doling out flimsy excuses.

Let’s see how it pans out. Consider the work you’re doing as consisting of 3 balls. One ball is the plan with certain assumptions. Second ball is the actual effort you’re putting in. Third ball is the uncertainty hampering expected results.

Given this scenario, as you go about your work, its like juggling the 3 balls in tandem. If you’re a skilled juggler, you’ll be able to balance the 3 balls at a time. Else, one would be out of control all the time.

Remember, one ball is plan with certain assumptions? So, none can anticipate all the uncertainties while planning and strives for reasonable risks to be mitigated. However, uncertainty being what it is, it could throw spanner in the works in unforeseen ways.

Now, if one’s not committed to giving 100% efforts, one might be assuming that its “good enough”. When this unconscious bias creeps in, things going awry due to uncertainty or lack of efforts won’t go down well. In such a case, one’d tend to blame the circumstances and / or others rather than one’s own lack of efforts.

Guess what could be the cause of this “blind” response, ignoring one’s shortcomings and blaming external factors instead?

Well, its arrogance once again! Since its arrogance that makes one not willing to take responsibility for the gaps in efforts vs results.

So, both attitudes viz. entitlement as well as negligence smack of Arrogance. Its like a coin having Entitlement on one side and Negligence on the other.

Clearly, both aren’t desirable if one wishes to progress either in career or life.

The balanced approach is what Epictetus suggested — stretching oneself to avoid error. This approach acknowledges the possibility of errors occurring in one’s efforts. And one’s willingness to mitigate them by stretching oneself.

By willing to stretch oneself, one’s humble in accepting mistakes and at the same time open to corrections. One can achieve the best of probable outcomes commensurate with efforts. This way, arrogance wouldn’t be allowed to creep into one’s efforts.

This approach lends balance to efforts vis a vis the desired results, since one’d always be alert to uncertainty and adjust one’s sails in accordance with the vagaries of the former.



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Ramana Murthy H V

Ramana Murthy H V

Business Excellence Analyst building futuristic SEVA (Sustainable, Evolutionary, Visionary and Agile) Business Models leveraging self-organizing Systems