Many things people strive for are actually byproducts of what the real goal should be. But by focusing on the byproduct instead of the goal, the desired byproduct is ever elusive.
Let’s look at a few examples:
The real goal is finding activities you’re passionate about and consistently engaging in them.
That definition skews towards work, but consider spending time with people you enjoy being around an ‘activity’ and it can encompass romance and family time.
Lots of people want a big network, full of powerful influential people, but if you focus on that is the end goal it’s probably not going to work out very well and you’ll come off as very insincere.
Having a large, powerful network is the byproduct where the end goal is helping other people, building relationships or trying to make an important vision happen that others can get behind.
Making money is a byproduct of focusing on creating value.
If you focus on making money, you might end up making a lot if you’re very driven, but if that drive was applied toward how you could create the most value, you’d make a lot more money.
The one caveat with making money is that it only captures the economic spectrum of “value”, but a lot of people are working on how we can measure other kinds of currencies and make them more fungible so that in addition to financial capital we can measure things like social capital and emotional capital.
I can’t become more confident by saying to myself, “C’mon Max, be more confident”.
Confidence is a byproduct of being really good at something, which is only obtainable through practice and repetition.
Though often people can practice and practice and not improve. That’s why people will tell you, “practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” While that’s directionally correct, a better answer is “practice in pursuit of perfection will allow you to increasingly approach perfection and achieve excellence”
The list goes on and on of things that many people try to achieve directly but are actually byproducts: Enlightenment, Love, Creativity, Status, Success, etc. etc.
It’s not wrong to want byproducts, but they are not things we can get, in the capacity we want, by focusing on achieving them directly. Byproducts are the rewards we get for living our lives the right way.
And by recognizing how byproducts break down into corresponding end goals it becomes clear there are no short cuts. When we care about other people, other people care about us. When we create value for others, we are rewarded financially. When we do amazing work, we gain respect. To live a rich life where we are happy, financially abundant, surrounded by amazing people and confident in our own abilities, requires cultivating curiosity, persistence, self-reflection, self-discipline, compassion, character, drive and many other esteemed traits.There is truth in the words that our external reality is a manifestation, or a byproduct, of our internal reality.
I encourage you to look at the things you want, and figure out what’s a byproduct and what’s the actual end goal that you should authentically commit to.