Outcomes & Results: Face the Fear, Abandon Hope…

Adam Savage writes:

Nothing we make ever turns out exactly as we imagined; that this is a feature not a bug; and that this is why we do any of it. The trip down any path of creation is not A to B. That would be so boring. Or even A to Z. That’s too predictable. It’s A to way beyond zebra. That’s where the interesting stuff happens. The stuff that confounds our expectations. The stuff that changes us.

The fact that our work defies all our imagined expectations, and often becomes something dramatically different than what we previously anticipated is one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn. In fact, that previous sentence gives me a slight cringe. Not only because it contains the sting of a harsh reality, but also because it seems to imply that I’ve “learned” the lesson. I haven’t. Confronting the unexpected outcomes of my work is a lesson I’m still in the process of “learn-ing”. It’s ongoing, and I’m far from done.

“Art” is about provocation and transformation. As creatives we are provoked to create and in the process of creating we are transformed by the work. When we’ve done our job honestly and authentically, our work will provoke a reaction that elicits a transformation within the recipients of our work. But, for this to happen we cannot allow ourselves to be bound by our expectations. We must release ourselves from the “result”. We must unshackle ourselves from the “outcome”. If the work has any chance of “changing” others, we must be changed by it. And, if we are to be “changed” by the work, we must allow the work to change.

As John Dewey illustrates, “A painter must consciously undergo the effect of his every brush stroke or he will not be aware of what he is doing and where his work is going.”

However, such a provocative transformation requires us to let go of both hope and fear.

Margaret Wheatley explains that “Hope and fear are inescapable partners”. She says that “Anytime we hope for a certain outcome, and work hard to make it happen, then we also introduce fear – fear of failing, fear of loss”.

Similarly, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche writes that “We suffer because of hope and fear” because “Wherever there is hope and fear, suffering follows automatically”. If this is the case, then, to be caught in the cycle of “Suffering” is “to be controlled by hope and fear, over and over, again and again”.

Perhaps we must begin to ask ourselves: What if there is no “outcome”? What if the “outcome” is never-ending? What if the “outcome” is simply the on-going persistence of the process?

When I interviewed Jerome Shaw for an episode of my podcast he shared a quote with me that is still reverberating in my ears, especially now:
“The reward for your last challenge is your next challenge”

The process is a kind of actively unfolding cartography. It’s making a map to a place we’ve never been while in the thick of it’s unknown terrain. Everyday is a creative expedition of which we have limited control. All we can do is explore, observe, and keep meticulous field notes of our findings. And, that’s what makes it thrilling and terrifying. As my friend Charlie MacLean told me recently, its starting “with a process you don’t know, down a path you are unsure of”.

To be sure, our work is always catalytic. It always produces a consequential outcome. But the outcome is always uncertain.


We create the iterative conditions that cause an outcome, though it may not always be the outcome we seek. Thus, to work based on outcome alone is to live in the cavernous suffering that resides between hope and fear. So work for the love of the work…disregarding the results, unencumbered by outcome.

Thomas Merton reminds us that we cannot “depend on the hope of results” because:

You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.

Let “value” be our only metric and measurement. Let the truthfulness of our work be our only guide.

As Steven Pressfield explains,

Our job is not to control our idea; our job is to figure out what our idea is (and wants to be)—and then bring it into being.

The sign that hangs above the inferno of the process reads “abandon all hope ye who enter here”. Those who dare to create enter boldly, undetered by the fear of failure…

Come with us…

New Video!”The Child Who Survived Adulthood” w/ Jerome Shaw

This is a special episode/video for me because not only is Jerome Shaw a talented creator and an inspiring podcaster but, he’s also one of my Patrons. His support and his encouragement means the world to me, so I’m excited to share this conversation with you!

We talk about his theater arts background, his metamorphosis into a marketing Entrepeneur, and his creative journey into podcasting. He offers details about his meditation practice and gives us a glimpse into his creative process. This dialogue takes a lot interesting twists and turns, and ultimately I think its a beautiful adventure. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

If you want to listen to the full podcast you can find it here:

Be sure to check out Jerome’s podcast – https://anchor.fm/jshaw

And be sure to connect with him on Social Media:

https://twitter.com/jromeshaw

https://www.facebook.com/jerome.shaw.9

https://www.instagram.com/jromeshaw/

https://www.youtube.com/user/Peralisis/videos

Shout out to my Patrons and Supporters:

Jim Martin – https://theunusualbuddha.com/

Rev. Jerry Maynard – https://www.facebook.com/revjerryhtx/

Ben Bridges – https://www.myfpvstore.com/

Rajan Shankara – https://rajanshankara.com/

If you’d like to get a shout out in podcasts and videos then be sure to check out my Patreon page – https://www.patreon.com/duanetoops

For $3/month you get all the behind the scenes blogs, videos, and photos, plus shout-outs, plus early access to all my YouTube videos!

Keep showing up, Keep Doing the Work, FAIL BOLDLY, and let’s make something meaningful

“A Purposeful Purposelessness” – Transcript

Hey friends! This is the transcript from one of my most recent podcast episodes titled “A Purposeful Purposelessness“. If you’d like to listen to the episode you can click the link above, listen below,

or you can find “The Process & The Path” on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and any where else you get podcasts. Enjoy!

My favorite part of creating and sharing content are the conversations that follow. The conversations mean the most to me. Those conversations are where I learn the most. It’s that learning that is most important to me, it’s learning from those conversations that inspire me the most.


I was fortunate enough to receive some great feedback and some really interesting push-back from Jerome Shaw of The Open Palm Podcast.


He was struck by something I said in one of my previous podcast episodes titled “Something About Nothing“. I was talking about how I’m almost addicted to being busy, addicted to always doing something, or working on something. And, that sometimes I implicitly equate my worth and value as a person with my productivity. I almost instinctively tie my identity to what I “do”, to what I produce, and to what I create.  Because of this compulsion to be productive at all times, I feel anxious and uncomfortable whenever I’m not doing anything, and I almost never really allow myself to do ‘nothing’. The one exception is my meditation practice. I said that the 20 minutes a day I sit in meditation is the only time during the day that I give myself permission to be unproductive.


That last remark is what caught his attention. He said that he wouldn’t be able to produce on the level that he does without his meditation practice. He described it as a slowing down to speed up. And, he said he feels as though he is producing tons when he sits. He remarked that even though you seem to be doing nothing, you are doing something.


First off, I really appreciate the push back. I love the engagement of curious and respectful rebuttals. Not only does is create quality conversation, it also deepens the understanding of all parties involved. Sometimes due to the constraints of the platforms we create and communicate on, we offer fast and dirty remarks, we provide our “hot takes”, when we should be more thoughtful. I feel like these moments when I get to respond to probing questions provides me with the opportunity to examine things more fully.


When we talk about the productiveness or un-productiveness of meditation, I think its really more a difference of semantics rather than a point of outright disagreement.


(I probably should say before going any further that I am in now way a meditation expert or teacher. I’m just a guy trying his best to figure all this shit out, while trying to talk about his personal experiences in a clear and understandable way.)


I agree with the image of meditation as a “slowing down to speed up”. I was in a really bad place for a few years and I had let go of any and all of my creative aspirations. It was practice meditation that awoke the creativity that I had allowed to become latent and dormant. It actually sparked and ignited a depth of creativity that I didn’t realize I had. My deepening practice of meditation was and is the catalyst behind all of my current creative work.


My engagement with meditation has been primarily within the Zen tradition. The style of meditation I practice is called “shikantaza” which translates to mean “nothing but sitting” or “just sitting”. We don’t sit to achieve something, to gain something, to produce something, or to do something. It is sitting only for the sake of sitting. It is a goal-less endeavor, a purposeless practice. It is sitting with no ulterior motive beyond simply sitting.


In fact, the instant we introduce an ulterior motive to this practice of meditation, it ceases to be meditation. In his book The Way of Zen, Alan Watts writes that “it is only when there is no goal and no rush that the human senses are fully open to receive the world.” He goes on to say that “The moment a goal is conceived it becomes impossible to practice the discipline of the art, to master the very rigor of its technique.” The discipline is the art. The practice is the goal. The process is the path…


Yet, meditation is an ambiguous exercise, a paradoxical practice. It’s an enacted contradiction. When we practice this kind of meditation we are “doing nothing”  and yet, somehow, in some strange way, “something happens”. It reminds me of something I read in Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art. He writes that “Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying…Because when we sit down day after day and keep grinding, something mysterious starts to happen. A process is set into motion by which, inevitably and infallibly, heaven comes to our aid. Unseen forces enlist in our cause; serendipity reinforces our purpose.” He says that “When we sit…we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. insights accrete.” 


When we put in the reps and build the muscle memory, when we consistently show up, for the sake of the discipline, for the sake of the practice, and for the sake of the art alone, something shifts within us. We find a flow that feels both foreign and familiar. We have changed and yet we have never been more the same. Everything remains in its place and yet somehow everything has been dramatically altered.
So much of my time is spent striving towards a goal, pushing towards a desired end. I pray to more fully comprehend the practice of a purposeful purposelessness.