Input vs. Output: Which Is More Important?

Which should you focus on, input or output?

When I ask this, the answer people give me almost every time is output. I mean, that just makes sense, doesn’t it? If you want to be hired, if you want people to buy your product, if you want people to like you, shouldn’t you focus on the result – the part that people would see?

Short answer: No.

There’s a reason people feel drawn to output, though, for the very reason that it seems logical: it’s the part that people see. And we possess a primal instinct for being accepted, so we are driven to want approval of whatever we put out there. Hence, we believe we should pay great attention to the output.

When the output is the focus, however, we often miss a big part of the success puzzle. We see other people’s output and if it is successful and we are drawn to it, we tend to want to emulate whatever it is that we can observe.

But the output is not the part that made the success happen. The output is the result. If you want to know how something was done well, you must look at the input.

Most people never get to this part. They observe someone else’s output and they give compliments or they feel jealous of it, but they rarely ask how the person did it. What was the actual process of getting it done?

That’s input. And if you want to be successful, that should be your focus.

Input is where your creativity happens. Input is where logistics happen. It involves research, and strategy, and specificity.

Input is where you try and fail. And if you’re resilient, you try and try and try again. This is a natural part of the process, and yet because so often the output is the focus, it’s easy to become frustrated or to feel disappointed or even depressed if successful output doesn’t appear relatively early on.

And that rarely happens, which is why so many people quit. To really thrive during the input part, you must thrive in failure and realize that failure is almost always an essential part of the process.

So how do you focus on input, particularly when we are instinctively wired to focus on output?

First, recognize output for what it is: the result of your input. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “You get out of it what you put into it.” It’s a saying for a reason – there’s plenty of proof to show that our results in anything are directly affected by that which we put into it. That input includes many things, such as attention, attitude, focus, diligence, participation, effort, time, etc… Output is the result of that. So if you’re paying attention to the input, you’ve got a significantly better chance of getting the output you desire in the first place.

Second, you can start to learn how enjoy input by being curious. What can you find out? What if you try something a different way? What if you try another way and yet another and compare? You can see parts of input as an experiment, where you try different things to see what results you will get. It’s a great way to find the best result for you, rather than trying to do something the “right” way, which limits thinking and yields a belief that there’s only one way of doing something. This stifles creativity and work flow. So make a mess! Open the process part of input so that it can have variables, and then you can choose which one feels/looks/sounds best.

A big part of enjoying input also involves embracing failure. I can’t stress this enough. If the thought of this horrifies you, I’ll share with you how I got over it: I separated myself from “my human.” I realized that I can have excellent intentions that my human may not be able to execute immediately.

This always makes me think of when I was a young kid and I picked up a twirling baton. I had seen girls twirling away, throwing the baton in the air and catching it – baton twirling looked fun and flashy, and I thought it probably wasn’t too difficult, since it was just a short metal stick with rubber ends.

If you’ve ever tried to twirl a baton you will probably recall the following. Once it’s in your hand and you start moving it around, you can’t do very much with it by just rotating your wrist. There’s a lot of nuance involved, and inevitably if you gave that a shot you experienced exactly what I did – getting hit in the face with a baton. Let me tell you: it hurts to get hit in the face with a baton. It’s no longer a dinky little girl toy when that happens, and you learn really quickly that you are either going to have to invest some time in learning how to properly twirl a baton, or that thing will be propped up nicely in a little corner to be admired from afar…

If I wanted to twirl a baton now, I would realize that my human would need to go slow and to spend a lot of time figuring out how to coordinate so it (we) didn’t get hit in the face. And there would also be times when I would have to take a risk to try out something new, and that meant there would still be a possibility of getting hit in the face.

The same is true for anything. Sometimes it takes your human longer than you would like to master something or even to comprehend something (IKEA furniture, anyone??), because of that whole human component. I learned that it was much easier to be patient with my human as opposed to being patient with myself, and it was easier to treat my human with compassion just like I would any other human.

You can be quick and your human can be slow. You can be graceful and your human uncoordinated. You can be clever and your human can’t articulate. Instead of thinking of these things as bad, just realize that your human is going to be behind you many times. And occasionally, your human will do something straight away that amazes you. Maybe you’ll even give it some credit. 🙂

Bottom line: if you want to produce great results, stop worrying about the results and get cozy with the process. Input is where your greatness lies, and the ability to focus on this – combined with perseverance, is often what separates those who are successful from those who stop before they get there.

Go see what you and your human can do today!

Come hang out with us! Click here to get access to my free subscriber info, including tips and exclusive subscriber giveaways, delivered with love to your inbox. I tell some good stories and give extra insight that you’ll only see inside. You’ll also get a FREE copy of my QuickGuide, The Best 3 Ways to Make or Break Your Performance Career! 🙂