You Only Control The Effort, Not The Results

The title of this story was a tweet by Ryan Holiday.

Ryan is a best-selling author who writes and teaches Stoicism — an ancient philosophy for understanding life, nature, and other human practices.

One of many essential stoic lessons is to differentiate the things within your control and those not in your control.

For example, writing an article is within your control, but the views, responses, and earnings are not.

I have experienced this dichotomy of control many times in writing.

For instance, I have written over 200 articles online. However, only a few are responsible for my growth and success. But the strange part is that I did not decide which of my articles would bring success.

I have written many articles thinking that people will love them. I felt that those articles would bring thousands of visitors to my blog. Guess what? None of them did as I had expected.

On the contrary, other articles (which I had written without much thought) have done far better. They have brought more audience engagement.

You can’t choose what you’re famous for.

Jack Conte, the CEO of Patreon, said this line.

Creators want to put out their best work for their audiences. But they cannot decide which of their work is the best and worst. That is up to the audience.

So, what is a creator’s job?

To create.

Remember: The output is not within your control. You only control the input.

  • Writing 100 stories is in your control. Getting 1M views on those stories is not.
  • Building an online course is in your control. Making $100,000 from that course is not.
  • Publishing two YouTube videos per week is in your control. Getting 10,000 subscribers is not.
  • Being happy is in your control. The weather condition is not.

I hope you get my point.

Focus on what you control.

Suppose you worked very hard to write one of the best articles you have ever written. Will you feel upset if you received only 8 views on your article?

Of course, you will.

My articles would not even get 10 views when I started writing online. I thought I sucked at writing and I should quit.

Thankfully, I kept going.

After I had written over 20 articles, people started noticing my work.

Then, after 100 articles, people wanted to work with me. I didn’t have to search for clients. Instead, they found me.

Beginner writers look at their stats and judge their abilities too soon. Understand that your job as a writer is to write without worrying about the outcome.

Quantity matters as much as (if not more than) quality in most creative work.

So, focus on creating a lot of work. Some of them will do good, and others won’t. Whatever the outcome, keep focusing on doing the work.

If your previous story did not do well, write another one. Make it better. And if that does not do well, write another.

Just keep going.

That is how you become better at writing (or other creative work).

Final thought

The next time you are worried or upset about something, think about the dichotomy of control. Analyze what is within your control and what isn’t.

It works in all areas of life, not only creative work.

You don’t have to be a stoic to follow this basic life principle. It’s a practice that every individual should implement in their lives.