I wish someone had told me the process is more important than the result

“I wish someone had told me” is a series of posts that feed into our inquisitive nature at CN&CO. Each week we hear from someone in our network about something interesting or surprising that’s recently happened or occurred to them – or lessons they learnt. These blogs are a way to pay it forward and form part of CN&CO’s belief that the world can be a better place – and we all have a responsibility to make it so. This week’s post is by Rob.


I grew up playing fairly traditional team sports at a South African school. Cricket, soccer, rugby and hockey all made an appearance somewhere along the way, coupled with some American sports such as lacrosse, baseball and basketball during my brief stint in the States as a teenager.

Upon my return to the South African education system I found myself pulled towards rugby and waterpolo on highschool. Some could argue that due to my size (I wasn’t exactly the smallest 15 year old around) I was well suited to these contact sports and I won’t counter that argument. However the reality was waterpolo consisted of a 20 minute game on a Saturday as opposed to a 6 hour cricket match (so more weekend time oh yeah) and rugby just seemed easier than hockey due to the fact that, as a lock I wasn’t required to do anything that technical. Lift this guy here, run in to that guy there, catch a ball on that line. Compared to dribbling, drag flicking and running around with a stick it was quite straightforward.

The insight in to my average sporting life above is that having played team sports for most of my life, I found it challenging to keep fit once I left school as there weren’t as many sports available to what I wanted to do. Rugby, while still fun, was more of a drinking club than anything else which offered ample opportunities to get seriously injured for the un-conditioned student and waterpolo was mainly for the “serious” player only due to the small number of teams. Without team sports removed from the picture I drifted towards the solo world of running. The Two Oceans half marathon, Argus Cycle Challenge, Gun Run and Xterra triathlon all featured in my attempts at staying fit while also dabbling in Muay Thai for several years. The problem was I was never that good at training for an event as I have a short attention span for these things and once I got into the habit of doing an event with minimal training…well that meant you could always complete the next one with the same approach right?  So unless someone was trying to kick me in the face in Muay Thai I usually got bored of running endless kilometres or attempting to become sterile while cycling even further distances, so I didn’t keep it up.

I continued to dabble in some races over the next couple of years, half marathons, Ironman 70.3’s and even a booze marathon (but lets face it that was only for the booze). During that time I also joined Crossfit for a while before moving to Johannesburg and finding a strength and conditioning gym by the name of Roark. The training offered there is often intense but what makes it great is that you suddenly become aware of how many “different” ways there are to improve. Rowing a 2km in a better time, shaving off seconds from your previous attempt, deadlift five more kilograms, completing a workout with no scaled movements…all of these activities provide an opportunity for you to measure your general fitness.

What this means is that over time you can begin to track small improvements in your fitness and every time you do one more rep or move faster through a workout – you are getting better. The mindset begins to form that the process is more important than the end goal, especially because the end goal is not set in stone. And that last thought is the main idea here. In today’s materialistic and consumer driver society we are bombarded with advertising and messages that if you drive that car, get that promotion, buy that house you will be better/happier/sexier/whatever but the trap is that is a finite goal. Once you have it, then what? Do you get more satisfaction from working towards the goal or the end result? It is a question worth asking yourself as it is applicable to all facets of life.

Are you a better friend, partner, or son compared to five years ago? Can you be more tolerant of the person who cuts you off in traffic today than yesterday? What have you done to increase your knowledge in your chosen field of work today? Are you able to look for a bigger picture in your business that surpasses short term goals for long term improvements?

For me, I use physical training to reinforce the mindset on the rest of my life as I increasingly find myself doing events that I wouldn’t have considered a few years ago as a yardstick for continuous improvement. Last weekend I took part in the 5 Mile charity swim at the Cape Mile event. Having never swam further than three kilometres in a single session I knew this was going to be an interesting event. The charity race consisted of five one mile laps (taking part in all the age group categories available on the day) and the point was to finish each lap in time to start the next lap.

During the third lap I came to terms with the fact that I actually was not going to drown and again the thought sunk in that the final result is often less rewarding than the process of getting there. I can say this because my ability to finish the 8 kilometres was not due to my gifted swimming prowess (if you see me in the water I am about as streamlined as a brick) but due to the years of slowly but surely getting stronger, faster and fitter from general training. Hardly a poignant epiphany but for anyone who has done long distance swimming I think you can relate to the mental fog that creeps across your mind, preventing you from thinking anything much more complicated than whether you should be moving your left arm or right now in order to breath. While finishing the event was a cool feeling, not least for the reason that I could then go smash a burger and beer, the process of event was far more rewarding upon reflection.

With what I have mentioned above, the last point I want to make is that I don’t equate improvement with happiness. Happiness is often fleeting, an emotion that comes and goes due to the circumstances in your life. Improvement is far more tangible, regardless of your emotional state. Deadlifting 200 kgs is still 200 kgs – nothing can change that. But you can’t rock up to the gym one day and decide to lift that amount of weight. You need to go through the process, building up over time, correcting flaws in technique, breathing, mentally preparing before you overcome gravity and pick that 200 up.

And so it should be in life, constantly improving in small ways that over time, when you look back, you will be amazed at how far you have come. So next time you are in the grind just remember to fall in love with the process. The results will come in time.

P.S if you are looking for something unusual to do have a look at the Torpedo SwimRun (cover photo credit to them)