Okay with Process, Okay with Outcome

My recent car purchase has been something of a disaster. That’s why I haven’t written about it yet (or, rather, posted the rather excited blog post I’ve already written). The car is currently back with the seller, who owns a shop that repairs these sorts of cars, and he’s trying to figure out why it won’t go over around 20mph and to fix it.

One of my friends asked if I was upset about it or if I regretted buying it. Not at all!

I did a lot of research before I bought the car. I knew that despite it being one of the most reliable cars the manufacturer has ever built, it was an older complicated car, and that things might go wrong with it. I didn’t think they’d go wrong on day one, but it wasn’t totally out of the realm of possibility.

I checked out the car in person and got to know the seller. He was obviously someone with a lot of integrity and we got along well, so I was confident that if something did happen right off the bat, he’d take care of it.

When I thought about my actual cost of buying and owning the car, I factored in a (hopefully) unrealistic annual repair cost.

In other words, it was a pretty good process for buying the car. And it was based in experience — I’ve bought several cars in the past and have had the experience of buying an older fancy car and dealing with the maintenance that comes with it.

My last car was very different. A bit over two years ago I bought a car for $2500, a 1996 Mercedes C220. I knew that it was a very reliable car, and I knew that it would save me a ton of car rentals (back then I wasn’t living in Vegas all the time). I sold half of the car to my friend, so my total outlay was $1250. It’s still running strong with no problems that didn’t exist when I bought it, but I was prepared for the possibility that it would completely fail within a year or so.

If I’m happy with the process, I’m happy with the outcome, no matter what it is. If something way out of the bounds of what I expected happens then I may have to rethink my process, but part of my process is knowing that any process I come up with will be imperfect, so even that’s baked in.

Imagine if I did my research, understood the odds of bad things happening, and then became really upset when one of the poorer outcomes surfaced. I already knew that something bad might happen, but I still got angry? To me that’s a total disconnect with reality and means that I am unable to assess my risk tolerance.

I also want the focus to be on the process, not the results. I can control and improve the process, but results are always less predictable. Better is to think about the process and consider if there’s anything that should be improved. For example, if I drove the car home, had a major catastrophe, and then later found out that this was a catastrophe that many of this car had, probably I need to do more research next time.

But if I did my research, something bad happened, and these bad things happen approximately as often as I predict they well, over the scale of my life, then I should actually be happy about my process, even when things went wrong. It means that I’m gauging risk appropriately and reaping the benefits of that risk.

If you have a plan and you stick to it, be happy with whatever the results are. To expect everything to always go as well as it possibly could is a surefire way to set yourself up for disappointment. If your process is objectively wrong, then fix the process next time but also don’t be upset about that, because iterating on processes is also a good process.


Photo is the remnants of a lot of Walnut cracking

Totally random, but I may be hiring someone to do part time customer service for CruiseSheet. If that interests you, email me.

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