Some friends and I recently launched an online Interview Crash Course that helps prepare medical school applicants for their interviews. A few days ago, one of my friends who helped create the course (Kenny) messaged me and asked:

By the end of interview season, what number of online course sales would make you happy?

Initially, I genuinely thought this was a clever subtle-troll comment so I replied with the traditional ‘lol’. A few seconds later, I realised that Kenny was being serious.

What number of sales would make you happy?

Honestly, this isn’t something that’s even crossed my mind once. My general philosophy (stolen from countless self-improvement books over the years) is to focus on process rather than outcome. In other words, to work towards creating the best course possible and putting it out into the world with the minimum amount of goal-setting or expectation about how many sales we’ll get.

I find this to be helpful in most other aspects of life as well. Let’s take YouTube for example - the process/system is to make 2 videos a week for a year. The outcome is the views, the subscribers and I suppose the impact on others. The process is the only thing I have control over. The outcome is multifactorial and so having an amount of sales or number of likes to dictate my happiness seems pretty foolish.

This thinking is also very applicable to exam performance and other such student arenas. Our process (hopefully active recall and spaced repetition with consistency) is under our control. Our outcome (eg: results, rankings etc) is a lot less under our control. Having our happiness reliant on what grades we get or where we rank is therefore a recipe for misery.

So to answer Kennys original question, there isn’t a number of sales that would make me happy because an outcome like number of sales isn’t part of my happiness equation. Hopefully there’s a general lesson there that someone will benefit from.


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