January 26 – Input, Outlook and Outcomes

“Input influences outlook, outlook influences output, and output determines outcome.” (Anonymous)

The data I take in – both the objective facts, and objective feelings – drives how I perceive things. My perceptions, my feelings about a situation influences how much I produce. And all of that drives my outcomes. That is my more long winded version of this quote.

What this quote is telling me is that I have to be conscious of the process going on internally for me when approaching a problem or assignment. I need to be aware of what inputs are coming my way. I need to verify whether they are objective facts, or my own emotional responses. These inputs drive my perceptions.

It is no secret at work that I do not like working on budget issues. I really dislike digging into financial reports, updating forecasts and the like. Sadly, a big part of my current assignment is to do just that for a financially complex project. Every month I get new data on the finances. Some of it is very objective – a set of forecast numbers, or actual results. They are concrete numbers, easy to understand. Sometimes they are better than expected, other times they are worse, still other times they are right where I thought they would be. These are the objective inputs.

But then there are the subjective inputs. When a forecast changes drastically from month to month, when there is a proposed change that doesn’t make sense to me, when the actual reports come in late – these kinds of inputs drive very subjective feelings for me. They greatly alter my perception of the situation. And these subjective perceptions influence how I approach the budget. When I feel the emotions coming behind the data, I perform poorly on the reports. Things are delayed on my end, and the answers I give to senior management are altered.

When this is happening, I know that I must step back, detach myself from the emotional aspect, and focus solely on the facts at hand. Only then can I be effective and have output that is of high quality.

This is one example in my life where my emotional responses become an input to the problem at hand, and one example where I need to be aware of those responses if I wish to remain effective. The other day I talked about my brother’s saying about optic nerves and anal sphincters. This quote is another reminder to me that I need to be aware of the inputs I am receiving and how I feel about them. Because so much of my job has to be fact-based, I must separate out the emotion from the objective facts to be successful.

Sometimes in my life, when dealing with relationships, the opposite is true. I can think of countless times when I have found myself focusing on the “facts” of a conflict, and completely missed the emotions behind it. When dealing with matters of the heart, many times the objective facts don’t matter. What matters then is how people feel, and how those feelings affect the relationship.

I tend to be a person who enjoys and is driven my getting the facts. I want to solve things and move on based on the data. And, I want that data to be good, hard facts; I want anyone who looks at them to see the same things I do and have the same interpretation. Of course, this is an easy thing to say, and is nearly impossible to have happen. The reality is that neither I, nor anyone else can completely see  the same set of facts and reach the exact same conclusion. We all are influenced by those filters through which we see the world. So, the challenge I face is to not only understand my own filters, but to try to understand those around me as well. If my outlook influences my output, then the same is true for all around me as well. The better I keep this in mind, the more effectively I can work and survive in a complex world.

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