Chasing “The Thing”

by | Process

Do you remember the old episodes of the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote? When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to tear out of bed on Saturday morning, pour a giant bowl of cereal and watch in anticipation of the coyote actually catching him.

Then it happened.

One Saturday, as we were watching our usual cartoon fare, there was an announcement that in a TV special the following week the coyote would actually catch the road runner. Oh joy! We counted the days, and as the episode began we could hardly hold back our anticipation.

Then it happened. Wile E. Coyote actually caught the Road Runner. Only it wasn’t at all like he (or we) thought it would be. You see, due to some cause I can’t remember (do you?), he had shrunk to the size of an insect, so when he grabbed the Road Runner’s foot he was much too small to do any harm.

We were crestfallen. We felt like our hopes had been shattered, and our trust betrayed. Big on promise, short on delivery.

Big on promise, short on delivery. It sounds a lot like what often happens when we finally get “the thing” we’ve been chasing after, whether it’s the job, the relationship, the big deal, or whatever. We spend a lot of time and energy chasing after the promise of “the thing”, but once we get it we realize that “the thing” wasn’t really what we wanted at all. (I recently wrote another post about this called Chasing Vapor.)

While there’s nothing wrong with chasing “the thing”, (we should have big goals and plans and dreams!), we need to fall in love with the process, and not the end product of our work. A writer writes regardless of whether they get accolades. A designer creates order and meaning from chaos regardless of whether she is recognized. And an artist – of any capacity – makes their art whether or not they ever get the raise or the corner office or the bigger platform to share their work.

So while you’re chasing “the thing” make sure that you’re nurturing your process. It’s the only thing you can truly control, and it’s the thing you’ll always have regardless of where you end up. Otherwise, you might find yourself a little speck of a coyote standing on a giant road runner’s foot wondering what to do next.

Todd Henry

Todd Henry

Positioning himself as an “arms dealer for the creative revolution”, Todd Henry teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance. He is the author of five books (The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, Louder Than Words, Herding Tigers, The Motivation Code) which have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and he speaks and consults across dozens of industries on creativity, leadership, and passion for work.


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