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A Path to Mindful Productivity

Rick Rubin and Oprah teach letting go of outcome attachment and focusing on process quality. But if we let go of outcome, what do we do with our goals?

5 min read
A Path to Mindful Productivity

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Work is a devotional act.

Rick Rubin and Oprah agree on this.

They also agree that one of life's greatest lessons is to let go of any thought or attachment to an outcome.

Our task is to focus on the quality of our process and our efforts.

But how do goals fit into this framework?

Let's take a closer look and then see what insights AI can provide.

Rick Rubin: Any Thought You Have about Outcome Undermines the Whole Thing

Here's what Rick Rubin has to say on the subject:

We don’t make these things for an outcome.

It’s not the mindset to make something great.

The outcome happens.

You’re making the best thing you can make.

It’s a devotional practice.

Whatever happens after that, happens.

And that part that happens after it is completely out of your control.

Putting any energy into that part that’s out of your control, it's a waste of time.

All it does is undermine your work.

Your work is to make the best thing you can.

So any thought you have about outcome undermines the whole thing.

Oprah: Have No Attachment to the Outcome

And here's what Oprah has to say on the subject:

Do everything you can, work as hard as you can, and then let it go.

Give it to God.

Give it to the universe.

Let it be an offering.

Do not resist.

Do not resist, do not push against it.

Let it go.

And, that was the great teaching.

That was the great teaching that ruled every decision going forward.

Do what you have to do, let it go.

Do what you have to do, let it go.

No attachment.

Have no attachment to the outcome.

There's a theme going on here.


Do the work.

Do the best thing you can.

Have no attachment to the outcome.

What About Goals?

Our entire lives we have been taught to have goals, which is another word for outcomes.

Yet here are two of the most highly successful individuals of our time emphasizing that one of the most important keys in life is to have no attachment to an outcome.

Are these two viewpoints at odds with one another?

For more insight, I turned to ChatGPT, who responded as follows.

Harmonizing Process and Outcome

Reconciling the advice from Rick Rubin and Oprah with the societal emphasis on goal-setting involves understanding the deeper compatibility between these perspectives rather than seeing them as outright contradictions. Both Rubin and Oprah are emphasizing a process-oriented approach over an outcome-oriented mindset, while the concept of goal-setting inherently involves focusing on outcomes. Here's how these ideas can complement each other:

Focus on the Process, Not Just the Outcome

Rubin's and Oprah's advice centers on the importance of dedicating oneself to the quality of the work or the process rather than being overly concerned with the end result. This doesn't mean ignoring goals but rather shifting the emphasis to the journey towards those goals—the daily practices, the learning, and the growth that occur as you strive towards your objective. By focusing on the process, you are more likely to enjoy what you are doing and put in your best effort, which paradoxically increases the chances of achieving your desired outcomes.

Goals as Direction, Not Destination

View goals as a direction rather than a fixed destination. This mindset allows for flexibility and adaptation, which is essential in a world that is constantly changing. Goals set the path, but being too attached to a specific outcome can lead to frustration and disappointment if things don’t go exactly as planned. Instead, use goals to guide your efforts while remaining open to the journey unfolding in unexpected ways.

Detachment from Outcome

Both Rubin and Oprah advocate for detachment from outcomes, which aligns with many philosophical and spiritual traditions that emphasize living in the present moment and doing one's best without excessive worry about the future. This detachment isn't about lack of care or effort but rather about not allowing your happiness and sense of self-worth to be entirely dependent on achieving specific results. It's about putting in your best effort, doing what you believe is right, and then being at peace with whatever happens, knowing it's beyond your direct control.

Integrating Both Approaches

  • Set Goals: Use goals to provide direction and motivation, clarifying what you wish to achieve.
  • Focus on the Process: Invest your energy and attention in the quality of your actions and in the growth you experience along the way.
  • Practice Detachment: While working towards your goals, cultivate a mindset of detachment regarding the outcome. This doesn’t mean you don’t care about the result but that you understand your worth and inner peace aren’t solely dependent on achieving specific goals.
  • Reflect and Adapt: Be willing to reassess and adjust your goals based on what you learn during the process. This adaptability is crucial for long-term success and fulfillment.

In essence, it's about balancing ambition with inner peace, blending the drive to achieve with an acceptance of the fluidity of life’s outcomes. This approach can lead to not only greater professional success but also personal fulfillment and well-being.

The Bible and the Concept of Detachment from Outcome

The information ChatGPT returned above sounded oddly familiar.

So I decided to present another question.

Layng: How does the detachment from outcome, as taught by Rick Rubin and Oprah above, relate to Biblical teachings?

ChatGPT 4: The concept of detachment from outcomes, as discussed by Rick Rubin and Oprah, shares similarities with several biblical teachings, particularly those emphasizing trust, surrender to God's will, and the importance of focusing on present actions rather than being overly concerned with the results. Here are a few ways in which this idea relates to biblical teachings:

Trust in God

The Bible frequently urges believers to trust in God rather than in their own efforts or the outcomes of their actions. Proverbs 3:5-6 states, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." This passage suggests a form of detachment by advising against reliance on one's own understanding and instead promoting trust in God's guidance.

Surrender to God’s Will

The notion of surrendering to a higher power, as Oprah mentions, resonates with Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: "Yet not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42). This demonstrates a profound detachment from personal desires in favor of God's plan, highlighting the importance of aligning one's actions with divine will rather than personal outcomes.

Focus on Right Action

The teachings of Jesus also emphasize the importance of right action for its own sake rather than for the rewards it might bring. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encourages his followers to give, pray, and fast in secret, without seeking recognition or reward from others, promising that their Father who sees what is done in secret will reward them (Matthew 6:1-18). This aligns with the idea of focusing on the quality of one’s actions (the process) rather than on the rewards they might bring (the outcome).

Parable of the Sower

The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23) can also reflect the concept of doing one's best and leaving the outcome to God. The sower sows his seeds across various types of soil, representing the dissemination of God's word across different types of hearts. The varying results—some seeds flourish while others don’t—illustrate that one's duty is to spread the message; however, the results (how it is received) are ultimately out of one’s control.

Contentment and Faith

Philippians 4:11-13 discusses contentment in all circumstances, where Paul mentions, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." This reflects a detachment from outcomes, as Paul finds peace and strength in his faith, regardless of external successes or failures.

In summary, the detachment from outcomes as discussed by Rick Rubin and Oprah shares common ground with biblical teachings that emphasize trust in God, surrender to His will, focusing on right actions, and finding contentment regardless of circumstances. These teachings suggest that while one should act with intention and purpose, the ultimate outcomes are within God’s domain, encouraging a focus on faithfulness and diligence in the present moment.

detachment from outcomeoprahrick rubinthe bible


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