The inner scorecard

“The big question about how people behave is whether they’ve got an Inner Scorecard or an Outer Scorecard. It helps if you can be satisfied with an Inner Scorecard.”

Warren Buffett

Buffett, the third richest man on earth, measures himself by an internal scorecard. A man who, if we wanted, could buy anything. The greatest investor ever. Whose external scorecard wouldn’t read anything other than near perfection, still holds himself accountable to what matters intrinsically.

Like the tennis player who focuses only on the next serve. Buffett delivers his best possible effort, regardless of the result. If he gave 100% but the investment fails, to Buffett, that’s still considered a win.

This approach is very stoic.

I consider myself an intrinsically motivated person. I care little for external gratification. I don’t lust after possessions and material wealth.

In fact, on the rare occasions that I slip back into extrinsic motivation, I find myself facing a bout of low mood.

Like Stoicism, this methodology requires constant work. You will want to chase the next shiny thing. You will want the external scorecard. And you’ll want everyone to know it.

Jason Fried wrote that he has zero expectations. To Fried, expectations create an artificial outcome that presupposes a reaction – often, if you didn’t meet your expectations that reaction is negative. 

Instead, Fried “does his best work and the chips fall where they may”.

Alain de Botton wrote in The Art of Travel that our expectations of travel often ruin the actual experience. The perfect photos in the brochure or on Instagram rarely live up to reality.

I’ve travelled a lot and make a point not to look at photos of places before I arrive. That way I can be pleasantly surprised.

But what about in my work life?

I’m strict about showing up to do the work. But lenient about the results. Interestingly, I find this improves the results.

In the workplace, in schools and in universities, humans are destroying their ability to perform at their best. The cause is stress.

When the pressure is off, I am able to relax into my work. Much of my work is creative, so calm is essential.

However, this is not some structure-less, free-flowing activity. That’s called play. This is work. And serious work at that.

I work, I put in the hours and I’m present. Focused on the task. Not thinking about tomorrow, not thinking about next week. Just this exact moment. Because that’s all I can control. Everything else I cannot.

And then I stop. I don’t think about the results. 

My identity is connected, only, to my input. The work I did. Not the results.

If I wrote a book that didn’t sell well, but I put in 100% effort, my internal score would be high – and I’d be happy. That mindset shift will push me start the next book immediately, instead of nursing my wounds that I’m a failure, and all that shit.

This approach means I’m never knocked down by external events that are outside of my control.

All my advice is autobiographical – however, on this occasion, I think you should follow it. Start using an inner scorecard.

Joseph Pack

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CMO at CreditStretcher. Writing on psychology, learning, marketing, business, philosophy, health and more. If you found this article useful, subscribe to my weekly newsletter.