The process, not the answer

Today’s musing comes at the request of the homegirl @Bellametaphor from Rawemag.  I told her this story and the advice along with it, and she said I should do a post on it.

Aside from making music and doing this site, I’m a tutor.  Mainly in math.

Math is usually a lot of people’s weakest subject.  It was mine too until college.  College was when I finally understood the process of thinking in math.  Math has a certain flow of logic to it.  I never liked math because I didn’t understand the logic and it was rarely explained in a way I could relate.   Usually we’re given a formula, and told to just do it; but, when it comes to Algebra, there is a larger frame of thought that needs to be understood so that you can get through other forms of math.

Right now I’m tutoring a 6th grader in Pre-Algebra.  Last week me and the kid were working on some problems.  I showed him a few times the process of attacking the problems.  When I gave him one to do on his own, he went straight to guessing the answer.  In his mind, if he took a guess and got it right, then regardless of anything else, it’s the right answer.  And once you have the right answer, you’re done!  That’s how most people think because of how we’re tested.  If I put the right answer, I get points.  What I did in-between doesn’t matter.

His guesses for the answer were close, but weren’t correct.  He didn’t employ the process I gave him.

So I told him this:

“What you’re doing is trying to find the answer.  Focus on the process, not the answer.

Often times we’re just trying to find “the right answer” in life instead of knowing what the right process is.  We’re rarely told that our instincts or what we feel is the right thing to do, IS the right answer.  Worse than that, we’re never told that it’s OK to be wrong sometimes, as long as we go back and understand the process to get it right.

But my advice to the boy still applies when it comes to making art.

I’m seeing a lot of people trying to find the answer, but not trusting the process.  There are a lot of people wanting to be models but not taking professional pictures.  Rappers wanting to rap, but not studying the craft.  Singers wanting to sing and thinking auto-tune will save them.  Creating music, writing a script, painting…all of those have certain processes.  But most people are aiming for the answer- fame and money.

Focus hard on the process, and you can get to the answer.

Jay Smooth at illdoctrine came right on time with this video.  Enjoy!



  • I think Bruce Lee sums this up when he said “We NEED emotional content.”

    There is no end, no answer if nothing is put into the process that gets you there. Anything worth doing needs to be done with purpose and intention.

    Yeah, I’m doing a post on this later. =D

  • TRUTH! yes, the process has been lost and forgotten, too many focused on the end result (money, cars, & clothes)!

    p.s. i love math! it has always been my strongest subject.

  • 03/02/2010 at 9:17 pm //

    I enjoyed this post! Also, I’ve always wanted to master mathematics. I think I may take a math class at a community college this summer.

  • I love this focus on the process. I’m going to be thinking about this one for a while man. Great post!

    I also love the youtube clip and how he pointed out the lyrical prowess of the most successful artists of the last 10 years. That’s so key.

    Well done sir!

  • WOW…this is sooo weird. I just wrote a letter to my girl about education and folks only being interested in finding the “right answer”.

    Actually this was taken from the email I sent to her…

    All in all it sounds bad to say but school bores me most of the time. It’s fun learning about other people and their theories, but most teachers always teach it like it’s the bible. I’m like, “RELAX, you didn’t even come up with that stuff.” Then to top it off, students get a grade for memorizing someone else’s ideas. And some of them are wonderful, brilliant ideas and some are pooh-pooh ideas, but should we receive a grade for memorizing another person’s thoughts? I thought the purpose of learning theories and learning about folks was to inspire us to take the knowledge even further or to refine it or refute it. I don’t know, what do yall think? I’m a big fan of Socrates. He taught his students to always ask the questions, it wasn’t about the answers that he had already discovered. But I’m biased.

    As a former teacher, I wanted my students to take Shakespeare and write their own poetry. I wanted to create original thinkers. I feel like I see the same patterns at work. People send off emails to 10 folks to get “revisions” on something that they received from someone else. I have folks asking me questions always looking for the “right” answer. But I’m thinking in my head there isn’t a right answer, there are several possibilities and they all have different consequences.

    Sometimes I would like to yell out loud on a megaphone, “Does anybody think for themselves anymore, anybody?”


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