Douglas: Life is a process, not just a product


Sam Douglas, Columnist

I have spent my life concerned with what I produce. My senior year of high school seemed completely dedicated to getting a letter of acceptance. My peers and I took part in activities sometimes with the sole intent of appearing “qualified” to get into our choice colleges.

Yet the will to end up with a noteworthy product has continued into my college life. I happen to be a theatre major. There’s a wonderful group of theater boards, known as StuCo, or the Northwestern Student Theatre Coalition, that produces nearly all of the student theatre productions on campus. There are many students involved in StuCo from across NU’s campus. In an environment as large as NU where theater is created, it is expected that a certain preoccupation might be reserved for a final product.

However, product-oriented living is not reserved solely for the NU theatre community. Now is the time of year when students are looking for summer internships or are writing resumes and cover letters explaining all of the impossibilities they made possible just to get noticed by a corporation which will provide some occupational and fiscal safety after graduation. I am no exception.

A simple question should be asked: Is the product more important than the process? I don’t believe so, and I think that many readers would agree with me. After all, we are at NU to become better people — both intellectually and socially. That in itself is a process. However, I often berate myself for not being better at things I’ve just begun — things specific to me, like understanding Sanford Meisner’s acting technique, or like finding my optimal pitch; things more universal like navigating murky social waters or even planning out my day. If I end up with products I am proud of without having done the work necessary for them, I begin to take things for granted.

I procrastinate. I would even stake a claim to being the best (i.e. worst) procrastinator on campus. This also means that it is something that I’ve thought about a lot. I’ll wait days to start work on major assignments, turn essays in late and scrape by on the good will of my professors. I don’t enjoy procrastinating (I am sure few do), and it’s something I wish I could do without. I have even found myself daydreaming about not procrastinating as a form of procrastination (thanks, Christopher Nolan). This quarter I made it a priority to refrain from procrastination as much as possible. Success has varied. But progress has been admirable.

At the beginning of the quarter, I naively thought that refraining from procrastination would be just as easy as procrastinating. After all, it is just a matter of willpower, and I believed my mental stores were full of it. Turns out I was wrong. What little willpower I had I burned through in the first week. My depleted stores required time to renew themselves, and I found that I needed to economize. Apparently, I have the brain of a sprinter, not a cross-country runner. I grew disappointed in myself because I couldn’t follow through on a resolution founded on ill-conceived notions of the ease with which habit-breaking could occur.

What this lengthy anecdote describes is that the question of process versus product is really a question of progress versus success. When we focus on a product, our judgment becomes dichotomous: Did I succeed or did I fail? However, when we focus on the process, we open our minds to developmental indicators of the distances we’ve traversed. My struggle with procrastination is an ongoing process, one that requires a battle here, a scuffle there in order to win a war that will likely last my entire life.

And though I’m aware I still have a long way to go before I win my petty war, I can understand how much I have improved. I recognize both the progress I have made and that achieving any type of success is always a process.

Sam Douglas is a Communication sophomore. he can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].