Ryan Holiday introduced me to a concept that I’ve since embodied, an idea that I have tried to live my life by since learning of it. In his third book, ‘The Obstacle is the way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph’, Holiday explains a concept named ‘The Process’, which if you’re an avid reader, you’ve probably seen the phrase being thrown around. The phrase “Trust the Process” has become synonymous with American sport, almost a mantra if you will. Since then, it has found a new home in entrepreneurship, as the below passage explains, taken from ‘The Obstacle is the way’.
Coach Nick Saban doesn’t actually refer to it very often, but every one of his assistants and players lives by it. They say it for him, tattooing it at the front of their minds and on every action they take, because just two words are responsible for their unprecedented success: The Process. Saban, the head coach of the University of Alabama football team – perhaps the most dominant dynasty in the history of college football – doesn’t focus on what every other coach focuses on, or at least not the way they do. He teaches The Process.
“Don’t think about winning the SEC Championship. Don’t think about the national championship. Think about what you needed to do in this drill, on this play, in this moment. That’s the process: Let’s think about what we can do today, the task at hand.”
In the chaos of sport, as in life, process provides us a way.
It says: Okay, you’ve got to do something very difficult. Don’t focus on that. Instead break it down into pieces. Simply do what you need to do right now. And do it well. And then move on to the next thing. Follow the process and not the prize.
The road to back-to-back championships is just that, a road. And you travel along a road in steps. Excellence is a matter of steps. Excelling at this one, then that one, and then the one after that. Saban’s process is exclusively this – existing in the present, taking it one step at a time, not getting distracted by anything else. Not the other team, not the scoreboard or the crowd.
The process is about finishing. Finishing games. Finishing workouts. Finishing film sessions. Finishing drives. Finishing reps. Finishing plays. Finishing blocks. Finishing the smallest task you have right in front of you and finishing it well.
Whether It’s pursuing the pinnacle of success in your field or simply surviving some awful or trying ordeal, the same approach works. Don’t think about the end – think about surviving. Making it from meal to meal, break to break, checkpoint to checkpoint, paycheck to paycheck, one day at a time.
And when you really get it right, even the hardest things become manageable. Because the process is relaxing. Under its influence, we needn’t panic. Even mammoth tasks become just a series of component parts.