Trust the Process

Wednesday night was really frustrating.  I was scheduled to take a professional certification exam the following morning, and from my recent experience on a couple of practice exams, all indications looked like I would go down in flames.  My frustration came from the fact that I had been consistently studying every day for several weeks and it felt like it would have been for nothing if I failed the exam.

Thursday morning I woke up, completed my normal morning routine, reviewed the material I had been studying and took the exam at the scheduled time.  I was thrilled when I learned I had passed the exam with an 83%!

After the exam, I was reflecting on how I had wasted the previous evening with feelings of frustration, disappointment, and worry when I should have trusted the process I had been following.  The process is the same one I follow for any event where I need to deliver.  The 3 step process is simply:

  1. Do my best to adequately prepare
  2. Give my best effort when it’s time to deliver
  3. Take any next steps, if necessary

Although I had done Step 1 well, my poor results on the practice test caused me to momentarily doubt the process and start looking ahead to what to do when I failed the exam.  This kind of thinking rarely enables us to give our best effort.  Fortunately, I was able to get back on track and focus on completing Step 1 so I would be able to perform well at Step 2.

During the test, I gave my best effort in the form of focus, thinking, and trusting what I had done in Step 1.  The result was a solid passing score and no need to retake the exam.  However, even if I had failed, all I’d have to do is simply adjust my studying, (Step 1) and repeat the process.  Not a big deal.

It’s easy to lose trust in a process, and start doubting when things get challenging.  When those moments of doubt and frustration come up, I’m trying to get better at reminding myself how often the process has served me well, to quickly get back on course, and to continue to trust the process.

The Intersection

On Monday evening January 12th Ohio State played the University of Oregon for the College Football National Championship in Dallas Texas.  What struck me most about the game was not the score or the collective ability of each team, but the very clear life lesson that was on display during the game.  The lesson was that great things happen at the intersection of preparation and opportunity.

Although I was rooting for the University of Oregon, myself being from Oregon, I was really impressed with the performance of the Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones.

Consider this:

  • The National Championship game was only his the 3rd college start as quarterback
  • At the beginning of the season, he was the 3rd string quarterback on his team

I was amazed by these facts while watching the game.  While on the biggest stage in college football, Jones showed the command and poise of a seasoned quarterback.  He didn’t look like a 3rd string quarterback, or someone who had only started 3 games.  He looked like he belonged there.  Was he perfect?  No.  Did he make mistakes?  For sure!  However, he was able to step in for his team when his number was called late in the season and perform extremely well.  Well enough to help win a National Championship.

It is obvious from his performance that he had been practicing and preparing for the opportunity.  His preparation intersected with his opportunity, and great things happened.

If Jones hadn’t been diligent in practice while he was still the 3rd string quarterback, he never would have done so well when he got the nod to lead the offense.  Imagine what a different outcome Jones would have had if he had said, “Once I’m the starting quarterback, then I’ll really start practicing!  However, since I’m only the 3rd string, there’s really no point in doing my best at practice.”  Jones had great performances during his 3 starts because he put in the effort to prepare himself in practice; to be ready for the opportunity, even when he didn’t see one or know that one was coming.

What about you?  Are there areas where you need to begin preparing for a future opportunity?  Is there a class you need to take, a habit or discipline you need to develop or stop?  Is there a reading, networking, exercise, or eating plan you need to get on?  If so, begin today.  Don’t’ delay and think, “I’ll start preparing when I see an opportunity.”  That kind of thinking leaves out half of the intersection equation:  There can be no greatness-causing intersection between preparation and opportunity if opportunity shows up alone.

So begin preparing today for the opportunities you seek in the future.  My guess is that, if you’re preparing, the opportunities are closer than you think.