Trusting the Process: Why True Progress is Rarely Straightforward

Joel Embiid doesn’t strike me as a man who lacks self-belief. In general, people who give themselves a nickname score highly on a scientific chart called the “Bellend Index” – Paul Ince famously being the only person to call Paul Ince “The Guv’nor”, for example.

However, look a bit closer at young Joel’s story and there’s a bit more substance behind his choice of “The Process” as his nom de guerre.

In case you don’t know, Embiid is a 22-year-old, 7ft basketball player likely to be voted this term’s NBA Rookie of the Year. So far, so unremarkable – but at age 15, he was in Cameroon playing volleyball, not basketball. This is also only his second real season of competitive play, thanks to a succession of injuries. It’s been a long wait for fans to see his potential realised, particularly against the backdrop of his adopted home of Philadelphia – a basketball hotbed of days gone by whose team has been more of a laughing stock in recent years, and desperately in need of a figurehead. Fans of underdog and journey-based metaphors will also note that Philly is the home of “Rocky’s steps”.

So, the process. How many times have you started something, knowing that it would take a while but telling yourself that it would be fine with a bit of concerted effort. You know the things I mean: marathon training, taking an evening class to learn a language, career change, growing a beard… everyone knows deep down that they take time and require a plan.

Trust the process

Ask yourself what it is that you’d really like to change or improve in your life. It isn’t something you’re going to achieve by tomorrow, is it? If it is, aim higher. You have the skills, experience and willpower to get there. Trust me, you do. I happen to know that so far, you’ve got through 100% of your challenging days – not a bad strike rate.

Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, we get disillusioned when we don’t see instant results or when we hit a plateau. We don’t like the idea that we might have to take one step back, or two sideways, or live without Sky Movies and new trainers for a year. We lose faith in the process.

Sometimes, this is the fault of the plan – too much too soon leading to burnout, too slow a pace leading to boredom, or simply the wrong style of learning or coaching for us as individuals. On the other hand, it is often our mindset and environment: considered and well-planned change with waypoints and accountability doesn’t make good memes, selfies or magazine covers – but look closer and you’ll see that every behind every “overnight success” is a lot of effort, trial and error, investment in the right help and old-fashioned hard work.

Which brings us back to Philadelphia. Embiid played one very promising season in college, leading his Kansas Jayhawks team to the season finale NCAA tournament – the perfect shop window. However, an injury ruled him out of contention, and Kansas’ campaign finished prematurely. NBA scouts had seen enough though, and he was duly drafted by Philadelphia– although in recent years this is akin to being appointed Donald Trump’s ambassador to Mexico. Indeed, his misfortune continued with yet more injuries meaning he missed two full seasons.

Two seasons of fitness in five years means a long, hard road of physiotherapy, rehab, practice, self-doubt, mockery in the media, more rehab… all with nothing certain at the end of that road. An arduous process in anyone’s book. Does any of that matter now? Not so as you’d notice. He’s got enough 30-second highlight reels to keep the social media channels sated, and the 76ers are even occasionally winning. He’s one of those overnight successes – and so could you be, if you trust the process.

If you have something to change, or something to achieve, get in touch – we’re in the business of helping people with that.

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