How to Trust the Process, Even If You Don’t Know What the Hell You’re Doing

To trust is to surrender.
To surrender is to open yourself.
To open yourself is to risk getting hurt.
To risk getting hurt is to increase the probability of success.

LESSON LEARNED: When you assemble the courage to trust the process, you access the power to transform the world.

Your world. Your partner’s world. Your customer’s world. Your employees’ world. Your organization’s world. Maybe even your dog’s world.

Today we’re going to explore eight daily practices for trusting the process, even when you have no idea what the hell you’re doing:1. Don’t be stopped by not knowing how. How is overrated. How is the enemy of progress. How is the barrier to trusting the process. And I’m not saying it hurts to know what you’re doing once in a while. But if you always waited until you knew what you were doing, you’d never do anything.

You’re never really ready. Nobody is. Whether you’re starting a business, starting a relationship or starting a new career, trusting the process means traversing the periphery of your competence.

That’s exactly what I did when I started my publishing and consulting company right out of college. Hell, I didn’t know anything. I was twenty-two. But for some reason, I trusted the process anyway.

And here’s what I learned: Eventually, you’re just going to have to jump into the pool with your clothes on and trust that you’ll figure out how to swim before the water fills your lungs.

Let’s go. It’s time to put down that margarita and make a splash that matters. Remember: You don’t have to get good to get going; but you do need to get going to get good. Whose permission are you waiting for?

2. Restore the equilibrium. The reason it’s so hard to trust the process is because it’s a form of surrendering; and for most people, that’s a terrifying preposition. Human beings have an inherent need to preserve their sense of control. And any time they feel it being taken away from them, they freak out.

I’m reminded of the Arabian proverb, “Trust God, but tie up your camel.” That’s the real secret: To restore the equilibrium. To balance letting go with preserving control.

For example, when you enter into a new relationship, make a handshake agreement with your partner:

“Look, I know we’re both scared. I know we’re both skeptical. So, let’s agree that for every path we pave for our hearts to follow, we’re going to take regular rest stops for our brains to reflect. That’s where we’ll check in with honest, open and clear updates on the process.”

When you ease into that exchange slowly, you hold yourself over until you’re more comfortable tipping the scales. How can you balance control with surrender?

3. Bow to the door of next. Next is my favorite word in the dictionary. For many reasons: Next fortifies action. Next symbolizes progress. Next means complacency prevention. Next means continuous improvement.

Next is the monetizer of momentum. Next is the fervent architect of creative reinvention. Next is the critical trigger of entrepreneurial advancement. Next is the rocket fuel of your career.

Ultimately, the secret is not just to use the word next – but also to bow to the door of it. Bow meaning honor. Bow meaning respect. Bow meaning recognize. Remember: Without incremental progress, there is no incidental profit. Are you standing on a springboard or struggling in a straightjacket?

4. Fall in love with why. When you infuse your process with deep purpose, it’s noticeably easier to trust it. That’s why rituals are so critical. They carve a pathway. They create a sacred container around what you’re about to engage in. And they prevent you from asking, “Why the hell am I even doing this?”

This helps you fall in love with the process, not just what the process produces. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s defined this dichotomy in his book Creativity:

“Exotelic means you do something not because you enjoy it but to accomplish a later goal. But autotelic means there is no reason for doing something except to feel the experience it provides.”

Lesson learned: Trusting the process is a spiritual discipline. An investment in the stability of the universe. Why do you do what you do?

5. Don’t be so hard on yourself. In Leonard Cohen’s documentary, I’m Your Man, he shares his philosophy on the writing process: “You gotta go to work everyday, but know that you’re not going to get it everyday.”

Initially, that was a bitter pill for me to swallow. The idea of accepting a blank page as part of the process was devastating to my creative spirit. But over time, I learned to stop beating myself up when I didn’t get it.

That’s part of trusting the process: Knowing when you’ve got it, knowing when you’ve lost it, knowing when there’s no way in hell you’re going to get it, and knowing when you’re going to have to take measures to get it back.

My current strategy is: When I sit down to write every morning, I give myself an hour. That’s my cut off. And if the faucet never turns over to hot, and if I realize that I’m just not going to get it that day – I go back to bed. Simple as that. Then, an hour or two later when I wake up, I hit the page refreshed and renewed.

Works every time. What’s your strategy for returning to the work that matters?

6. Believe in the dividends. Every time I start working on a new idea, I constantly remind myself: “There will be more.” More details. More resources. More answers. More everything.

This affirmation builds my confidence, relaxes my brain and alerts the Muse that she can move at her own pace. And even if I only make minimal progress today, I believe in my heart that more art is on the way.

That’s the posture to practice when you trust the process: Easy does it. Keep it casual. Establish gentle flow. Soon enough, your rhythm will develop. And the dividends will come.

The cool part is, once you achieve a few victories with this strategy, your experience bank fills with success stories to dwell upon. That’s when trusting the process gets fun. All you have to do is roll the mental footage of the last time it paid off. How strong is your belief in the dividends of your process?

7. Don’t fight the contractions. Pregnancy is a process. And according to a 2004 study from University of Hawaii, it’s a process that’s happened approximately ninety-six billion times since the dawn of time. Not bad. Maybe those mothers are doing something right.

My guess is: Epidural.

Just kidding. The real secret to trusting the process is to honoring the natural rhythms. Easing your judgmental tendencies and embracing the contractions no matter how much they hurt. As Quaker author Eileen Flanagan writes in Listen With Your Heart:

“By speaking honestly, listening non-defensively and waiting patiently, we help create the space where love can reveal itself.”

The best part is: You don’t have to be pregnant to practice this. Take writing, for example. Readers often ask me, “How do you know what you’re going to write everyday?” And my answer is always the same: “I don’t. That’s not my job. Instead, I listen for what wants to be written.”

Stop fighting the contractions. The baby will come when it’s ready. Even if you’re stuck in that godforsaken hospital bed for the next forty-seven hours. What are you allowing yourself to give birth to?

8. Don’t abandon the process just because it gets tough. Trusting the process doesn’t mean being passive. The secret is to understand the principle of threshold level.

That’s the moment in the process where you’re so close to completion, you can taste it.

The moment when the entire the world is doing everything they can to prevent you from finishing.

That’s when you hit it hard. That’s when you take every ounce of trust you have left and invest it in the process that brought you to the threshold.

Because in the end, trusting the process is about doing the footwork. Even if you don’t recognize the road before you. Even if it hurts like hell. Carry out the task to completion. And let growth unfold incrementally. The world will reimburse your efforts. Are you willing to hustle while you wait?

REMEMBER: This might be the perfect time to let go.

To achieve success and significance with your newest idea, project, initiative or relationship, you know what needs to be done.

Employ your faith.
Learn to trust the process.
Surrender to your primal self.
And allow it to do what it needs to do to lead you in the right direction.

You’ll be fine.

What will you have to let go of to become something different?

For the list called, “7 Ways to Out Experience the Competition,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

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