Everyone wants to win. But not everyone is willing to go through hardship to get there.
On the side of a mountain, pinned down again by a 700 lb motorcycle, I finally learned the secret to success. It’s not genes. It’s not gumption. It’s tenacity and learning to trust the process.
You might not care about motorcycles, but I guarantee you want a win. Whether it’s making your marriage work or securing a job promotion, reconnecting with your adult children, or going to the gym every morning (or at least once a week), we could all use a major facelift somewhere in our lives.
We weren’t made to accept mediocrity—but many of us settle for it. Why?
It’s the Monday Problem. It keeps us on the couch when we know the satisfaction of walking out of the gym after a great workout. It’s what keeps us silent when we know that a coworker needs encouragement after a brutal meeting. It stops us from picking up the phone and hitting send on that text to a family member we know is hurting.
We come face to face with the Monday problem when our aspirations require action; when the daydreams of how we could and should live in the future require immediate movement in the present. Saturday and Sunday are for remembering the good ol’ days and imagining an inspired future, but Monday morning is for working on the now. Monday mornings are for 5 am workouts, emptying email inboxes, and picking up from the uninspired places we left things on Friday afternoon.
We’re so cozy with our Monday problem that we actually celebrate it. January 19th is recognized as National Quitter’s Day in the U.S. Statistically, that’s the date most people begin to give up on their New Year’s Resolutions. That’s less than a three-week commitment to our goals. Three weeks! We have become so accustomed to failing, we’ve memorialized it with a holiday.
Part of the problem is that we just haven’t built up the tenacity to keep going when we face rough terrain. And when our new goal starts to require work, it causes us to doubt. That’s the second part of the problem—we don’t know how to trust the process.
M. Scott Peck began his seminal book The Road Less Traveled with these simple words - “Life is difficult.” Why do we expect anything less, especially when working toward changes in our lives that will make them more meaningful? Tenacity, and learning to trust the process, is the key to making it out the other side.
Have you ever had a great mentor? When you complain about difficulty to a mentor who has learned to trust the process, they won’t be surprised. Good leaders aren’t phased by obstacles because they have grown to expect and even embrace unique adversity. Trailblazers build their strategies in expectation of unforeseen setbacks. So should you.
The Bible has plenty to say about trusting the process. In Hebrews 11:6, it says-“Without faith, it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
God is not a god of quick-fixes. More often, God leads people right into the middle of difficulty. The God of the Bible uses processes that require patience and trust. His goal is to lead us up to, and through, obstacles that seem impossible. But He sees clearly what lies beyond those problems, and who we will become if we trust Him to the end.
That’s why another biblical writer, James, the brother of Jesus, can say: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
James makes it sound like the real work is being accomplished when we are most confused and bombarded because it’s at this time we learn to tenaciously trust the process.
Learning tenacity through suffering seems like a worthy cause when it’s all theoretical. When it becomes real, though, it’s a different story. I learned this on a backcountry motorcycle adventure. Like some of the other riders in our group, I was a novice when it came to riding on treacherous terrain. There was a day on that trip when I dropped my motorcycle over and over, barely inching forward each time before I lost control again. As the day wore on, I grew discouraged and defeated beyond anything I had ever experienced before. My friends kept helping me get up time after time, but the frustration steadily mounted to a breaking point. I was forgetting my training and unable to focus on their good advice because I was losing faith in the process. I knew I was meant to tackle these hard physical experiences, and I believed I had prepared myself, so why was finishing this trip beginning to seem like an impossible goal?
But bike drop after bike drop, I didn’t give up. With encouragement from my riding crew, I accomplished the grueling climb that had felt impossible and pushed on to manageable ground once more. I wanted to give up, to believe that it was a broken process or that I was the wrong kind of person to tackle it. But I pushed through, and found that the process was trustworthy, God was working, and I was more capable and equipped than I’d ever imagined.
Falling time after time on the side of that mountain, I learned three important lessons. If you’re in the middle of a difficult season, ready to give up, I hope these reflections will keep you going.
The Process Purifies You.
The same process that will completely bewilder you in the moment will go on to set you apart forever. When you’re in the middle of the process, you can’t be distracted by the old stuff. On the other side, you’ll have a clear perspective on how little those once-appealing distractions actually have to offer. When we stand strong through extraordinary experiences that would have toppled others, we gain a unique and set-apart perspective that makes us available for greater journeys that lay ahead. You will see exactly what you were made for and what you don’t have time or energy for any longer.
The Process Prepares You.
The confusing circumstances that require complete trust equip us for the next climb. If you told me that you are planning a motorcycle trip out west, I would have some tips to offer you about how to pack and how to prepare yourself physically and mentally. Those tips can’t be bought or taught. They only come through first-hand experience. When I was desperate to accomplish a seemingly impossible goal on the trail, my friends helped me focus all of my attention on the simple aspects of my riding that had to improve. When we field test our skills, our weakest training quickly becomes apparent. Be as prepared as you can before you face the process, but realize that the hardest training will come in real-time, as it is required.
The Process Propels You.
Momentum is your friend. Asking for a result without resolving to take action is a recipe for perpetual stagnation. Leaders are formed and find their stride in the midst of the process. We determine what equipment we can trust when we use it in the field. We discard the baggage we have no use for as we face new obstacles. When we settle in where we stand, we don’t have a chance to see the miracle that comes when our faithfulness is met by a faithful God. Moving forward requires trust, and God responds to those who trust Him.
No matter where you are in your process, treat today like your Monday. It can be a problem that leaves you stalled— or you can use it as a launching pad to propel you forward. The process is rarely clean and obvious. Keep trusting it. Keep moving. Practice tenacity. And your life will change.
The top of the mountain is worth the ride, even if you drop your bike 100 times on the way up. Trust me. I’ve been there.