The Watering Hole Blog

Follow Process Not Prize

The Obstacle is the Way book cover

Follow the Process – Not the Prize

“We shy away from writing a book or making a film even though it’s our dream because it’s so much work—we can’t imagine how we get from here to there.”

~ Ryan Holiday, “The Obstacle is the Way”

I have blogged about process multiple times in the past…and here I am doing it again. Over the past few months, I have been reminded, yet again, about the incredibly potent power of focusing on the process versus the end result i.e. just getting the damn thing done.

In Ryan Holiday’s brilliant book, “The Obstacle is the Way,” the author shares some sage advice about process by Nick Saban, head coach of the University of Alabama football team.

“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.”

~ Nick Saban

Holiday continues this train of thought as it pertains to tackling any difficult task or significant goal.

“Okay,” the author says, “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.”

Simple advice…yet not always so easy to follow. Why? Because it is tough not to get overwhelmed by the enormity of a significant undertaking. Getting from A (where you are now) to Z (where you want to go/achieve/become) will take time, effort, and perseverance (and probably money).

There are a lot of letters in between A and Z! So, too, with steps.

“Excellence is a matter of steps,” writes Holiday. “Excelling at this one, then at that one, and then the one after that.”

“The process is about finishing,” Holiday continues. “Finishing the smallest task you have in front of you and finishing it well.”

Perhaps read that line again (in case it sounds like a contradiction: we’re not supposed to focus on the end prize…but we are supposed to focus on finishing).

We need to focus on finishing the small task/step that is on our plate…today. Click To Tweet

Not the busy work, the distracting fluff – but the actual task that you KNOW will move the needle closer to eventually achieving/completing whatever it is that truly matters to you.

“Whether it’s pursuing the pinnacle of success in your field or simply surviving some awful or trying ordeal, the same approach works,” explains Holiday. “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,” says Holiday, “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.”

“We shy away from writing a book or making a film even though it’s our dream because it’s so much work—we can’t imagine how we get from here to there.”

~ Ryan Holiday, “The Obstacle is the Way”

Breaking it down – whatever IT is – into smaller, manageable steps is the only way to tackle a mammoth task that could conceivably end up taking hundreds, if not thousands, of hours.

Taking that first step requires an incredible amount of courage. Been there, done that…and I can guarantee that at some point, if you don’t take on too much too soon, the magic of process will kick in…and before you know it, getting the damn thing done is far less important than the sheer joy of showing up each day and doing the task at hand.

“The process is the voice that demands we take responsibility and ownership. That prompts us to act even if only in a small way.”

~ Ryan Holiday, “The Obstacle is the Way”


“Barrier Removed” inspirational quote cards (30 cards per set) available in our Etsy shop

Maryanne Pope is the author of “A Widow’s Awakening.” She also writes screenplays, playscripts and blogs. She is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and a co-founder of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. To receive Maryanne’s blog, “Weekly Words of Wisdom,” please subscribe here.

Share this post

4 thoughts on “Follow Process Not Prize”

  1. Boy did I need this today. I have been struggling to get on task. This is just the little nudge that helps!!! Adore you!!!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.