The Process Matters

Anyone that has been paying attention will have noticed that I spend a lot of time in Salt Lake City. So much time in fact that I have received a few messages asking if I moved there. I haven’t. With that said I did spend a total of two months there last year and have already spent three weeks there in 2019 – with more visits planned.


Because your environment matters.

Because who you surround yourself with matters.

In Salt Lake there is a place with people in it that inspire me, that make me think, that make me reflect. It is a place where challenging conversations take place. And it is a place that I want to share with like minded individuals.

I have worked with and coached a number of athletes over the years. Some have won World Championships. Some have won National Championships. Some have stood on World Cup podiums and worn leader’s jerseys in UCI events.

And some have never come close to those results.

Often the athletes that fall under the later category are the ones that I have had the greatest pleasure working with.

Emily Alexander falls under the latter group. I have been working with Emily since the Fall of 2014. Within a very short time of working with her I could tell that she was paying attention and thinking about the process (sometimes maybe a little too much). And through that process she has learned a lot about herself.

Which is the point.

That is why when my friends in Salt Lake, Mark Twight and Michael Blevins, announced that they were having a symposium to discuss The Philosophy of Effort and that it coincided with the pre-launch of Mark’s book Refuge I suggested to Emily that she should check it out.

She signed up immediately.

I asked her after to reflect on that weekend and write about it.


I have been on a journey. Realizing and committing to that journey…? That’s been a process. Confronting myself; not getting lured down perceived short-cuts, adapting and pushing through plateaus in performance or development of skills, recognizing when it’s time to leave or ask for help. It hasn’t been hard, but it’s getting easier.


I’ve always considered myself, and prided myself in being, a person who can “go with the flow”. This is also my biggest crutch. Leaning on it heavily, especially when things aren’t going the way I expected or would have planned. It’s typically the trait I’ve used to rationalize my way through different situations I’ve found myself encountering. Over the last four years, and at an accelerating rate within the last two, I finally realized my “flexibility” can quickly become a liability to my state of happiness, if not contentment. I have accepted a lot of what I am told I should and what has been given… Instead of getting acquainted with the discomfort of realizing I want more, and in time taking it.


You could say I started twitching…


This all came to an ascendant head at the Non-Prophet Symposium held in Salt Lake City in February. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when Joe sent me the link to the event and mentioned he thought it might be something I’d enjoy. I knew of the folks behind Non-Prophet, both, from Joe’s connection and lurking around the journal and mini-essay posts on their website and working my way through mind- and eye-opening episodes of The Dissect Podcast. I knew nothing about some of the effort they discussed and the intensity with which they discussed it, back-flips for time to highlight the absurdity of asking for “the secret workout for ripped abs” comes to mind. But I appreciated that they related everything back to “the process” of improvement. Making the process the absolute bedrock of how you build yourself into what you want to become, then also allowing you to deconstruct yourself and build anew if you so wish.


The topic of the Symposium was about “how to think” with an emphasis on the application of “strength for endurance for strength”, and though I did not know a lot about the application of those topics, I knew those topics interested me and I had questions, both for and of myself. I knew there was much I could learn from Mark Twight, Michael Blevins, and Chris “Burkey” Burkeybyle regarding all of it.


The weekend was a dam-bursting flood of discussions about and application of effort, questions, answers, rabbit hole questions that only have answers when you realize them for yourself, self-realization because of this metaphorical mirror being held up… Like Mary Poppins’ and her carpet bag, I’m still rummaging around inside, pulling out and connecting bigger and bigger pieces that I had no idea could have fit into those two days.


Since the Symposium, I’ve spent a lot of time sitting with my thoughts during activities and efforts, actively trying not to react in the moment and just noticing more of those things that I try to avoid and asking myself why not give them a try. Realizing that it typically comes down to “not knowing how” to do something, and where I used to let myself sit almost paralyzed, either by the not knowing or fear of failure; I now ask how, imitate, and test ways to do it that work for what I need this activity to do for me, and find the application to my primary endeavors. While the most immediate, and almost sub-conscious, transition I’ve noticed in the aftermath is how I talk to myself and talk myself into and through efforts. I had thought, and had been practicing, telling my negative voice to “just shut up” was the best way to get my mind set right. To overpower it with forceful, positive assertions. No, my negative voice hasn’t magically disappeared or somehow become less cutting, but I ask better questions of that voice when it tells me to quit. Those questions force it to look in its own mirror it tries to use to show how inadequate my efforts are and admit, “it just feels uncomfortable right now… and I don’t like it…?” To which, I use a phrase I used to only hear in Joe’s voice, but I’ve begun hearing in my own, “it’s not hard, but it’s not easy… come on, let’s go”.  – Emily


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