Sunday, October 30, 2016

Nick Saban vs. Joel Embiid

There was an article that recently came out on on Philadelphia 76'ers player Joel Embiid, focusing on The Process. In case you don't follow the NBA, Embid was a first round draft pick in 2014, and is just now playing his first meaningful NBA game.

 The 76'ers, over the last three years have adopted the mantra of "The Process". During this time, they have been losing on a regular basis, as they work to rebuild their team and load up with young talent, hoping that temporary pain will lead to some lasting success. Over the last three years, the team has 47 wins compared to 199 losses. During this time, they have had numerous first round draft picks get injured, fired a coach, and alienated fans, some of whom have complained about "The Process" as all the misfortune has piled up.

Joel Embiid has become the face of The Process for the 76'ers. He left his family in Cameroon as a teenager to pursue his dream of playing in the NBA. When he got to the U.S., he played at a prep school with teammates that constantly made fun of him, both for where he was from and at his lack of basketball skill. Despite his lack of experience and raw talent, he was drafted in the first round by Philadelphia, and then injured his foot early in the pre-season. Embiid has since been through an arduous and unsuccessful rehab stint, battled loneliness as he was separated from teammates and family, suffered a second significant injury, considered quitting, and persevered through a second rehab stint as he tried to find his way back onto the floor.

Embiid has second-guessed himself, considered going back to playing volleyball, or simply returning home to be with his family, giving up on the sport altogether. He has been up and down and down and out and frustrated and optimistic during this process he's in the midst of. He is finally playing meaningful NBA games, but there is a lingering concern about his health, and an uncertainty about what the next day, or even the next play may bring. Will all of his work have been worth it? Will The Process pay off?

The Process sounds great when Nick Saban talks about it. "We take it one play at a time, stick to the process, and live with the results" (common coach speak). When the coach who is touting the process is doing so through confetti showers on national television and has two handfuls of championship rings, it is easy for the viewer to get fired up about following such a mantra in their own lives. Those results are easy to live with. But what happens when the results don't come as swiftly or as significantly as we had hoped they would?

In reality, The Process usually looks much more like Joel Embiid than it does Nick Saban. Not with the losses necessarily, but with the challenges, with the public failures, with the starts and stops, with the questioning of the point of it all. We get knocked down, and we get up, and we get knocked down again. We have to sit and watch others succeed, while we go through growing pains. We doubt what we are doing and why we are doing it, and we think long and hard about giving up, doing something else, or settling into something less than what we are really capable of.

The point is not to look at Joel Embiid and all of his "failures" and setbacks. The point is to look at Joel Embiid and think about what type of man he is becoming in all of this. At the end of the article, it talks about how free he is playing now, like he has nothing to lose. The coaches and front office staff point to a number of examples where he is the last player to leave during public events, signing autographs and interacting with fans. The process has changed him, for the better.

This is what The Process really is, in my eyes. And if we want to get to where we want to get, if we want to fan our gifts into flame, if we want to move towards who we have been designed to be, rather than settling into average, then WE MUST ENDURE. It's something that we have to go through, sometimes, in order to become who we hope to become. The Bible doesn't say, "a gently flowing stream sharpens iron" or "a fluffy soft cloud sharpens iron". No, "Iron sharpens Iron". It's not meant to be a discouragement, but an acknowledgment that sometimes we have to do tough things in order to reach big dreams.

It's not easy, but it will be worth it.

Much Love,

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