My first experience in the George Washington University doctoral program was a trip with my classmates to a retreat center called Airlie, in Northern Virginia. The purpose of this trip was to allow new cohorts to bond over a weekend, to meet the professors we would be working with, and to hear alumni share their experiences. Part summer camp, part corporate leadership training, my cohort and I spent three days enjoying some fresh air, silliness, and a few adult beverages. It was and continues to be a fond memory for me.
Half way through the weekend, the head of our program, Dr. Michael Marquardt, facilitated an activity for us. Our cohort of 25 was lined up in a hallway, blindfolded, and shepherded outside. Split into small pods of five in the middle of a field, we clumped around a mystery bag. We were, Dr. Marquardt instructed, to work as a team to assemble the objects in the bag. As time progressed, individuals in each group would be allowed to take off their blindfolds, one at a time. The goal was to assemble our object, as quickly as possible, with the most number of blindfolds still on.
My team and I started to work, figuring out relatively quickly that we were assembling a small tent. Each of us had experience in this task. We assigned actions and set to work. But for some reason, our tent did not comply. I mentioned to Dr. Marquardt that our pieces seemed wrong.
"Trust the process!" was all he said.
After a few minutes, one of our competing teams shouted with excitement that they were finished. Dr. Marquardt instructed the other teams to lose one blindfold. We struggled on. A second team shouted they were finished, the remaining teams lost another blindfold, and we continued. I asked again if they were sure we had the right pieces.
"Trust the process!"
This continued until every other team but ours was finished and none of us were wearing blindfolds. Looking at the ground, the other teams standing around us, we considered our pile of pieces. Again, we asked the facilitators if they were sure about our supplies. Dr. Marquardt wandered over to reiterate his advice and...
"Oh, I guess we packed this bag wrong. Sorry about that. You're done."
Remember, you can trust the process, but trust your intuition too.