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Pressure is a Privilege

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” – Marcus Aurelius 

Arguably one of the great leaders of all time, Marcus Aurelius discovered something that’s still true today in the pursuit of both physical and spiritual fitness. The very thing in front of you – your new skill, your heavy barbell, your fear, your insecurity, your pride – that’s the way forward. We will not achieve our greatest purpose in life by plotting a route around the obstacles that lie in front of us. Instead, we must develop an intrinsic desire to embrace pressure. Pressure is a privilege.

Difficulty is often the first indicator that change is either about to begin or has already begun. Here’s the problem – we hate change. Now, you can get on your soapbox and try to tell me how much you like change, and how the only constant is change, and how to not change is to not experience life, and I’ll gladly receive your leadership memes. But at the core level, change is scary. And we don’t like scary things. We like safe things. Why do you think they call them ‘Creature Comforts’?

What great adventure ever began with comfort? I mean, do you think that climbing Everest, hiking to Machu Pichu, or covering the Appalachian Trail is comforting? And that thing in front of you, it’s not comforting either. You don’t get a PR in the gym by staying comfortable, you earn them as a result of confrontation. Now don’t buy into the idea that confrontation is all bad. You can live an incredible life of peace and joy while embracing confrontation. In fact, the greatest peace and joy in your life lies on the other side of your willingness to confront. Confront your fears. Confront your doubts. Confront the belief that you can’t change. Confront the notion that just because the world says, somehow you’re obligated. You see, the thing in front of you in the gym isn’t really the thing. It’s the things going on in your head that only bubble up when you stand in front of the thing in the gym. That’s the pressure. And that pressure is a privilege.

I’m a student of leadership. I love leadership. I love working with leaders. I love building leaders. And I love coaching leaders through their own confrontations. Leadership is about learning to embrace pressure. Everyone is a leader until things get difficult. Everyone knows what’s wrong with our government but won’t run for office. It’s one thing to spectate, and quite another to step into the ring. The man you’ll read about today, Nehemiah, knew the difference. He had a vision to rebuild the wall of a great city, but the only way forward was to confront the very obstacles in front of him. Nehemiah had enemies, he had doubts, and he had downhearted people to lead. It would have been easier to turn away from the pressure. It would have been easier to live with the status quo, to accept a mediocre life. But Nehemiah, like Marcus Aurelius, knew that pressure is the path forward

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