Powerful thought: Great achievement often happens when our backs are up against the wall. Pressure can actually enhance your performance. Your power most fully exerts itself when the heat is on. Who you truly are surfaces only when you place yourself in a position of discomfort and you begin to feel like you’re out on the skinny branch. Challenge serves beautifully to introduce you to your best – and most brilliant – self. Please stop and think about that idea for a second or two. Easy times don’t make you better. They make you slower and more complacent and sleepy. Staying in the safe zone – and coasting through life – never made anyone bigger. Sure it’s very human to take the path of least resistance. And I’d agree it’s pretty normal to want to avoid putting stress on yourself by intensely challenging yourself to shine. But greatness never came to anyone normal. (Mahatma Gandhi, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Mother Teresa, Albert Schweitzer, Andy Grove and Thomas Edison definitely marched to a different drumbeat – thank God).
I’ve never forgotten the story of the famed explorer Hernando Cortes. He landed on the shores of Veracruz, Mexico, in 1519. Wanted his army to conquer the land for Spain. Faced an uphill battle: an aggressive enemy, brutal disease and scarce resources. As they marched inland to do battle, Cortes ordered one of his lieutenants back to the beach with a single instruction: “Burn our boats.” My kind of guy.
How fully would you show up each day – at work and in life – if retreat just wasn’t an option? How high would you reach, how greatly would you dare, how hard would you work and how loud would you live if you knew “your boats were burning,” that failure just wasn’t a possibility? Diamonds get formed through intense pressure. And remarkable human beings get formed by living from a frame of reference that tells them they just have to win.