Monday, May 30, 2011

Thrive on Pressure and Better Under Pressure

I was going to write a blog entry on how we create our own pressure - like the pressure to do a blog post. In reality it would make no difference if I skipped it. But then I tried to come up with the idea on what are the "must dos" and found that even those were choices created by our values.

For example, I was going to suggest that there was a need to work out. But reality is, I could skip a few days and likely not be less healthy. Or I could give it up altogether and still likely only have minor effect (like perhaps I would be heavier, weaker and live a slightly shorter life).

So reality is. We create it ourselves. I tend to create more of it than most people (or at least that is my perception). I am always under high pressure. Part of me knows this is the way I like it.

I read 2 books on pressure. Thrive on Pressure - Lead and Succeed When Times Get Tough by Graham Jones and Better Under Pressure - How Great Leaders Bring out the Best in Themselves and others by Justin Menkes.

Loved Menkes cover - a picture of coal with a diamond.

Menkes book is drawn for 60 interviews with CEOs (listed neatly in the acknowledgment section in the front). Of course I love real CEOs with real examples.

The book has 8 chapters. The interesting thing is chapters 2 and 3 are both titled Realistic Optimism and 4 and 5 are Subservience of Purpose and 6 and 7 are Finding Order in Chaos. They do however have different subtitles.

The order in chaos chapters resonated well. I often find chaos is a result of pressure or the other way around. If I can find the order and clarify it, the pressure subsides.

I enjoyed the final chapter the most - "Setting the Virtuous Flywheel in Motion". I am a big believer in momentum. I race hard to get things moving and once they are moving, they tend to keep moving.

Jones book is more of a how-to book.

It starts with a great chapter on "Now is no time to hide". This is a great message of leaders in times of pressure.

It is broken into 5 Master Classes with a few chapters devoted to each:

1 - Real leadership, pressure and mental toughness
2 - Staying in control under inevitable stress that comes with being a real leader
3 - Strengthening your self belief and ability as a leader
4 - Channeling your motivation to work for you in your role as a real leader
5 - Directing your focus to things that really matter in your role as a real leader.

Each chapter starts with key topics and ends with key takeaways which makes it fast to read and follow.

Some of the key takeaways I liked:

Mental toughness can be developed.
Most stress is self imposed
Focus on what makes a difference.

Both are great and recommended books for anyone studying how to deal better with pressure.


At 5:29 PM, Anonymous FSW said...

I've been reading your blog since you started a few years ago. I've found your posts to be inspiring. Some have given me good reading material.

I haven't had a chance to read these new books, but I'll definitely pick them up. I enjoy reading insight from various leaders. I think it helps me as I've been progressing in my career.

I agree with you that we create our own pressures and the resulting stress. I had been recently involved in a project which caused a great deal of stress on me. Nearing completion, I reflected on what I could've done better. I realized that throughout the project, I had been feeling very unhappy due to the perceived stress. Comparing it to all past stressors and what I thought caused them, more often than not, I realized that I created the stress myself.

I've been making a conscious effort to learn to focus on what is real and important in regards to pressure and stress. It's been a struggle, I admit, but every time I am able to focus on what's important and disregard those that aren't, I feel like the exercise is easier each time. Hopefully one day this will be second nature to me.


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