You must become comfortable pressure if you want to be an exceptional leader. If you want to do something that other people can’t, pressure must become something that you become comfortable with, as in, it doesn’t shock you and it doesn’t make you perform at your worst. I love this quote by the legendary coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Chuck Noll:
Pressure is something you feel only when you don’t know what you’re doing.
So as we look at what’s going on in today’s pandemic environment, there’s obviously tremendous angst and pressure that everybody feels. As I’ve said, no matter what you go through in life, it either makes you better or worse.
Guess what…if your goal is to live to be 80, 90, or 100, you’re going to go through crap about every decade.
I look at back at my life in 1991, it looked like we were going to have a world war, then we have 911 and it looks like the world’s going to come to an end again, and then in 2008, it looks like the world’s going to come to an end yet again, economically, then. Today, obviously, we are dealing with the Corona Virus. So I accept that about every decade something well outside of something I can control is going to rock my world and our country.
Your ability to handle pressure when everybody else is losing their minds is what’s going to separate you. As I tell my staff all the time, the reason why I get paid the big money is that I make the decisions nobody else wants to make and I’m willing and able to pay the costs if I’m wrong.
Not only am I typically the catalyst to launch a company but when I’m partnering with somebody, they defer to me to make big decisions. Why? Well, I’m older and more experienced and they’re comfortable with that. I tell them: you have me, I’m able to make these big decisions, I’m comfortable making these big decisions and if I’m wrong, I’m willing to take the pay for it. Typically, the partners that come in with me on these businesses don’t have to provide capital. So literally, if I’m wrong it’s coming out of my end of the profit. I’m comfortable with that pressure.
If you look at the great athletes, they do better under pressure. Many quarterbacks inside the red zone throw interceptions and then you look at Tom Brady who doesn’t. He’s been in that situation so many times that he’s completely comfortable when nobody else is.
Become Comfortable When Others are Not
Greatness always looks confident.
I’m going to go back to great sporting events. Michael Jordan with three seconds left. Do you really want the ball in anybody else’s hands? Of course not! Tom Brady in the last drive of the Super Bowl. Can you think of anybody you’d rather have with the ball?
Greatness always looks confident, no matter what the situation is, and no matter how much pressure. You need to learn to become comfortable when others are not and to some degree, you’re going to fake that a little bit. You’re going to have put your game-face on, but if you look paranoid or distraught and all the world’s coming to an end, how are you going to lead your company through something like this? How are you going to lead your family through it?
Have Confidence in Yourself
Show me a man with no confidence, and I’ll show you a loser every time.
You’ve got to have confidence. You have knowledge that others don’t have. Maybe you understand your industry better, you understand the market better. You’ve experienced it in ways others haven’t. You’ve done it, you’ve seen it, and you have past achievements you can grab onto. When I got started, I always looked back to some athletic achievements that I had and I just used the statistics. I was in a top 1% of 1% there, so why can’t I do this in my career? Why can’t my businesses be in the top 1%? When I competed athletically that was my goal. Why can’t I translate it over my past achievements?
Sometimes you just need to seek a small win so you can grow this confidence in yourself. Maybe your goal is to do something great, but maybe you just need to get a small win right now. One thing I did last week when everything was going into the toilet was I set a goal to put money in cash reserves.
I cut everything. I moved all the pieces on the board, re-did a bunch of things, and we were able to put a little bit of money in reserve. Why did I do it? Because I wanted to script a small win for our company last week. Why? It gives me confidence in my ability to lead. My staff is very confident in me.
Be Optimistic When Others are Not
When everybody sees gloom and doom, you know this too will pass. You know you can handle it.
Obviously, everybody’s getting on Trump during this situation because he has tremendous optimism and he talks about drugs that he thinks will be good and all these things that he’s optimistic and you’re not going to change his mindset. He has been doing this his entire life. He’s a “power of positive thinking” type of person. He’s not going to draw into his life negativity. You’re never going to hear Donald Trump, President Trump say, “Hey, these drugs are not going to work” or “It’s getting so much worse, and we can’t figure it out”. No, he’s going to say, “Things are increasing, but I see it leveling out soon”. There’s always a positive part of his message. That’s how he’s wired and he’s trained his brain to think that way, for 50 years.
People that handle pressure, they have optimism when others don’t. I’m never surprised at a press conference, how he’ll slant something to the positive. They’ll ask him questions, but where are your data? Of course, the scientists will get up there and say well, we’re not quite sure there, but we’re working towards it. They have to kinda clean up his mess, but he’s not going to change his optimism.
See Opportunity When Others are Seeking Survival
When others are just trying to survive, you’re looking for opportunities. Even in the midst of this with my companies, I’m looking for opportunities where we could be even more durable moving forward.
Nobody could possibly imagine what we’re going through and I surely didn’t. But in 2008, I was aware that through no fault of my own, there can be a market collapse. A market collapse naturally keeps customers from spending as much money or any money. So I’m aware that things can happen. That taught me to put money in mass reserves, never to run on 100% of what’s coming in, and to create multiple profit streams so if one dropped off, we had others that kept money coming into my companies. Why? Because I saw opportunities when everybody was thinking about survival.
Learn Lessons When Others Fail To
In 2008, I learned lessons I learned wee needed cash reserves like oxygen. I learned you need to get credit when you don’t need it. In 2008 when everybody needed credit, nobody could get it.
Banks don’t loan money when they think you’re broke or they think you’re going to go under. These are the lessons I learned. I also learn to hire people with mass capacity. My top tier can all do multiple jobs. I don’t ask them to do that regularly, but when the market contracts and I need to let people go, I can run on fewer people. Let’s just say there were 10 people I needed to run the company for conversation’s sake. In a contraction, I could probably run it with six for two months. I’ve got heavy hitters that could absolutely do multiple jobs, though I would never ask somebody to do that long term. You’re going to burn people out, and that never works.
The point is, I learned these lessons. I needed people with great capacity that can do multiple jobs if the market tumbled and it was in turmoil. I’m doing that right now. I’m moving the pieces on the board. I have one of my top people working for two of my companies. She’s working for one of them in the morning and one in the afternoon because she’s crazy smart.
I love smart people with great capacity and she feels it because now she’s valuable in two fronts of our company and there is probably a third job she could do.
Feel the Pressure and Embrace It
So if you want to be top to your entrepreneur and grow a company next level, pressure must become comfortable for you. Become comfortable when others are not. Have confidence in yourself by scripting out a small win this week. Be optimistic when others are not. You need to see opportunities when others are seeking survival. Learn lessons when others fail to.