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Leadership Thought #441 – Keep Pressing Forward

July 20, 2013

Free Woman in Blue Long-sleeved Dress on Rope Bridge Stock Photo

No matter what happens you must keep pressing forward.

Life rewards persistence.  Too many people give up too soon and never fully realize their potential or dreams.  Success is not just about luck or good fortune.  It is about focus, hard work, determination, and resolve.  Everyone’s life journey has bumps along the way.  Keep moving forward even when it’s hard. Obstacles strewn along our path are just opportunities to further build our character.  They also test how much we genuinely want something.  If success always came easily then it really wouldn’t mean anything.

Joseph Campbell famously referred to an individual life as a “Hero’s Journey.”  Since I first heard these words, I have always tried to think of my life this way.  Throughout history and literature, the heroes we tend to most admire are those that overcame great obstacles or navigated significant adversity.  We can all relate, in a much smaller way, to the inevitable rigors of human existence.  It takes a significant amount of courage and self-confidence to bet on yourself and push the boundaries of your potential.   To encourage others to follow you down this road is an even more impressive leadership feat.

I have had the good fortune to have a front row seat in the lives of many talented leaders. They are all different in their own way, however, the best of them never wilt under the glare of the spotlight or retreat from hard challenges.  They keep pressing forward, especially when it is difficult.  They rally the troops and muster the collective strength to handle whatever comes their way.  Instead of giving up, they redouble their efforts and refuse to accept failure as an option.

This doesn’t mean they don’t ever fail, but when they do they fail, they learn from it and don’t let it define them.  They grow stronger with time and experience, rather than allowing themselves to be weakened by it.  The goal should always be to improve your success rate with each successive challenge.

Sadly, many individuals become spectators or passive participants in their own life and career.  Many of us tend to live in reactive mode and conform to societal conventions rather than proactively carving out our own unique path.  It is a fact of human nature that most people would rather follow than lead.  When the going gets tough we look to others to provide the answers and shoulder the burden.  We often run or freeze when it gets hard or causes unnecessary conflict.  Ironically, we then complain about the outcomes.  Everyone is truly a critic.  Unfortunately, not everyone exhibits bravery or is self-reliant when needed.

Life becomes much more bountiful if you embrace all aspects of the journey not just the parts that feel good or come easy.  Find the courage within yourself to keep pressing forward no matter what the challenge.   Only retreat when there is no other real option.   Once you have clarity on your goals, move towards them in a consistent and resolute manner.

Believe in yourself and your personal capacity to remain steadfast during any storm.

I’ll end with a series of Winston Churchill quotes I have always liked:

“Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.” 

“Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.”

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all the others.”