Pressure is Necessary

“Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise.”

Kobe Bryant

Unless you happen to be an Astronaut and you are reading this blog from space, you are experiencing the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere. The Earth’s atmosphere is around 60 miles thick. It’s a relatively thin sheet of air, but it keeps us warm and alive. Atmospheric Pressure is due to gravity and the thickness and density of atmospheric gas. How much pressure depends on where you are standing. At sea-level, the standard amount of pressure is around 14.70 pounds (per square inch) which—for you lovely math nerds out there—is 101.325 kilopascals.

It’s interesting that we hardly notice the pressure we are under. Unless you traveled to higher altitudes like Denver or Nepal (or Mars—610 pascals give or take, less than 1% of the Earth’s value) or experience the pressurized cabin of an airplane, you’d likely never notice.

(Or maybe you keenly familiar with pressure because you are a super-nerd like me and remember those Gravity Chamber’s Goku and Vegeta trained in to get stronger in Dragon Ball Z 😉.)

Gravity isn’t the only type of pressure we face in life.

Finding a mate, figuring out what you want to do in life, doing your taxes, making money and the day to day stresses of pursuing creativity and living are all pressures we face.

Pressure is necessary for creativity and growth.

Not too much or you’ll be crushed under the weight.
Not too little or you might not feel the need to act or even fall complacent.
What we need is pasta “al dente”—not too soft; firm to bite.

The question is how to find a good balance of pressure and what to do when we feel too over-pressured?

Too much pressure for too long and we over-cook our broccoli.

When you are under a tremendous amount of stress, for example, financial stress, it’s difficult to think about anything other than that need/pressure. The problem is when we are under too much stress—and how much depends on your personal tolerance level— we focus too much on the problem instead of finding a clear solution. We’re like a person panicking in the water who can’t swim. Panic is what’s drowning us, not our lack of swimming skills. (I don’t mean to take this scenario lightly. In the moment it’s difficult to see how our panic is causing us harm and losing ourselves to fear can happen to any of us.) What we need is a way to kick us out of our stress so we can take a breath and think objectively.

We need a lifeboat. Something or someone that can save us from ourselves. Maybe for you, that’s your daily meditation or yoga practice. Or perhaps journaling in the morning clears your mind off any worries or fears that are bothering you. Whatever we choose, as long as we stick to it and double down whenever we are under lots of pressure, we can make it through.

Creatively we need to challenge ourselves to get better at what we do. Writing the same type of story or headline over and over again isn’t going to make you a better writer. Taking the same style of photos—the ones you are most comfortable with—isn’t going to make you a better photographer. Playing the same three chords—G…D…C— the same way isn’t going to make you a better guitarist.

But pushing your boundaries, seeking out knowledge, trying new things, experimenting with discomfort will make you better.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #888

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