Top 10 Ways to be Tough

It’s tempting to turn back when progress is slow, you feel alone, or you’re unappreciated.

If leadership was easy, more people would do it.


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Meaningful achievement always requires resilience.

Temptation to turn back at every corner:

  1. Good intentions go bad.
  2. People don’t appreciate your sacrifice.
  3. Unexpected obstacles emerge.
  4. Progress is slower than expected.
  5. People let you down.
  6. Your best falls short.
  7. Constant pressure wears you down.

Top 10 ways to be tough:

  1. Choose sprinting. Don’t do hard stuff all the time. Do hard stuff for awhile, then do easy stuff.
  2. Fear failure. Fear losing the respect of colleagues and clients. Put yourself in positions where others depend on you.
  3. Just start. Say, “I’m working 15 minutes on this project I’ve been putting off.” One part of being tough is starting.
  4. Reward yourself. Don’t rush on to the next thing. If you get done sooner than expected, reward yourself with a short walk around the block. Re-energize.
  5. Engage in mission-driven thinking. Tasks wear down; mission energizes. Find something that pulls you through life. Stop pushing all the time.
  6. Suffer. Toughness is the result of enduring tough circumstances. Every time you quit you weaken your resolve.
  7. Become accountable. Tell others what you’re working to accomplish and ask them to ask you about it.
  8. Be honest with others and yourself, even when it hurts. Pretending and lying weaken everyone. A moment of honesty energizes.
  9. Accept what you can’t control. Working to change what won’t change wastes energy and wears you down.
  10. Commit to learning. The need to be right drains you. Learning energizes.

Bonus: Re-energize with people outside your organization. Find a coach. Connect with a mentor. Brag or complain to someone you don’t work with.

How can leaders develop the ability to be tough?