relationship between pressure and your talent and expectations


“If you’re dealing with pressure that means you’re good enough for people to expect something out of you.”

Andy Roddick

<retired US tennis player, 1 grand slam, 3-21 against Federer>

So.  I tend to believe everyone knows there is a relationship between pressure and expectations. For the most part I think we view those expectations in a negative way <assuming you are the one feeling the pressure>. Yeah. Pressure can make you feel squeezed. That’s why it is called “pressure.” But, generally speaking, pressure is not an internally generated function, it is an externally given function – people expect something of you, life expects something of you, the situation expects something of you, and on and on and on. You get it.

But let’s flip the thought from “they do it because they are jerks” to “they do it because they think you are good enough.” Well. Pressure looks a bit different, doesn’t it? no longer is it “am I good enough” it becomes more “I am good enough if I can get my shit together <or keep my shit together>.

And maybe that is where dealing with pressure resides – that nuanced battle in the mind. Attitude.

Maybe that attitude just gives you that extra little bit of grit & no quit that permits your ‘good enough’ to get enough traction within the situation and get you over the hump.


Let’s be clear.

Grit & no quit does not mean winning or success in terms of achievement or actual tangible outcomes. Shit. Just ask Andy Roddick. 3-21 against Roger Federer. Multiple times in grand slam finals and semi finals – and one grand slam title. Or the fact he never quit going back out day after day during the French Open <just as an example> regardless of the pressure to win and consistently dying a slow death on the terre battue.

He found the gap between “you are good enough to win” and “my game is incredibly ill-suited to win here” and year in and year out tried to figure out how to win the stupid tournament simply because of his no quit kind of bad ass attitude.


He didn’t shirk pressure.

He didn’t shirk the limelight.


He took the cost of pressure not as a burden, but the price one paid when people felt like he was good enough.

Look. This piece isn’t about tennis or even about Andy Roddick, it is about understanding there is a responsibility that comes along with talent. It’s about understanding your own talent and in that understanding know that people also see it and also will expect something. It’s about being okay with all that.

People can sit around and quibble over what talent is or is not. people can quibble over what is good enough and what is not. but it is difficult to quibble with pressure. It just is. And in its existence resides a little, or sometimes big & glaring, spotlight on an understanding, or a belief, that people expect things of you. It is within that spotlight one should be able to see ‘good enough’ instead of ‘am I good enough’ and understand the talent exists to do whatever needs to be done. And in that situation, and in that time, it is quite possible you are uniquely qualified to do whatever it is that needs to be done.


Go ahead and quibble with me about talent, good enough, not all pressure is created equal and even whether pressure is intrinsic or extrinsic, but if you do so you are simply dancing on the head of a pin.  

Having talent is a gift. And I would argue everyone has a ‘gift’ in this sense. So. Stop looking at it as a burden. Yeah. Sure. With talent certainly comes some not so great aspects but, c’mon, whatever talent you have means you are in the game for god’s sake.

A lot of people would kill for the talent you may have (and I don’t care if it’s C-level talent or simply a talent for putting things together in your garage).


Quit whining.

Quit bitching.

Quit shirking the responsibilities that come along with whatever your gift or talent is.



There may be someone out there with more talent.


So what.

That doesn’t diminish your talent. And it certainly won’t diminish the pressures associated with what you can do and what people expect you to keep striving for.

But, in the end, pressure is no more, or no less, than simply a reflection of the fact you must be good at something for people to want to put pressure on you. Ponder.

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Written by Bruce