Leading in the Midst of Misery

Leading in the Midst of Misery

In Stephen Pressfield’s classic War of Art, he mentions that the high performers —the creatives, those who produce, those who are effective—eventually have to learn to “be miserable”.

Pressfield explains: “The artist must be like that marine. He has to know how to be miserable. He has to love being miserable. He has to take pride in being more miserable than any soldier… because this is war, baby. And war is hell.”

I believe this is a powerful idea and one every leader and every change agent must learn in order to perform and push through tough seasons of life and leadership.

Navy Seals teach this. Two-a-day football practices teach this. Medical School Residency teaches this. That was my greatest lesson when I trained and ran a marathon.

Again, the lesson is this: No one wishes for misery, but you can be miserable and still move forward, produce, and thrive. God teaches his people this too (see the stories of people like Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Ruth and Paul).

What a powerful lesson we should all live!

Unfortunately, there are few who truly understand, theologically, that we live in a fallen world. There are few who truly understand that this is not heaven, life is hard, there is much pain, disappointment and misery… but in the midst of that, by God’s grace, we can learn to cultivate and create in the midst of circumstances that will rarely, if ever, be ideal.

A friend once told me to pinch Genesis 1 and 2 in one hand and Revelation 21 and 22 in the other. Those 4 chapters are perfection. The other 1,185 chapters in the Bible teach us to contend in the midst of a fallen world.

You and I are limited as a fallen human in a fallen world. Let’s learn to cultivate and create—even in the midst of our seasons of misery. 

If you can thrive and stay on mission, especially through the worst of circumstances, you are preparing to be a game changer and a true leader, who can adapt, adjust, and endure.

Do this “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” Hebrews 12:2.