• Sylvester Snipes

Pressure changes everything: Talent is not enough

Updated: Jun 3, 2019

The Quote

“Pressure, changes everything pressure. Some people you squeeze them, they focus, others fold can you summon your talent at will? Can you deliver on a deadline? Can you sleep at night?

The Context

Taken from the film; The Devil’s Advocate an unusually successful young lawyer from Florida played by a young Keanu Reeves is being headhunted by a big New York City and is invited along with his  wife played by the lovely Charlize Theron to the big apple. The firm is owned and run by John Milton played by Al Pacino named after the author of Paradise Lost, John Milton.

The Context

Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves are in the midst of a seriously sexy conversation rife with innuendos, metaphores and negotiation in which upon their first conversation Pacino readily admits that reeves is a very talented young lawyer.

The Scene

He then proceeds with a cautionary warning for his young to be apprentice seething to him “Pressure changes everything. Some people, you squeeze ‘em, they focus. Others fold.”

Now I was once told by a very wise woman (hi mum) that talent is not actually that rare, being skilled at something is not that uncommon. But once we start applying other variables into a once controlled situation including things such as stress, emotion, a change of environment and even life, that’s when you’re living in the real world.

Now there is a certain element of truth in this. Think of how many people you knew that did extremely well at school, or flourished within environments that were completely void of outside interference but when met with unexpected circumstances are left utterly useless, standing around in a puddle of their own panic? I’m sure there are more than you could poke a stick at. This part of life as in dealing with pressure starts to separate yourself from those who can and those who cannot.


For people that focus they usually possess a few key characteristics during this time. Traits include:

Focus = inspired, alert, energised, feels effortless

Folding =  hesitant, overwhelmed, panic, freezing, withdrawal, shut-down, giving up and even avoiding the situation altogether.

In the Real World

When people are focused, they are ‘in the zone’. There’s either an absence of insecure or other toxic thinking or they ignore their insecure thoughts instead of dwelling on them. When people are folding, it’s usually caused by over-analysing and over-thinking. There’s a lack of objectivity or clarity. insecure thinking that they buy into,  to the point that it de-rails them.

Thoughts may include:


These individuals aren’t even giving themselves a chance to talk themselves out of their own willies. Now this happens to even the best of us but at times ends with dire consequences.

However on the other end of the spectrum You’re probably already familiar with hearing people say that they do their best work when they’re under pressure. That they “enjoy the last minute panic”.

Now when there is only a short time to accomplish something, many people will abandon their toxic or insecure thinking and just get on with it.

Those that thrive under these conditions will also believe that it’s the time pressure that is acting as a catalyst in the endgame that aides them in achieving their focus and in essence closing.

But how is it that other people in the exact same situation will fold? Even when going face to face with the exact same deadline, same variables and the same game. Yet, as opposed to putting themself them into action, they freeze.

Instead of dropping their unhelpful thinking, they continue engaging with it. By doing so, they fuel it to the point where it ignites their fold.

The truth is that it’s not the amount of time that matters,  even though it looks like it is. That’s a misunderstanding about how the mind works. We all have the potential to go either way. The direction we take is always and only ever a function of our state of mind in the moment.  When you can see fear and insecurity for what it really is (thought), you can free your mind to focus on what really matters.

The Question

So which is it? Do you focus or do you fold? Can you give us an example of when you’ve been in either situation? How did you react? What were the Consequences? Share in the comments below!

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