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Crunch Time

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Be Your Best Under Pressure!

Learn how elite athletes like Michael Jordan, Sandy Cofax, Tom Glavin, and Pedro Martinez, deal with pressure. In his 15 years as a major league pitching coach, with "Moneyball" Oakland A's, NY Mets, Milwaukee Brewers and Baltimore Orioles, Rick Peterson has coached Hall of Famers, Cy Young winners, and many other elite athletes. In this book, he and bestselling author and leadership expert, Judd Hoekstra make this skill available to everyone. From an insider's perspective, learn how you too can become a Crunch Time performer and perform your best in all situations. With fascinating behind-the-scenes examples from some of the top names in sports and business, Rick and Judd offer six powerful reframing strategies to help you see a pressure situation with a new perspective so that it shifts from a threat that can make you panic to an opportunity for you to shine. With a Forward by "Money Ball”, Billy Beane, EVP, Oakland Athletics.

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1 Reframing—The Shortest Path from Threat to Opportunity

ePub

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.

—MILTON BERLE

At its core, reframing describes the skill of consciously and intentionally thinking about a situation in a new or different way. This, in turn, allows us to shift the meaning we attach to the situation, the actions we take, and the results we achieve. The operative word in our definition is skill. In other words, it’s not something some are gifted with and others are not. With practice, reframing can be learned by anyone.

reframe [ri: ‘ freım]

The skill of consciously thinking about a situation in a new or different way to change how you interpret the situation, the actions you take, and the results you achieve

Blanchard Executive Coach Kate Larsen shared the following analogy with me to describe how reframing works.1 You hop into your car and start the engine. The radio is already on and is playing a song on one of your preset stations. The song is like the voice in your head (a.k.a. your self-talk), often filled with emotion. The preset station is the equivalent of a long-held assumption or belief.

 

2 Why Reframing at Crunch Time Is Necessary

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There is one thing I know. Never ever in history has panic ever solved anything. It’s literally never happened.1

— STEVEN SODERBERGH, Palme d’Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival, Academy Award winner for Best Director

Our brains are magnificent and powerful organs with ultra-fast processing speeds. A team of researchers using the fourth fastest supercomputer in the world—the K computer at the Riken research institute in Kobe, Japan—simulated one second of human brain activity. They did so by creating an artificial neural network of 1.73 billion nerve cells connected by 10.4 trillion synapses. While this is impressive, the researchers were not able to simulate the brain’s activity in real time. In fact, it took 40 minutes with the combined muscle of 82,944 processors in the K computer to get just 1 second of biological brain processing time.2

In order to operate at this breakneck speed, your brain uses shortcuts. It reflexively assesses a situation and tries to make meaning. One such shortcut is our instinctual fight, flight, or freeze response in the face of a perceived threat. Consider a situation where you are being chased down the street by the neighborhood pit bull. Your brain signals danger. Your brain then floods your body with chemical impulses that tell your body to fight, flee, or freeze. All of this happens in an instant, without your conscious thought.

 

3 Reframing from Trying Harder to Trying Easier

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You don’t get paid by the hour. You get paid by the pitch; the fewer, the better.

—RICK PETERSON

From the time we were young, we’ve learned from parents and coaches, “It’s not enough to give 100 percent; you need to give 110 percent!” As a result, when we find ourselves stuck in a pressure-packed situation, many of us believe the best way out is to try harder.

Despite what we’ve been taught, at crunch time trying harder rarely works. Many examples, across a number of fields—athletic, military, and business—show that trying harder under pressure is counterproductive. Think about your best performances. Were you grinding and full of anxiety? I’m guessing no. More than likely, you remember your best performances as being almost effortless. These performances are often described as being “in the zone.”

Instead of trying harder when you’re under pressure, a better approach to getting in the zone is to “Try Easy!”1

We often try harder under pressure because we have some performance-limiting beliefs. For example:

 

4 Reframing from Tension to Laughter

ePub

Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.

—YOGI BERRA

All other things being equal, a performer who is tense loses to a performer who is relaxed. We all know we need to relax under pressure, but we don’t know how. In fact, when we’re told to relax and have fun, this often frustrates us and makes us even tenser. Why? Because we don’t know how to relax when we’re under pressure.

Let me offer up a solution. In your tensest moments, actively seek opportunities to laugh. There is something about laughter that makes threats less daunting and opportunities more visible.

In this chapter, Rick and I will coach you on how to use humor as the best antidote to tension. I will also share a number of examples of Rick and others using humor to relieve tension and move forward in difficult situations. Humor is more than a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have. Not just because it’s fun, but because it works.

Andrew Tarvin is the chief humorist at the company he founded, Humor That Works. He is not what pops into my head when I think of a humorist. For one, he is not a comedian. He graduated with a degree in computer science and engineering from The Ohio State University. Before founding Humor That Works, Andrew worked as a successful international information technology (IT) project manager at Procter & Gamble. He said, “As an engineer, I find what works, I do it, and then I teach it to other people. It turns out humor works.”1 But how does it work?

 

5 Reframing from Anxiety to Taking Control

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You are a professional glove hitter. Hit the glove!

—RICK PETERSON

There are many things about pressure situations which cause our anxiety levels to rise. The reasons include, but aren’t limited to, these:

We focus on goals or factors outside of our control.

We focus on outcomes rather than the process to achieve those outcomes.

We get overwhelmed by the perceived difficulty of the task.

We commit to doing too much.

Our expectations are too high because we use the wrong measuring stick.

We exaggerate the importance of the situation.

In this chapter, we share a number of antidotes to pressure that will lower your anxiety levels and put you back in control.

At the beginning of spring training every year, Rick asks his pitchers, “What’s your goal?” Most of the answers given center around outcomes like winning a certain number of games, or pitching a certain number of innings. Rick takes these answers as an opportunity to teach a lesson in goal setting. While many of us have been taught to set lofty, long-term-outcome goals, the type that show up on the back of a baseball card or a company financial statement, these goals are overrated in comparison to lesser-appreciated, short-term, bite-sized process goals.

 

6 Reframing from Doubt to Confidence

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A lot of really good players I’ve been around believe they’re a lot better than they really are. They’re not constantly evaluating themselves critically. In a game like baseball, that every-day evaluation can be so detrimental. They’re smart enough to forget the negatives of the past and somehow only draw from the positive. As a result, these guys end up being better than their physical talent says they should be.1

—BILLY BEANE, executive vice president of baseball operations, Oakland A’s

Our reflexive thoughts and assumptions under pressure often lead us to feelings of fear, worry, and doubt. These reflexive thoughts and assumptions include, but aren’t limited to these:

We base our confidence on our most recent performance.

We assume we have to feel great to perform great.

We assume we are stuck in the present, pressure situation.

We fail to recognize our strengths and focus on our doubts.

The elite performers I interviewed boosted their confidence in unconventional ways. In this chapter, you’ll learn the methods these elite performers use to overcome their doubts and increase their confidence.

 

7 Reframing from Failure to Learning Moment

ePub

Baseball teaches us how to deal with failure. We learn at a very young age that failure is the norm in baseball and, precisely because we have failed, we hold in high regard those who fail less often—those who hit safely in one out of three chances and become star players.

—FAY VINCENT, former Commissioner of Baseball

I met Garry Ridge, President and CEO of the WD-40 Company, about ten years ago after he spoke at The Ken Blanchard Companies’ client conference. During that conference, Garry shared the concept this chapter was named after—learning moments. Since that time, I’ve had the good fortune to speak with Garry on a few occasions. Most recently, Garry shared with me how he improves his own performance as well as the performance of the larger WD-40 Company “tribe” by reframing.

It started when I looked at WD-40 in the late 1990s. We were seeking to grow from $90 million to $400 million in revenue. I thought about what could keep us from hitting our growth targets. From my perspective, it boiled down to one thing—fear.

 

A Index of Stories

ePub

Introduction: Rick and Izzy

Rick and Izzy (Rick Peterson and Jason Isringhausen), p. 1

Chapter 1: Reframing—The Shortest Path from Threat to Opportunity

Reframing examples (Jack Cakebread, Colonel Lewis Burwell Puller, Ronald Reagan), p. 9

Chapter 2: Why Reframing at Crunch Time Is Necessary

Reframing Cole’s hockey tryout (Judd, Sherry, and Cole Hoekstra), p. 28

Chapter 3: Reframing from Trying Harder to Trying Easier

Take the grunt out. (Sandy Koufax), p. 43

The accidental world record (Katie Ledecky), p. 44

Try Easy applied to filmmaking (Steven Soderbergh), p. 45

Be extraordinary by being ordinary. (Rick Peterson and the 2001 Oakland A’s pitching staff), p. 49

I don’t need to be better than I already am. (Millionaires’ Magician Steve Cohen), p. 49

Chapter 4: Reframing from Tension to Laughter

 

B Try This

ePub

The “Try This” sections that appear at the end of each chapter are combined here to guide you through getting started with reframing during crunch time.

Identify a high-pressure situation you’re facing now or will be facing in the near future (e.g., completing a big project with an impending deadline, making an important presentation to a challenging audience, performing in a game or a recital, taking a final exam). Use this situation as the context for practicing the skill of reframing as you read this book.

Write down what you’re currently thinking and feeling about your high-pressure situation.

Are you seeing it as a threat or an opportunity? If a threat, come up with two ways to think about it as an opportunity.

If you can already see the opportunity, write that down.

Using the high-pressure situation you identified in Chapter 1, walk through and capture notes regarding the first two steps of the reframing process.

Pause and recognize your Caveman’s story. Do I want to think or feel this way?

 

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