Monday, October 10, 2016

Performing Under Pressure.

Lessons from Joe Maddon, Carson Wentz and Christopher Columbus

Last week, we talked about the benefits of worrying productively. Here we’ll talk about preparation and staying cool under pressure. Global explorer Christopher Columbus wasn’t afraid to push the boundaries of what was possible 500 years ago--and he had less navigational technology than you have in your car today. “By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions,” he famously said, “one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.”

Speaking of breaking barriers, we know a number of you on this distribution list hail from Chicago and Philadelphia. Go to any game in those towns—or listen to local talk radio—and you’ll experience both the vitriol and eternal optimism of each city’s diehard sports fans.

Let’s start with the 2016 Chicago Cubs who put together the best regular season record in Major League Baseball this season. They’ve won each of their playoff games so far and have home field advantage throughout the playoffs, putting  them in prime position to win the World Series for the first time in 108 years.

Meanwhile in the National Football League, the surprising Philadelphia Eagles, a long struggling franchise that’s NEVER won the Super Bowl and which was widely expected to go nowhere fast this year, is off to a 3-1 start (one point away from 4-0), led by a brand new head coach, a brand new offensive coordinator and a rookie quarterback out of North Dakota State. That’s right, North Dakota State—not exactly an NFL breeding ground for talent.

What do Chicago and Philly fans have in common? They know not to get their hopes up too high, no matter what the stats, odds makers and TV pundits indicate about the strength of their teams.
Wentz became the only rookie ever to win his first three regular season games without throwing an interception. He finally allowed a pick in his fourth professional game last weekend, but still managed to rally the team from deep deficits several times, before falling short by a point. He has become so popular in the Philadelphia metro area that there is already a clothing brand bearing his name and billboards all over the tri-state area announcing, “Welcome to Wentzylvania!”
Maddon, the bearded, heavily be-speckled 62 year-old manager of the Cubs, is no fluke, either. Earlier in his career he guided the usually woeful Tampa Bay Rays to the 2008 World Series—where they lost to guess who? The Philadelphia Phillies, That right, the Fightin’ Phils, who won only the second world title in their 134 year history.
In Chicago’s Wrigley Field, Maddon placed a sign on the wall between the team’s clubhouse and the dugout that reads—“Don’t let the pressure exceed the pleasure.” Unlike most head coaches, Maddon doesn’t impose dress codes, penalize players for being late or issue military-issue rule books about how to conduct themselves or manage their time—“What can you really be late for in the grand scheme of things” he once famously said. “All that stuff is nonsensical.” As he told The New York Times last weekend, he has only two rules—batters must always run hard to first base and pitchers must do more than simply throw—they need to field their positions too. “The word pressure should be an absolute positive and not a negative.” Why does he say that? “Because if people are throwing that pressure at you, that means there’s really something good attached to whatever you’re trying to accomplish.”

Different approaches; same goal

Maddon’s seemingly laid-back approach to winning disguises his decades of experience and his obsessive attention to the nuances of the game. Wentz is a 23 year-old, whose intelligence and single-minded preparation make him seem abnormally mature for his age. In a
recent interview Wentz said it’s easy to block out all the distractions and media attention because he has to work so hard just to learn the new system. He and his coaches, break Wentz’s day into tiny micro-assignments and tasks, with the single goal of getting ready for just one thing—the next game. “Have a routine, get involved in the process. Commit to the process,” said new offensive coordinator, Frank Reich, who brought in a precise weekly routine to follow in which every scenario is covered separately, in the film room and on the practice field. They even gave Wentz precise times of day for arriving at practice and eating his meals.

Wentz, who didn’t have the same kind of routine in high school or college, welcomed the regimen according to reports. Rather than feeling micromanaged, Wentz believes the regimen helps him avoid feeling overwhelmed, which is what has ruined so many highly drafted college quarterbacks trying to succeed in the high-pressure NFL.

Maddon and Wentz each have different ways of dealing with the relentless pressure of their “win or else” professions. They each have different ways of shouldering the burden of their sports obsessed cities’ hopes and dreams.

blog and website has more


“Pressure lives in the future, not the present tense,” Maddon quipped. “If you can live in the moment, then you can enjoy the pleasure of it.” Wentz said he’s simply too busy preparing to worry about the pressure. It works for them.

Keep that in mind the next time you get ready to deliver a big presentation, speak to the national media or pitch a very large client. It’s far better to try and occasionally fail than to continue down the straight and narrow where your horizon remains perpetually flat.
Happy Columbus Day.


No comments: