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The Five Traits of People Who Are Great Under Pressure

What causes some people to buckle under pressure when others thrive? I came across this NYT article that posted an excerpt from a new book, Clutch, detailing the five traits of people who are great under pressure: focus, discipline, adaptability, being present, and a mix of entrepreneurial desire and fear. More interestingly, from my perspective, the article also touched on three traps that caused most people to choke: inability to take responsibility, over-thinking, and overconfidence. 

Most people associate clutch performances with a triumphant sports moment: the home run that wins the game or the basket at the buzzer. But each of these contains an element of luck, and clutch is not luck. Being clutch is the precisely executed series of plays down the football field, not the Hail Mary pass. It is also something that goes far beyond the world of sport, to business, politics, war, any area where a person’s individual actions under pressure can mean the difference between success and failure. And while it has a mental component, it is not a mystical ability. Being clutch is the ability to do what you can do under normal conditions under extreme pressure.

Mr. Peters had run his business well in the 30 years he had owned Warburg Realty. Now through no fault of his own he found himself in a financial crisis that threatened the future of his firm. This was the definition of a clutch situation. Over the next few months, he responded well because his actions were guided by the five traits of people who are great under pressure: focus, discipline, adaptability, being present and a mix of entrepreneurial desire and fear of losing his business. He also avoided the three traps that cause most people to choke: he took responsibility for what needed to be done, he did not overthink the situation nor grow overconfident when his business stabilized. Yet none of this was preordained on that day in November.

Read the NYT article, buy the book “Clutch: Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don’t”, or read why you shouldn’t buy the book