Sunday, September 19, 2010

Thinking Under Pressure: Do you Clutch or Choke?

"What does it mean to be clutch?" Paul Sullivan asks in the Introduction to his 2010 book, Clutch: Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don't. I was delighted that he asked, because I was clueless. I do practice what I preach in my book Genderflex — women need to know something about sports to survive in the world of work.  Workplace conversations, still rife with sports analogies, and "wealth acquisition" stories keep women thinking "Huh?" at times. And I was still saying "Huh?" to myself after reading Sullivan's stories about John Havlicek, Tommy LaSorda, Eli Manning and Roger Federer. Even though I know who these men are, I still didn't get it about clutch.

My second problem with the clutch thing was that the author uses the word as an adjective. e.g. "being a clutch performer", or a noun, "He proved himself in the clutch." Maybe this is a male thing. I  think of clutch as a verb, e.g. grab, grasp. Nonetheless, I ultimately understood. Clutch means to be good under pressure. Choke means NOT being good under pressure.

OK, so what you're maybe wondering, given all my opposition, why didn't I just shut the book and shut up about clutch? Chapter 8, which is called "The Perils of Overthinking," notes the connection between clutch and the "empowerment of being realistic." Wow! That's what I'm talking about too. Not freaking out with the negative. Not faking out with the positive. Just plain old realistic thinking. "What it certainly is not is overthinking," the author says about clutch.

The final sentence in Chapter 8 notes, "To avoid the perils of overthinking, a person needs to just do what he does — and not think of what he could, would, should do in that situation." Hm-m-m-m. I'm still mumbling to myself. I think Paul Sullivan, in a very lengthy, sports analolgy, male-targeted way is saying something to men that I'm saying to women. Dump the negative — dump the positive — get real and focus on solving the problem! Men and women do speak different languages, with different tones, analogies, stories and points, but yes, there are underlying similarities.

I'm taking the book back to the library tomorrow before it sends me to sleep, albeit with a renewed appreciation for the fact that men also overthink, negative think, and often are overconfident thinkers!
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