Performing Under Pressure.
- by: Hank Berkowitz
- October 10, 2016
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.”
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.
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.
“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.