For fifteen years, part of my job was to come up with creative ideas—every week, under extreme time pressure, with roughly a million people watching.
I was good at it.
But I didn’t start out being good at coming up with creative ideas under pressure. I had to learn.
In my case, creative ideas were necessary because I was the Executive Producer of a hit comedy TV show. In your case, creative ideas are necessary because the outcome of your situation may ... Continue Reading →
Back when I was in high school (or it might have been shortly after; I don’t really remember, and it doesn’t really matter), I got a part-time job at the Don Randall Music Store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was on my very first day that Mr. Randall—in a move that seemed almost like magic to me—taught me a great lesson.
It was the end of the day, and we had just closed the store and locked the glass front doors. There ... Continue Reading →
First question: Have you ever played poker? I mean real poker, with real money at stake. (“Real” money, of course, being a relative term—primarily relative to your current net worth.)
Second question: Have you ever been losing at poker, with real money at stake?
You play differently when you’re losing than when you’re winning, don’t you? That’s because there’s more pressure when you’re losing.
And when the pressure’s on—when the stakes are the highest—we tend to play more conservatively. We take fewer chances. ... Continue Reading →
Have you seen the movie Apollo 13? In case you’re unfamiliar with it, it is not the sequel to Apollos 1 through 12. It’s a nail-biter of a movie that tells the true story of the ill-fated—and almost disastrous—Apollo 13 mission to the moon. At the risk of ruining it for you, the crew of Apollo 13 never made it to the moon. Instead, they nearly died when an onboard explosion made it virtually impossible for them to return safely ... Continue Reading →
Imagine you’re in this situation. You’re a professional hockey player. You’re playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s the deciding game; you’re in overtime. There are 10 seconds left, and suddenly, one of your teammates passes the puck to you.
What would you do? Would you panic? Would you choke? Would you rise to the occasion and save the day?
How would you feel? Nervous? Alarmed? Excited? Confident?
Overtime in the deciding game, 10 seconds on the clock…and it’s all up to you.
That’s ... Continue Reading →
A friend of mine got a flat tire on the way to the airport last week. It was a crisis, and she missed her flight.
I got a flat tire on the way to the airport several years ago. It was an inconvenience, and I made my flight.
What was the difference between the two incidents?
When I have an important flight, I get to the airport ridiculously early. My travel mantra is, “I’d rather be bored at the airport than panicked on ... Continue Reading →
I just saw the new Mission: Impossible movie. I’m not going to give anything away here (because you may not have seen it yet, and besides, I’m not that kind of a jerk), but it is absolutely filled with high-pressure situations!
As in the previous five installments, Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt. And, as in the previous five installments, there’s a lot at stake. What I find interesting, though, is that the three elements that create a high-pressure situation for Ethan ... Continue Reading →
On December 29, 1972, Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 crashed into the Florida Everglades, killing more than 100 passengers and crew members. That, of course, would be tragic under any circumstances. What makes this incident doubly tragic, though, is that the accident was entirely preventable. In fact, had the story had a happier outcome, the cause of the crash would have been almost laughable.
So why did Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 crash?
Because the two pilots were too busy trying to ... Continue Reading →
Fight or flight? This way or that way? Yes or no?
Each of these three questions describes a brain under pressure. Could be your brain, could be mine. When it comes to pressure situations, we all tend to default to the same mode: a binary mode.
In other words, when we’re under pressure and need to make a decision, we all have a tendency to simplify the situation to two choices, and ... Continue Reading →