Thrive Under Pressure

Thrive Under Pressure

Thrive on Pressure

I’ve been thinking about the concept of pressure after a conversation I had with several recent college graduates who are at the beginning of their careers. What is pressure and how do I handle it when I feel it? When I think about this topic, I immediately think about sports and how the great competitors face incredible pressure at specific moments. Yesterday’s PGA as Jason Day closed in on his first major win with Jordan Spieth on the hunt. Day has had so many near misses, putting those nagging doubts out of his head and playing strong for a record breaking 20 under major was incredible to watch. How does one do that and what can the rest of us learn from it?

jason day pga

I decided to go back to a classic and highly motivational book I have gone to since my days of Cornell wrestling, The Edge, by Howard E. Ferguson, 1982. Here is the legendary coach of one of wrestling’s greatest high schools, St. Edward of Lakewood, Ohio take on pressure:

“Time’s running out. Your team trails by one basket. The noise of the crowd is deafening.

What do you do? Do you hide, or do you break from your opponent and come out to get the ball for the last shot?

If you’ve prepared mentally and physically as we have mapped out, you’ll never need to worry about pressure; in fact, you’ll go out of your way to put yourself in pressure situations. You’ll be the type of athlete who thrives on a close game, a tight match. Pressure is something you put on yourself when you’re not prepared. If you don’t have faith in what you are doing and you fear the unexpected, then its something for which you didn’t properly prepare. All pressure is self-inflicted and, like anything else in life, you can look at it in several ways. You can look forward to it or you can cringe in front of it. … If you welcome pressure, you’ll be amazed at how successful you’ll be. When the situation gets tight, you’ll have the edge because you’ll know: 1. There’s just as much pressure on your opponent, 2. Exactly how to handle it, and 3. Chances are he(she) won’t.

No matter how confident you are though, sometimes you’ll find yourself caught up in a pressure situation and little doubts of your ability will creep into your mind. No need to panic, no need ot think its unnatural. Even the great ones have moments of fear. The secret to their success is that they know exactly how to handle these moments – they know they can’t avoid them, so when the pop up, they don’t lose it – they handle them. They slow it down a little, they go back to their very fundamentals of their particular sport and they concentrate. Slow it down. Get your confidence back. Get your edge back. Then face the pressure head-on.”

In business, just as in sports, you make a choice in a “pressure” situation. You can either embrace it with the confidence of preparation and a belief in your ability and your content or your can let it get to you. I’ve probably given 1,000s of presentations or speeches over the years to important audiences, customers, and business leaders. In every one of these situations, even early on, I felt the pressure in the form of adrenalin.   I grew to feed on these situations. I embraced them. Even early on, these were the situations I sought and thrived on. Whether it was getting a meeting with Walmart’s Sam’s Club at 23 years old and traveling to Bentonville, AK to present on my own, taking the lead on presentations to our major suppliers or going out to the investment community and raising $100s of millions while still in my twenties, I put myself in “pressure” situations. While there were always ways in which I could have improved or done better and each of these experiences could have been terribly nerve racking, but instead they where incredible learning experiences in which I thrived.

As a person starting out in the business world, you will have opportunities presented to you to take a lead on a project or to represent your company in a meeting. Take them and embrace them. These are the moments that separate the performers from the rest. These are the moments that enable one to stand out from the crowd. Feeling it is natural, even with proper preparation.

Smoke with Kyle Dake - Cornell Wrestling 2013  kyle Dake

“Pressure is something you really put on yourself. If its not real, why put it on yourself?” -Kyle Dake

Kyle Dake is an American former collegiate wrestler at Cornell University. He won four NCAA Division I national tittles in four different weight classes. With his fourth title in 2013, he joined Cael Sanderson and Pat Smith as the only four-time NCAA champions.

larry bird

As NBA legend, Larry Bird put it back in his playing days, “In the closing seconds of every game, I want the ball in my hands for that last shot – not in anybody else’s, not in anybody else’s hands in the world.”  I look at business situations similarly.

While no one expects a new entrant to the workforce to excel in every situation right from the start, you will have opportunities to put yourself into a “pressure situation”. Seek these out. Always be the one who raises their hand and steps up. Don’t fear failure. Take the chance and be willing to put yourself into these situations. You may not realize it at the time, but your boss and other senior people in your organization will notice. More importantly, you will gain experience and confidence by going through these experiences. The more you do this, the more you will have confidence and never get rattled.

“Courage is grace under pressure.” Ernest Hemingway

 

Real March Madness – Indiana Says No To Leadership & Open Mindedness

Real March Madness – Indiana Says No To Leadership & Open Mindedness

Indiana Legislature Tells The NCAA, NFL, NBA, Eli Lilly, GenCon, Amazon, Salesforce, YPO, The Chamber of Commerce and Others to Take a Hike

Really? Is this what we elected a super majority of Republicans to do? Apparently, the leadership decided it made sense to push through the “Religious Freedom Act”. I wrote a piece called “It’s 2015: Where Have All The Leaders Gone?” last week, I had no idea how timely that was. Here is a recent story on the issue.Indiana closed for business

Indiana House OKs controversial religious freedom bill

The basic argument of those in favor of these laws seems to be quite weak. This post discusses the fact that the language is very similar to existing law at the Federal level and in the state. If that is so, why is it needed?

Indiana’s So-Called ‘Right to Discriminate’ Law Appears Very Similar to Existing Federal Law

I have yet to hear or read a strong argument in its favor. This is an issue drummed up by those wanting to drum up issues and make a seemingly principled stand on what other people do in their private lives. The hypotheticals they use like a caterer who does not want to serve a gay wedding are simply dumb. If any business like that really does not want to get someone’s business for any reason, they could simply make their bid not competitive and lose out to others. The idea you need a law to turn away business is the very example of conservatism gone amuck.

One of the more ridiculous arguments for a change in the language put forth was “A House committee last week tried to assuage the concerns of some business interests, including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, with an amendment that exempts employers from any lawsuits brought by employees under the legislation.” They completely miss the point.

Have any of these people voting for this considered what this legislation actually permits? What if a Muslim shop owner decided their religion prevented them from serving Christians or Jews? Or Visa versa? Under the language of this legislation, that would be permitted wouldn’t it? How about another example, where a restaurant owner believes adultery is against their religion and refuses to allow people they suspect of committing it to dine in their establishment based on their religious conscience. How about couples living together in sin, unmarried, against the teaching of an owners religion. Who gets to decide? The idea that small government conservatives would put into place a framework for the state to arbitrate these questions strikes me as worse than counter intuitive.

And while I do not agree with much of what passes for journalism on MSNBC, this story was well done on putting this in perspective nationally and why this fight is not only wrong but in the end will cause damage to Indiana and ultimately will fail – Why ‘religious freedom’ laws are doomed

The bottom line is why do we have such an activist state government that feels it necessary to make a law like this? Starting with Governor Daniels and continued under Governor Pence, the state has done a great job of attracting businesses and rebuilding the economy in spite of the ridiculous headwinds from Washington. Indiana has a great track record in this regard, especially relative to its neighbor states of IL and MI. So why risk that momentum and progress now?

Consequences:

The big table top game convention that brings 56,000 people and $50 million to the State and is Indianapolis’ second-largest convention, is threatening to relocate its massive late-summer annual event to another city if Gov. Mike Pence signs the controversial “religious freedom” bill into law added in a letter to the Governor “Legislation that could allow for refusal of service or discrimination against our attendees will have a direct negative impact on the state’s economy, and will factor into our decision-making on hosting the convention in the state of Indiana in future years,” GenCon CEO Adrian Swartout said Monday in a letter to Pence.

GenCon threatens to exit Indy over ‘religious freedom’ measure

The Backlash to the Anti-Gay Backlash: “Religious Freedom” Bills Fail, As More People See What They’re Really About

My question is: how long can an organization like the NCAA or a company like Eli Lilly or Amazon who keeps expanding here stand by and do business as usual in such potentially hostile environment to their employees, customers and constituents. Many of my CEO friends around the world in Young Presidents Organization (YPO is a group of over 22,000 CEOs with a combined $6 trillion in revenue and 15 million employees) have been sending messages to the effect of “REALLY Smoke, what kind of state do you live in?” In the case of Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer vetoed similar legislation when confronted with the uproar of the NFL (and Super Bowl pullout) and the business community. Governor Pence, do you think we are immune to this? Do you think you are standing on principle? If so it is the wrong one.

How long until the NFL pulls the combine? How many NCAA tournaments do you think we will land going forward. Oh and by the way, what great timing Legislature to put Indiana in the national spotlight during March madness.

Conservatives Against Close Mindedness

Yes, one can be a conservative and be completely opposed to this kind of legislation and behavior. In fact, it is the opposite of true conservatism. This is government intervention at its worst. I’m a long time supporter of conservative causes and of many Republicans, who cannot reconcile this. For example, I whole-heartedly supported the Indiana legislative takeover led by Mitch Daniels and others that was mainly about fixing the education system in Indiana. The fact is the Teachers’ Union had a lock on the legislature and a group of like-minded business people and conservatives got together and supported state legislative candidates and made them competitive for the first time. This led to the current makeup of the legislature here. And there are many good things that have come out of that takeover. That said, this is not one of them.

In fact, it makes me want to put a fund together of like-minded people to knock off the knuckleheads who voted this legislation into law.   While I’m glad the Democrats (and 5 brave Republicans) all voted against this, I certainly don’t want to see the teacher’s union back in control preventing all kinds of experimentation and change in our troubled education system, but I also don’t want to see the current crop of “leaders” in place. Is there not a sensible center? How about a group of fiscal conservative, libertarian minded folks who can knock off the current group and create the kind of government that this state and its people deserve?

Who is with me?

Supporting the “Religious Freedom Act”:

Voting Yes:

Republicans: Arnold, Aylsworth, Bacon, Baird, Behning, Borders, Bosma, Braun, Tim Brown, Burton, Carbaugh, Cherry, Cook, Cox, Culver, Davisson, Dermody, DeVon, Fine, Friend, Frizzell, Frye, Gutwein, Hamm, Harman, Heaton, Judy, Karickhoff, Koch, Lehe, Leonard, Lucas, Mahan, Mayfield, McMillin, McNamara, Miller, Morrison, Morris, Negele, Nisly, Ober, Olthoff, Price, Rhoads, Richardson, Schaibley, Slager, Smaltz, Milo Smith, Soliday, Speedy, Steuerwald, Sullivan, Thompson, Torr, Truitt, Ubelhor, VanNatter, Washburne, Wesco, Zent, Ziemke.

Democrats: None.

Voting No:

Republicans: Beumer, Clere, Eberhart, Kirchhofer, Saunders.

Democrats: Austin, Bartlett, Bauer, Charlie Brown, DeLaney, Errington, Forestal, GiaQuinta, Goodin, Hale, Kersey, Klinker, Lawson, Macer, Moed, Moseley, Niezgodski, Pelath, Pierce, Pryor, Riecken, Shackleford, Vernon Smith, Stemler, Summers, Wright.

EXCUSED (not sure why you can be excused from something like this) Dvorak, Harris, Huston, Lehman, Porter, Wolkins.

At the very least, the businesses that choose to not serve Gays or Muslims or Jews or Adulterers or whatever this bills proponents and the supposed beneficiaries of it are really after, should be required to place stickers that get applied to the front door of their establishments and to be put on an easy to find list on the web. Those who think this is some great move to respect individual’s religion don’t get to have it both ways – The ability to discriminate based on your conscience AND the ability to remain anonymous. You may well choose to not serve someone out of your religious conscience under this law, but we don’t need a law to choose not to do business with you.

 

3/29 UPDATE: Well its been quite a week and Indiana has taken a beating on the national and international stage. Based on everything I’ve read including the law itself (here), this explanation in the Weekly Standard and a balanced analysis in the Star (here) and this lawyers blog post (here) among other things, I stand by my remarks above.   One thing I’ll add, the fact that similar laws exist around the country does not mean they are right.  There are so many laws on the books that may have made sense at one time or another, but today make no sense.  The attempt to balance an individuals right to practice their chosen religion with the basic right to not be discriminated against is not difficult in my mind.  No one has the right to discriminate for any reason.   Governor Pence, that was the right answer on today’s  This Week show with George Stephanopoulos.

Aside from that, the shear political ham handedness of the Indiana Republican leadership (who I supported and elected) is breathtaking.  Every lead in to the Final Four this weekend will have this issue front and center (assuming the NCAA does not pull it at the last minute).  The damage being done economically and reputationally to our state will take many years to overcome. And why?  What compelling reason or case was there that drove this?  You who practice politics for a living, have no excuse.   The damage to my business, my friends, and to my state of over 25 years gives me a high level of motivation to work to get you out of office.

 

April 4 Update:  An excellent post #RFRA firestorm overview…@CarlyFiorina ​ has it right. “Creating an Artificial Divide in Indiana

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