Under Pressure?

The Science of Success- Creating Nerves of Steel-The Science of Performing Under Pressure

Listening to The Science of Success Podcast, I’ve come across another interesting one to share. On this September episode, Matt Bodnar interviews Dr. Hank Weisinger, author of the 2015 book titled, “Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most.” Starting off the conversation, Matt was curious to hear Dr. Weisingers perspective on his idea that “giving advice doesn’t really work”, spending some time talking about emotional intelligence and how it plays into criticism or it’s more positive name, feedback.

Dr. Weisinger goes to say that, “criticism for me is a metaphor for change. That’s why one of [his] rules became do not criticize a person for something they cannot change.” Listening to his perspective makes me think that maybe it would be helpful to pay more attention to what it is we criticize people about and what behaviors we’re trying to change. Even asking myself, is what I’m criticizing something the other person can change? Dr. Weisinger continues to clarify that “the goal of giving criticism is to create change when you are giving it. And sometimes the way that you create change in another person is not by verbally telling them what to do. Sometimes the best way to create change is to change your own behavior.” Hearing that there is a give and take to delivering and receiving criticism was an interesting point that I feel is often overlooked. Dr. Weisinger simply says, “How you give it effects how the other person takes it.” He goes on to say, “You have to be clever, you have to be creative and most importantly, you have to see criticism as a chance to put up the person, not to put down the person. Most managers [or] people in relationships, they’re not giving criticism. They are being critical. Critical means flaw finding, telling the person what they’re doing wrong. That doesn’t help.” Wow, how true that is I immediately thought. Sometimes we try to be helpful by pointing out areas of opportunity to improve and leave the conversation without any focus on how to correct the action. This is definitely a skill I would like to be better at and listening to Dr. Weisinger talk about being “improvement oriented” was very helpful to begin that process for me.

As the conversation moves on to the topic of pressure, Dr. Weisinger says that, “Your pressure moments you don’t have to do better than you’ve ever done before. You don’t have to rise. You just don’t have to do worse.” I like that quote and having played competitive sports through college, it makes sense to me. It’s all about consistency. Top athletes are the best because whether it’s the beginning of the season or a championship, their performance remains consistent to what they’ve always done successfully. It’s when someone misses a shot, basket, or goal that a headline is made and talk about pressure comes up. I also enjoyed the conversation Matt and Dr. Weisinger have when discussing the saying “do or die.” As “natures selection mechanism”, it makes sense to think that for “our ancestors every pressure moment was [a] do or die situation. If they didn’t perform, they are extinct. So those people who can perform under pressure get to advance. If you can’t perform under pressure, it’s going to make it very hard for you to advance down your chosen path.”

This episode is full of many points to reflect on and implement in my life. To think of pressure in a new context, I can reduce the stress I typically feel when it’s my turn to execute. I hope you also add “Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most” to your reading list as I have. Just think, maybe this book is be the tool that helps prepare you for the moment you feel the pressure and your change arrives? Give it a listen, no pressure…


If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog post or find a useful idea, please share it with your friends and family. Your referral is greatly appreciated. I look forward to discovering where the change happens with you.





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