Harvey Mackay Academy's Blog

Pioneer baseball analyst Bill James and researchers for Stats, Inc., determined the phenomenon of clutch hitters is simply a myth. They noted that what a hitter does in most clutch situations is pretty much what he does the rest of the time.

Sure enough, baseball statistics reveal that top hitters average a 13-point drop in their overall batting average when the game is close in the late innings.

This is no different from what happens in every aspect of daily life. When things are tough, the person who comes through is generally the same person who consistently comes through day in and day out, when things aren’t so tough. These are people who deliver under pressure, rise to the occasion, step up when it matters most, perform in critical situations, prove reliable in a pinch, hold fast in a crisis, stand tall in the face of adversity, shine in high-stakes moments and exhibit grace under pressure.

Coming through in the clutch is all about preparation from practicing excellence every day, focus and the ability to perform under pressure. If you do that consistently you will have a far greater likelihood of coming through in the clutch.

Let me share a personal story to illustrate this point. At age 26, I walked into the General Mills boardroom to compete against four other competitors for their envelope business. I knew what I wanted to say, but I became a bit flustered. I hadn’t prepared myself to perform under that kind of pressure. From that experience, I learned valuable lessons about coming through when it counts.

The great inventor Thomas Edison said, “Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with preparation.”

Preparation is the key. A person who is prepared has won half the battle. You must know your material, anticipate questions and rehearse under pressure. Be so familiar with your subject that you can focus on delivery rather than content. Prepare for potential questions or objections so you can handle them smoothly. Practice your presentation or performance in conditions that simulate the real event as closely as possible.

Confucius said, “In all things, success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation, there is such to be failure.”

More recently, Robert Schuller, the American Christian televangelist, pastor and motivational speaker, said, “Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation.”

Focusing on the moment is all about staying present. How many times have you heard an athlete talk about focus? It is a topic I also hear about frequently in business. The most common complaints? Too many irons in the fire. Too many projects spinning at one time. Too many interruptions. Too many phone calls. Too many emails. Too many things to do. Too little time. The person who is everywhere is nowhere.

Control your breathing and visualize success. Use deep breaths to maintain calm and keep your nerves in check. Picture yourself succeeding in your endeavor to build confidence.

Embrace the pressure with a positive mindset. Remind yourself that pressure is a privilege and an opportunity to showcase your abilities. There will be setbacks but use these past experiences where you didn’t come through to reform your approach and improve. Trust in the skills and experience that have gotten you to this point.

Remember that everyone experiences moments of doubt and anxiety when the pressure is on. The key is to channel that energy into a focused performance. And if you find yourself struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out to trusted colleagues for advice. Keep your ego in check and be open to constructive feedback.

Muhammad Ali said, “I hated every minute of the training, but I told myself, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”

The late legendary college basketball coach Bobby Knight was a strong believer in preparation. When he led the undefeated Indiana Hoosiers to the 1976 NCAA championship, Knight was interviewed on the television show “60 Minutes.” The commentator asked him, “Why are your teams always so successful? Is it the will to succeed?”

“The will to succeed is important,” replied Knight, “but I’ll tell you what’s more important – it’s the will to prepare. It’s the will to go out there every day, training and building those muscles and sharpening those skills.”

As I so often remind you, Prepare to Win. Then you will always be the clutch player that saves the day.

Mackay’s Moral: When the game is on the line, the best players want the ball.

About the Author

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.