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HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERon October 29, 2010
According to Paul Sullivan, "Clutch, simply put, is the ability to do what you do normally under immense pressure. It is also something that goes far beyond the world of sport. And while it has a mental component, it is not a mystical ability, nor somehow willing yourself to greatness...Being under great pressure is hard work. This is part of the reason why we are so impressed by people who seem immune to choking. These people come through in the clutch when others don't...Just because someone is clutch in one area of his life does not mean he will be clutch in others...Transferring what you can do in a relaxed atmosphere to a tenser one is not easy - or else everyone would be clutch."

That said, we now understand why Sullivan wrote this book: To share what he learned while seeking the answers two questions:

First, "Why are some people so much better under pressure than other, seemingly equally talented people?" In response to the first question, Sullivan organizations his material according to six themes (Focus, Discipline, Adapting, Being present, Fear and Desire, and Double Clutch) and devotes a separate chapter to each. Then in Part II, he shifts his attention to explaining why some people choke and others don't...why people choker in some situations...and nit in others. He also examines the implications and possible consequences of "overthinking." Then, "Can people be clutch if they are not regularly in high-pressure situations?" Sullivan devotes Part III, "How to Be Clutch," to answering the second question.

I especially appreciate how Sullivan anchors his observations and insights in a human context. For example, there is much of great value to learn from his discussion of the renowned attorney, David Boies, in the first chapter. "Early in his career, he started to focus on the same two questions for every trial. `First, what are the facts,' he told me. `And then, second, what are the basic principles of the law here - not what were the detailed holdings of fifty cases, but just what are the basic principles of law that apply to this area'...Boies's focus on having a clear understanding of the issues and laws creates a solid foundation. He builds the morality play around that. However, it is not the play that helps him excel under pressure but his focus on telling the story in court. This ability allows him to withstand the immense pressure of any high-profile trial."

Boies and other exemplars throughout the book commit years of time and effort to becoming able to excel despite indescribably severe pressure in one or two domains of their lives...but not in all. Tiger Woods is clutch during competition in golf but has encountered well-publicized problems in other areas. Few (if any) of those who read this book will be sufficiently talented to achieve success in competition with Boies or with Woods but everyone who reads this book can - over time and with sufficient concentration - manage more effectively stress and the pressures that create it.

One final point: What Paul Sullivan learned and then shares in this book will be of substantial benefit, both to those who wish to alleviate stress and to those who must cope with it.
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