Friday, February 17, 2017

Peterson & Hoekstra, Crunch Time

Rick Peterson was, in his most chronicled job, pitching coach for the Oakland A’s during the Moneyball era. Most recently he was director of pitching development for the Baltimore Orioles. Judd Hoekstra is vice president of The Ken Blanchard Companies, which provides leadership training, and has co-authored two books. The two men pooled their skills, and their stories, to produce Crunch Time: How to Be Your Best When It Matters Most (Berrett-Koehler, 2017).

The common thread of this book is reframing: reframing from trying harder to trying easier, from tension to laughter, from anxiety to taking control, from doubt to confidence, from failure to learning moment, from prepared to overprepared. Through reframing, they maintain, a person can learn to thrive under pressure.

Reframing “is not about pretending everything is perfect and positive. It is about finding different ways of interpreting a less-than-ideal situation.” It is about overcoming the fight, flight, or freeze response to pressure, viewed as a threat, and instead activating what the authors call the “Conscious Thinker,” which understands pressure as an opportunity.

Naturally, many of the reframing techniques have been described elsewhere. There are, after all, only a limited number of ways people have come up with to deal with performance under pressure, given our state of knowledge about brain functions. But here are a couple of pointers that traders may find useful.

First, in evaluating your performance, however you define ‘performance’ (and in trading profit can be a self-sabotaging way to view it), set up a personal performance evaluation scale, where 0 is your worst performance and 10, your best. The most important number on this scale is 5, “where you consistently perform today.” You shouldn’t view any performance that doesn’t reach your personal best as a failure. Instead, you should view any performance above 5 as a success. This approach doesn’t encourage mediocrity because as your performance improves, your personal average shifts. The old 6 becomes the new 5. “And because your average is always a 5 on a scale of 0-10, it shows you still have more game in you.”

Second, “you don’t have to feel great to perform great.” Tom Glavine, a Hall of Fame starting pitcher, admitted that he was “in the zone” only one out of every five starts over the course of his career. “If the only time you can win is when you go out there and all the stars are aligned and everything is great, then you’re going to struggle because that’s just not reality.” You have to learn how to win that B+ game or that C+ game. Glavine’s preparation “helped him develop an arsenal of pitches he could throw with precision. When one of his pitches wasn’t working, he adjusted. In addition, when his physical talent was not at its peak, Glavine used his mind to outsmart hitters.”

And finally, a nudge in the right direction, “While the process of overpreparing may feel boring, the results are spectacular.”

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