“Ready for the big day?”
“I was born ready.”
The mystique of clutch. It’s not quite as easy to describe, but you definitely know it when you see it.
It’s the charismatic person in the suit that can seemingly sell anything, anywhere, anytime.
The athlete who scores the game-winning point with seconds left on the clock.
The public speaker or performer who captivates thousands of people and gets a standing ovation in any given evening.
What do the fans and the commentators say?
“That man is a natural! He must have ice water running through his veins.”
“She was born to shine on the stage under the bright lights!”
The wording is different, but the deceiving message is the same- you’re either born with it or you’re not.
Based on what I’ve seen over the years, I have to disagree.
For the longest time, I seemed to crumble under pressure. College and job interviews left me a nervous wreck, and the lack of confidence showed. This led to significantly more rejections than acceptances.
Public speaking situations led to the same result. I’d appear timid and my voice would get shaky. At the end of the presentation or speech, the audience seemingly clapped out of pity.
Sports competitions were no different. Practice sessions would run smoothly, but I felt stiff and rigid in competition. Only a fraction of my true self felt present during these times. With no one to blame but myself, these lackluster performances were emotionally brutal.
If you’ve failed to perform to your potential in a high pressure situation, you’ll understand that it feels as if you’re driving a car with the emergency brakes on. You know deep inside that you have more to give, but for whatever reason, you can’t bring it out of yourself. Very frustrating.
Over time, however, this improved. Through more extensive training, it became clear to me that I deserved the job offer, the thunderous applause, and the satisfaction of having competed to my full potential. The only thing left to do was to show up with a calm and focused mind. I had found the missing pieces of the puzzle. Finally, I was ready.
Who is Truly Born Ready?
It’s no secret that some people are born with more genetic gifts than others, especially in certain areas. In just about every single case, that only takes you so far. Even some of the best performance coaches in the game believe that everything can be learned. Many performers at the top of their game understand that in order to succeed, they need to fail twice as often or more.
The basketball and baseball hall of famers may be remembered for their game-winning plays, but they’ve had to overcome the initial phase where they had the opportunity to take the game-winning shot…and miss.
Sure, some people are born with it. The ability to shine under the bright lights. The ability to deliver under suffocating pressure. Does this mean you’re doomed to fail forever just because you weren’t born with it? Absolutely not.
While performing under pressure undoubtedly takes time and preparation, it certainly isn’t something that will be out of reach for your entire life. I refuse to believe that, and so should you.
How To Learn The Elusive Clutch Gene
Preparation sets you up for the big performance. Through practice runs or actual competitive situations, the greats inevitably do more preparation than anyone else. Once you reach that point, being in a calm and focused state takes care of the rest.
Athletes approach this in various ways. Some of them visit mindset coaches and sports psychologists. Instead of shying away from the pressure, some of them welcome it and embrace it with the understanding that the biggest room for growth is outside of their comfort zone.
Superstar job candidates will have practiced mock interviews many times over. Some go to interviews with firms that they’re not excited about just to get the experience of talking to a potential employer.
Public speakers have the option to undergo some form of media training, and most of them do. Sounding knowledgeable and confident does not come naturally to everyone, including those who are actually knowledgeable and confident.
The hustler looking to close a sale might seem to win over every client now, but that wasn’t always the case. Sometimes it takes a trial run to work the kinks out. Other times it takes a real world trial by fire, but the learning curve works in your favor with each attempt.
Most people weren’t born clutch. They grew to be clutch. They learned to close the sale, score the game-winning point, and shine under the bright lights.
What else can you learn to be good at? With this new understanding, what something can you revisit now that you initially thought you were not born to do?