Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don’t

Athletes regularly face win-or-lose situations, but so do business leaders, soldiers, litigators, even average people making crucial decisions about their lives. What usually happens? Most people crumble under extreme pressure. But a few not only succeed but thrive under the pressure. These people are clutch. Can the rest of us learn to be like them?

According to journalist Paul Sullivan, clutch performers have figured out how to perform under high stress conditions as if they were everyday situations. How do they do it?

Drawing on new research and interviews with stars across a range of fields, Sullivan uncovers the shared traits that define clutch performers and explains how anyone can apply these lessons to become great under pressure. You’ll meet:

  • A skinny, rodeo-obsessed sergeant who saved his battalion in Iraq.
  • A rookie baseball player who pitched his team into its first World Series.
  • An eccentric psychiatrist who trained a group of financial traders to become the best in the world.
  • A lawyer who struggled in school but is now one of the top litigators in America

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Clutch, by New York Times columnist Paul Sullivan, is a well-written examination of what makes a person perform despite stress. It's not luck, he emphasizes; it's "the ability to do what you can do normally under immense pressure.
Praise & Op-Eds »


[In Clutch], Paul Sullivan explores how to shine when the stakes and the
pressure to perform are high. The secret that separates the players who are good in the clutch from those who choke, he says, is a well-developed ability to respond in stressful situations in a constructive way.

Praise & Op-Eds »


Everyone knows that it’s difficult to work under intense pressure, but what Paul Sullivan explains so well in this book is that there is a certain art to it that anyone can master. Clutch is an engaging and insightful read that will help you overcome even the toughest challenges. Praise & Op-Eds »

— LOU HOLTZ, former Notre Dame football coach

Mr. Sullivan has sallied forth with notepad and pen in hand to tell individual stories... [He] takes his examples from sports, business, the military and the stage. He explains right away that there are five traits that help people pull off a clutch performance: focus; discipline, adaptability, presence (i.e., actual involvement in the task at hand), and fear and desire. Read More »