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Clutch: Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Other Don't [Kindle Edition]

Paul Sullivan
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $10.99
You Save: $5.01 (31%)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

"Anyone who feels that they tend to lose their confidence when the stakes are high can glean something from this analysis."
-The Associated Press

Sooner or later everyone encounters a situation in which the stakes are high and the outcome is vital. And even top performers can crumble when faced with such extreme pressure. But then there are the performers who thrive under such conditions. In Clutch, you'll meet:

A skinny sergeant who saved his battalion in Iraq A rookie baseball player who pitched his team into its first World Series A lawyer who struggled in school but became one of the top litigators in America

According to Sullivan, clutch performance does not stem from an innate ability. It's a learned skill-the art of operating in high- stress situations as if they were everyday conditions. Even some of the most experienced and talented performers lack this skill-but Sullivan shows that anyone can develop it.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

New York Times columnist Sullivan provides a noteworthy look at what causes some people to buckle under pressure when others thrive. He identifies people who are "clutch"--who excel in difficult, stressful situations--across a range of professions and determines what personal qualities keep their performance consistent even when times get tough. Sullivan, a self-professed lifelong "choker," examines the handful of telling characteristics: focus, discipline, adaptability, the ability to be fully in the present, and being driven--not thwarted--by fear and desire. In-depth examples of clutch individuals include actor Larry Clarke; attorney David Boies; business writer Mark Stevens; and Willie Copeland, a military team leader who was awarded the Navy Cross. Sullivan provides valuable insight into star players and companies who choke under pressure and why (the culprits: an inability to accept responsibility and a tendency to overthink and be overconfident). Perceptive and original, Sullivan's account holds sound advice for everyone--athletes, politicians, and business people--looking to amplify their performance under any circumstances.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"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." He points to five key traits of clutch performers: focus, discipline, adaptability, being truly present and having the fear and desire to win. Sullivan illustrates these talents by way of portraits of accomplished, self-assured performers such as trial lawyer David Boies, JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon and Sergeant Willie Copeland, a hero in Iraq."

-TIME Magazine

"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. "
-Wall Street Journal

"In ...Clutch, Paul Sullivan, a columnist for The New York Times, examines strategies essential for remaining composed when the pressure's on.... Anyone who feels that they tend to lose their confidence when the stakes are high can glean something from this analysis."
-Associated Press

"If you can't perform well under pressure, then you can't really perform well. Paul Sullivan explains very readably how great performers meet the challenge. Chokers everywhere-which means all of us, in some part of our lives-owe him thanks."
-Geoff Colvin, author of Talent Is Overrated

"In Clutch Paul Sullivan has captured the essence of what makes stars superstars. Concise, engaging, and invaluable. A brilliant book with lessons on how to excel in whatever you do both professionally and personally."
-Scott R. Singer, author of How to Hit a Curveball: Confront and Overcome the Unexpected in Business

"In Clutch, Paul Sullivan-one of the best young journalists at work in this country-shows us what really effective people do in situations where they must perform well, even gracefully, under pressure. His interviews with people in clutch situations are never less than thoroughly entertaining. Sullivan has a keen eye for what matters, and this wise book deserves a large audience."
-Jay Parini, author of The Last Station

Product Details

  • File Size: 412 KB
  • Print Length: 259 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1591843502
  • Publisher: Portfolio; Reprint edition (September 2, 2010)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #408,170 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Breezy read - superficial analysis October 11, 2010
Sullivan has an excellent premise - understand factors that help in decision making under pressure. Unfortunately, if you already know that the key reasons for failure are overconfidence, over-analysis and an inability to take responsibility (?), you are going to be disappointed with the insights in the book. Furthermore, the discussion on the five traits that make good decision making under pressure - is also quite thin and without a systematic reasoning as to why these particular traits were chosen. In the end, the book comes across as superficial, despite the very entertaining narratives used throughout.

To discuss some of these "personal" traits, Sullivan focuses on examples, that are in my opinion, macro-events that took significant amount of time and a series of decisions - failure of the US auto industry, financial crisis etc. To attribute these macroevents to a specific decision (or a subset) seems overly simplistic given the plethora of books written on these very topics. Even earlier examples such as those focusing on successful litigator are incomplete since Sullivan talks only about the cases they won. It is this choice of narration and examples (that comes across as cherry-picked), the lack of any meaningful citations or detailed notes that make this book not attain its potential. The last segment - on how to be clutch - flattered to deceive without any new advice; unless you consider the need to accept, psychologically adjust, prioritize, etc as novel insights. In the end, this reads more like a motivational book on decision making than gaining any significant insights. A recent book, Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To, despite its sometimes tangential topics, does a remarkably better job, at least from a researcher's viewpoint.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much more than a self-help book September 27, 2010
I've never been much of a fan of how-to-succeed books of any sort, whether they're about "how to make friends and influence people" or how to run a successful business. The focus always seemed too narrow, and the prescriptions always seemed to be of the flavor-of-the-moment, pop psychology variety. But in Clutch, Paul Sullivan manages to clearly explain a phenomenon that all of us face at one time or another in our lives: Why do some people withstand extraordinary pressure to consistently overcome difficulties and turn in great performances, and why do some people consistently fail? What I like best about the book, apart from its easy-to-read and engaging conversational style, is that it presents case studies from a variety of professions, which broadens its appeal to a larger body of readers. He doesn't just talk about Wall Street bankers who are "clutch" under pressure: he writes revealing portraits of well-known sports heroes and their personal vulnerabilities; about a war hero who overcame dangerous, fast-changing circumstances to save his platoon; about a high-end real estate agent who discovered the virtues of thrift after the 2008 crash and saved his business; and my favorite example, that of a talented actor who shared very personal insights into how he shuts everything out to focus on being "present" on stage in a tension-filled scene, to very dramatic effect. Sullivan tops it off by giving readers some very practical advice on how to become "clutch" in our everyday lives--on everything from one's golf swing to one's financial planning. This is a great read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good read. November 25, 2010
If you pick up the new book "Clutch" thinking it is a how-to book, you'd only be partially right. Instead of giving readers step-by-step instructions on how to be a clutch player in life, Paul Sullivan shows readers examples of clutch players in life.

The author defines clutch as doing what you normally do well but under pressure. According to Sullivan, there are five key areas of determining if a person is clutch. They are:

1. Focus
2. Discipline
3. Adaptability
4. Being present (and blocking out everything else)
5. Using fear and desire to drive for success

On the other end of the spectrum is choking, of which Sullivan devotes the second portion of the book. He believes there are three reasons people choke, which are:

1. The inability to take responsibility for your actions
2. Overthinking
3. Overconfidence

Instead of playing psychologist, Sullivan shares stories of those proven to be clutch players, such as a Navy Seal who had to adapt during wartime in order to win, a marketing genius who used his fear of leaving his family poor to start a profitable advertising agency, and a successful litigator who used focus to become one of the best attorneys in the United States.

And just like he shares stories of clutch players, he also considers stories of those who've choked, including a well-known name in sports whose overconfidence made him great during the regular season but insignificant when it counted most during The Playoffs, and a prideful leader at one of the Big-Three auto industries who choked while a newcomer thrived in the same environment.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars good book
This book is helpful if you have an athlete who has a hard time performing because of anxiety. Great for helping his/her mental game.
Published 3 months ago by momof3and3
5.0 out of 5 stars Really good read
This was good book. It gave great insight to what clutch is. its a really good book
I recommend everyone to buy it.
Published 13 months ago by Billie Mason
5.0 out of 5 stars Clutch
ANYONE who works in business under pressure situations MUST read this book. The essence of this book is simple and straightforward -- in business we often must do things we do... Read more
Published 13 months ago by M. Polka
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
I am most of the way through this book but I have found it to be a great read. Great insight for anyone who needs to perform under pressure
Published 17 months ago by Mark
3.0 out of 5 stars Jamie Dimon, Paul Sullivan hardly knew ye
Sometimes it's best for writers of business books to wait before using examples torn from today's headlines. Read more
Published on June 28, 2012 by Christopher B. Martin
3.0 out of 5 stars What's the point of this book?
I wanted to enjoy and learn from this book but once I finished it, it left me confused and disappointed. Read more
Published on May 14, 2012 by Robert Kirk
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Book
Good book so far, it hasn't put me to sleep. I will skim through certain parts as they are pretty straight forward and I get the point without reading the rest of the story.
Published on September 11, 2011 by Neil J. Delorito
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an engrossing book that answers why some people excel under...
CLUTCH (Portfolio Penguin) by Paul Sullivan, a columnist for THE NEW YORK TIMES, is an engrossing book whose subtitle succinctly states what I wanted to find out; i.e. Read more
Published on August 15, 2011 by Blaine Greenfield
3.0 out of 5 stars Clutch
The author makes a good case that the fear of failure is powerful motivation. Not sure we needed all that he had to say
Published on July 3, 2011 by Kyle Christianson
4.0 out of 5 stars Why most people choke under pressure, while others come through in the...
Everyone faces "clutch" situations, those times when you need to function under intense pressure. Few excel in these stressful moments; most choke. Read more
Published on June 30, 2011 by Rolf Dobelli
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More About the Author

Paul Sullivan writes the Wealth Matters column for The New York Times.
His articles have appeared in Conde Nast Portfolio, The International Herald Tribune, Barron's, The Boston Globe, and Food & Wine. From 2000 to 2006, he was a reporter, editor and columnist at the Financial Times.
His first big story for the FT was a profile of the author Kurt Vonnegut based on a train ride they took from Springfield, Massachusetts to New York City. His last piece for the FT was Vonnegut's obituary.
He received degrees in history from Trinity College and the University of Chicago.


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