Crunch Time

How to Be Your Best When It Matters Most

Rick Peterson (Author) | Judd Hoekstra (Author) | Billy Beane (Foreword by)

Publication date: 01/23/2017

Crunch Time
Thrive under Pressure!

Nobody knows pressure like a major league baseball pitcher—an entire game can rest on a single pitch. For years, Rick Peterson has helped some of baseball's finest excel in this kind of intense situation. In
Crunch Time, he and leadership expert Judd Hoekstra share Rick's secret. It's called reframing—it enables you to see a pressure situation with a new perspective so that it shifts from a threat that can make you panic to an opportunity for you to shine. Rick and Judd offer six powerful reframing strategies, with fascinating behind-the-scenes examples from Rick's work with some of the top names in sports. Learn how elite athletes perform their best under pressure and how you too can perform and be your best when it matters most.

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Thrive under Pressure!

Nobody knows pressure like a major league baseball pitcher—an entire game can rest on a single pitch. For years, Rick Peterson has helped some of baseball's finest excel in this kind of intense situation. In
Crunch Time, he and leadership expert Judd Hoekstra share Rick's secret. It's called reframing—it enables you to see a pressure situation with a new perspective so that it shifts from a threat that can make you panic to an opportunity for you to shine. Rick and Judd offer six powerful reframing strategies, with fascinating behind-the-scenes examples from Rick's work with some of the top names in sports. Learn how elite athletes perform their best under pressure and how you too can perform and be your best when it matters most.

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Meet the Authors & Other Product Contributors

Visit Author Page - Rick Peterson

Rick Peterson is one of the most successful coaches in professional sports and has a unique ability to empower others to perform at their best. He was the Oakland Athletic s pitching coach during the famed Moneyball era, and is currently director of pitching development with the Baltimore Orioles.

Visit Author Page - Judd Hoekstra

Judd Hoekstra is a leadership and human performance expert, sales executive, bestselling author and speaker.

Crunch Time

, Judd’s most recent book coauthored with professional baseball pitching coach Rick Peterson, reveals the secrets of how to be your best under pressure.

Along with leadership guru Dr. Ken Blanchard, Judd is a coauthor of the bestselling Leading at a Higher Level

 as well as Who Killed Change?

. He has also developed multiple leadership training programs and tools for The Ken Blanchard Companies, a premier leadership training and coaching company.

Foreword by Billy Beane

Billy Beane is Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations for the Oakland Athletics. He has been with the organization since 1993.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Foreword xvii

Introduction: Rick and Izzy 1

1  Reframing—The Shortest Path from Threat to Opportunity 7
2  Why Reframing at Crunch Time Is Necessary 19
3  Reframing from Trying Harder to Trying Easier 37
4  Reframing from Tension to Laughter 55
5  Reframing from Anxiety to Taking Control 69
6  Reframing from Doubt to Confidence 85
7  Reframing from Failure to a Learning Moment 101
8  Reframing from Prepared to Over prepared 121

Final Thoughts 139

A  Index of Stories 141
B  Try This 145

Acknowledgments 151
About the Authors 155
Endnotes 159
Index 167

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Crunch Time


Reframing—The Shortest Path from Threat to Opportunity

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.


At its core, reframing describes the skill of consciously and intentionally thinking about a situation in a new or different way. This, in turn, allows us to shift the meaning we attach to the situation, the actions we take, and the results we achieve. The operative word in our definition is skill. In other words, it’s not something some are gifted with and others are not. With practice, reframing can be learned by anyone.

Blanchard Executive Coach Kate Larsen shared the following analogy with me to describe how reframing works.1 You hop into your car and start the engine. The radio is already on and is playing a song on one of your preset stations. The song is like the voice in your head (a.k.a. your self-talk), often filled with emotion. The preset station is the equivalent of a long-held assumption or belief.

The volume is low and you may not be paying attention to what’s playing. It’s just on in the background as you drive and think about other things. Then you decide to turn up the volume. Now you are aware of the song that’s playing. Let’s assume, in this case, the song is one you do not like. Being aware of the song you don’t like is the equivalent of consciously paying attention to your negative self-talk.

You now have a choice. You can keep listening to the song and let it affect your thoughts and your emotions. Or you can check out what else is playing by changing the station. Changing the station to identify better songs is the equivalent of identifying different and better thoughts that are likely to lead to better actions and better outcomes.

Taking this analogy one step further, we used to live in a world where, based on the number of radio stations we could access, we were limited in the songs we could choose. Sometimes, no matter how hard we tried, we just couldn’t find a song we liked on the radio. We no longer live in that world. We live in a world where we can create custom playlists loaded with our favorite songs for every occasion. In a similar fashion, Chapters 3–8 provide a playlist of reframes you can use to be your best at crunch time.

It’s important to highlight that reframing is not about pretending everything is perfect and positive. It is about finding different ways of interpreting a less-than-ideal situation. The resulting new frame leads to a different meaning, which leads to better actions and better results. Just as important, you feel better about how you handle the situation.

The skill of reframing is useful for many situations—in particular those in which you feel an uncomfortable degree of pressure, anxiety, or stress. Here are a few examples.

1. In the late 1980s, a parasitic insect named phylloxera threatened to destroy vineyards and bring Napa Valley wineries to their knees. The projected cost of replanting the grapes was $25,000 to $75,000 an acre. This didn’t even take into account the opportunity cost of a five-year wait for new vines to bear fruit.

In spite of the financial and time investment costs, a few growers did replant. One of those growers, Jack Cakebread at Cakebread Cellars, recalls, “Phylloxera was the greatest opportunity the valley has ever had. It was an unbelievable opportunity!2

“How often in your life do you get a chance to go back and say, ‘Hey, if I had this to do over again, I’d do it this way’? We had all the new technology. We had root stocks. We had clones of varieties you are looking at now. We had spacing. We had soil analysis we never had before. It was just a dream!”

Cakebread Cellars, producer of 75,000 cases of wine per year, is now one of the most highly esteemed and successful wineries in Napa Valley. Where others saw despair, Jack Cakebread saw hope. He saw the chance to start anew.

2. During the Korean War, the Chinese communists had overrun the Yalu River. The Marines battling the Chinese were in a running fight to reach the coast. Ten Chinese divisions surrounded Colonel Lewis Burwell Puller’s 1st Marines. The unyielding Colonel saw the dire situation from a unique perspective: “Those poor bastards,” Puller said. “They’ve got us right where we want them. We can fire in any direction now!”

3. When President Ronald Reagan was running for reelection in 1984, he was the oldest president to have ever served. At age 73, there were many questions about Reagan’s capacity to endure the grueling demands of the presidency. On October 7, Reagan performed poorly in the first debate against his opponent, Democratic candidate Walter Mondale. Among other mistakes, Reagan admitted to being “confused.”

Two weeks later, in the next debate, Mondale made a comment that implied Reagan’s advanced age was an issue voters should be concerned about. Reagan’s comeback was priceless. He joked, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” Mondale himself laughed at Reagan’s joke. With that humorous reframe, Reagan effectively neutralized the age issue, ended Mondale’s campaign, and steamrolled to reelection.

In each of these examples, where it might be natural to feel overwhelmed and threatened, these individuals saw opportunity.

While reframing can be used in a variety of contexts, this book focuses on helping you perform your best under pressure. On that note, I want to make an important point; you need to calibrate your expectations with reality. It is unrealistic to expect to perform better under pressure than you perform under calm conditions. As a result, your goal under pressure is to perform at a level equal to how you typically perform when there is no pressure.

Seven Reasons Reframing Is Priceless

Let’s have a look at seven reasons why reframing is an incredibly valuable skill.

1. As I stated earlier, reframing is a skill that, with practice, can be learned.

2. In today’s world, it can be argued that time is our most valuable resource. While the 10,000-hour rule to master a new skill is true for many skills, who has 10,000 hours to spare? We’re constantly on the lookout for life hacks—tricks that not only produce great results, but do so in record time. Reframing is as quick as coming up with a new thought, which can be measured in seconds.

3. In addition to being fast, reframing is efficient. It redirects your attention toward the opportunity before you rather than toward what could go wrong. This enables you to use your energy wisely.

4. Unlike dunking a basketball or becoming a supermodel, reframing is not limited to those who have won the genetic lottery. Reframing also knows no economic boundaries. It can and has been used by the extremely rich, the extremely poor, and everyone in between. Reframing is available to everyone.

5. Also, to reframe, we don’t need to be in the office, or in front of our laptops or smart phones, or on a practice field. We can reframe while we’re driving, talking a walk, mowing the lawn, and so on. Because the skill resides in our mind, reframing can help you anytime, anywhere.

6. Reframing applies in all different types of pressure situations. It applies at work as you seek to solve problems, make presentations, or beat your quota. It applies in academics as you take exams. It applies in your personal life as you sing a solo in the church choir or play in a big game.

7. In addition to being a skill you can use to help yourself, reframing is a key skill you can use to teach and positively influence others. When Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at the March on Washington in 1963 and gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, he reframed the civil rights movement from a struggle of mighty proportions to an inspiring dream embraced by many.

Now that we have shared examples and you know more about reframing, let’s shift to understanding how pressure affects your mind and body.

How Does Pressure Affect Your Mind and Body?

When we’re under pressure, we can think about the situation in one of two ways—either as a threat or as an opportunity.

Whether you view the situation as a threat or opportunity depends on how you answer this question for yourself: “Do I have what it takes to handle this situation?”

When you answer “no,” you view the situation as a threat. The perception of pressure situations as a threat hurts our performance. Why? With threat thinking, your mind is typically filled with thoughts and feelings that

image You have little to no control over the situation.

image You’re filled with anxiety, fear, worry, and doubt.

image You’re focused on trying to avoid failure and its devastating consequences.

These thoughts and emotions, in turn, trigger responses we’re all familiar with: butterflies in your stomach, sweaty palms, dry mouth and throat, and tense muscles, to name a few. In addition, threat thinking leads to an increased heart rate and the production of performance-crippling chemicals such as cortisol—a.k.a. the stress hormone. In heavy doses triggered by threat, cortisol causes your blood vessels to constrict, limiting the amount of oxygen and glucose that reach your muscles and brain. This, in turn, compromises your ability to make good decisions and perform at the level you’re capable of under less stressful conditions.

Before Rick’s visit to the mound in the bottom of the 9th inning, Izzy felt—in a word—threatened.

In contrast, when you answer “yes” to the question “Do I have what it takes to handle this?” you view the situation as an opportunity. With opportunity thinking, your mind is typically filled with thoughts and feelings that

image You’re in control.

image You’re confident.

image You’re focused on the success you view as being within your grasp.

These thoughts and emotions, in turn, trigger a performance-enhancing response from your body’s internal pharmacy. Like threat thinking, opportunity thinking also causes your body to respond with an increased heart rate. However, unlike threat thinking that releases cortisol in large amounts that hinder us, opportunity thinking releases dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter.

Dopamine causes your blood vessels to dilate, increasing the amount of oxygen and glucose getting to your muscles and brain. This, in turn, helps you make good decisions and perform at the level you’re capable of under normal conditions.

Learning the skill to get yourself into opportunity thinking for pressure situations is critical for performing your best. After Rick’s visit to the mound in the bottom of the 9th inning, Izzy saw the opportunity.

In essence, your mind is filled with beliefs that can either hurt you or help you. These beliefs, in turn, spark an internal pharmacy within your body that releases chemicals that can also hurt you or help you.

The Mind-Body Connection

Consider the following well-known example to illustrate the point that your mind and body are inextricably linked.

Task 1 Imagine you are asked to walk 50 yards on a bridge. The bridge is the width of a sidewalk, has no guard rails, and is 1 foot off the ground. What thoughts are going through your head? How does your body feel? How likely are you to succeed? What are the consequences if you fail? How important is this task to you?

Task 2 Now imagine you are asked to walk 50 yards on a bridge that is the width of a sidewalk and has no guard rails. This time, however, the bridge is 1,000 feet in the air, over a stadium full of people. What thoughts are going through your head? How does your body feel? How likely are you to succeed? What are the consequences if you fail? How important is this task to you?

In both tasks, the physical requirements of you are the same— walk 50 yards on a bridge that is the width of a sidewalk and has no guard rails. However, you likely had very different inner reactions to the tasks in terms of the thoughts that went through your head and how your body felt. The reason you had different reactions to the task is due to the significant difference in the consequences of failure between the two tasks. There is little to no pressure in Task 1, and you likely have a high degree of confidence you will succeed. With Task 2, however, the dire consequences of failure lead to threat thinking. Confidence likely wanes and your focus shifts from the act of walking on the sidewalk to falling down from 1,000 feet in the air.

As you can see from this simple example, it’s not the physical requirements of a task that cause us to feel threatened. Rather, it’s our perception of the requirements that cause us to feel threatened.

Most often, pressure comes from within, not from others. Consequently, the best response also comes from within—by learning how to modify our thinking. The answer is learning how to reframe.

While you may be ready to acknowledge the value of reframing, you may be wondering why it’s so critical to use this skill in pressure-packed situations. Let’s find out.

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Learn from Rick and Judd how to reframe your mind so that you can't imagine yourself failing, regardless of the pressure.”
—Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The New One Minute Manager® and Collaboration Begins with You

“Rick helped me unlock potential I didn't know I had. He has a knack for using humor and anecdotes to enhance his message. I have no doubt that Crunch Time will help you unlock your potential and help you perform at your best under pressure!”
—Tom Glavine, Hall of Fame major league pitcher, World Series Champion, and 300 game winner

Rick and I had many conversations about process optimization and problem-solving. Thankfully he and Judd Hoekstra have now memorialized a practical method for getting out of our own way and easing into the flow that can be applied to any endeavor. Absolutely invaluable stuff.”
—Steven Soderbergh, Palme d'Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival, Academy Award winner for Best Director

Crunch Time provides practical action steps to reframe and change our thoughts to see the opportunity through chaos. During intense, pressure-packed moments, this is a key leadership difference between success and failure. A must-read!”
—Betsy Myers, former senior adviser to two US Presidents

“Every day is Crunch Time in New York. When I was the New York Mets' manager, Rick was the perfect fit to be my pitching coach. He has a unique ability to reframe pressure situations to maximize performance.
Crunch Time is a must-read to optimize your performance in your own ‘Big Apple.'”
—Willie Randolph, former Manager, New York Mets, six-time All-Star, and six-time World Series Champion

“I love Rick's progressive and out-of-the-box thinking. He helped me improve as a major league pitcher at the back end of my career in the pressure cooker of New York with the Mets. In
Crunch Time, Rick and Judd provide a GPS for you to perform your best under pressure.
—Al Leiter, nineteen-year major league pitcher, two-time World Series Champion, two-time All-Star, and Emmy award–winning Major League Baseball analyst

“In business as in baseball, your ability to perform under pressure can make or break your career.
Crunch Time will teach you how to thrive in high-stakes situations.”
—Travis Bradberry, bestselling coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0

“At one time or another, at work or at home, all of us have felt like the whole game was riding on our shoulders. Rick and Judd apply what Rick has learned working with elite athletes to not only lift that burden but enable you to perform at your best.”
—Susan Torroella, Executive Vice President, Wellness Corporate Solutions, and Fortune Small Business Best Boss Award recipient

“Contrary to what many of us assume, it is not our body or possessions that determine happiness and success; it is the state of our mind. This book will help you go from stress and fear to optimal performance when it matters most, by teaching you how to train your mind.”
—Dr. Rogier Hoenders, psychiatrist and Director, Center for Integrative Psychiatry, Lentis, the Netherlands

“Rick Peterson has always applied a distinctive blend of insight and creativity in his out-of-the-box approach to solving problems. With
Crunch Time, he and Judd Hoekstra lay out, in a compelling and entertaining way, an approach to dealing with pressure that can help all of us in our tough personal and professional moments.”
—Bill Squadron, Professor, Columbia University, and former President, Bloomberg Sports

Crunch Time has already helped me reframe one issue, allowing us to save six figures. This is an amazingly inspirational book with examples everyone can relate to. I've shared this new knowledge with our team, resulting in a renewed alignment, confidence, and success!”
—Yogesh Madhvani, CEO, SimplexDiam, Inc.

“I've had the privilege of interviewing hundreds of professional athletes and coaches, and few are as insightful as Rick Peterson. He has a gift for distilling complex concepts into understandable terms. He is famous for developing the best pitchers in the world, of course, but he can teach us all about performing under pressure. The only thing better than a Rick Peterson interview is a Rick Peterson book.”
—Lee Jenkins, Lead Writer, Sports Illustrated

“I wish I'd read this book sooner! I had an experience where I choked hard core. The more I tried to figure out why I was striking out, the greater the pressure became. I could no longer think clearly. Reading
Crunch Time, with its practical techniques and relatable examples, I can now see what I will do differently next time.”
—Laurie Cooke, CEO, Healthcare Businesswomen's Association

“Nobody knows more than Rick Peterson about dealing with pressure, whether it be the seventh game of the World Series or a real-world situation.”
—Jerry Reinsdorf, Chairman and owner, Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls

“Fascinating behind-the-scenes stories about how elite leaders, coaches, and performers have learned to thrive under pressure. The best part is that the lessons apply to all of us in our everyday pressure situations.”
—Jon Gordon, bestselling author of Training Camp and The Energy Bus

“Rick has years of experience teaching professional and amateur pitchers how to maximize their true potential, how to embrace pressure and avoid crumbling under the weight of others' expectations. He and Judd now team up to share those experiences in
Crunch Time, a must-read for anyone looking to conquer pressure in the business world or in daily life!”
—Jim Duquette, former General Manager, New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles, and Major League Baseball analyst

“Rick Peterson is a national treasure. His storytelling is matched only by his hard-earned wisdom, and I'm thrilled he's teamed with Judd Hoekstra to bring you the best of both. Their book is packed with insights on being at your best when the pressure is highest.”
—Cade Massey, PhD, Professor, The Wharton School

“Rick has the deepest knowledge of pitching that I have come across in my career. He helped me immensely. This includes sharing wisdom in areas beyond baseball, such as dealing with pressure. I encourage you to dig deep into
Crunch Time. The lessons last a lifetime.”
—Barry Zito, major league pitcher, Cy Young Award winner, and World Series Champion

Crunch Time succinctly defined and taught me concepts and techniques that are relevant across business, personal, and athletic challenges. So easy to grasp and apply, and with enough variety for just about any situation. Thanks for helping me find ways to ‘change the station,' remember that it's okay to relax under pressure, and simply perform better.”
—Tracey Roberts, Chief Human Resource Officer, Weber-Stephen Products LLC, busy mom, and “weekend warrior” triathlete

“On the surface,
Crunch Time seems to skillfully address a specific life situation—the physiological and psychological response to pressure. Upon reflection, its application is much more than that. From public speaking to parenting to corporate leadership, the richness of the life lessons that are incorporated in this engaging and relatable text is, in fact, enormously broad. So, sit back, relax, and reframe your perspective.”
—James G. Conroy, President and CEO, Boot Barn

“Your heart is racing, your stomach is churning, and all eyes are upon you; your next move will decide whether you win or lose. Sales professionals, like professional athletes, know this scenario all too well.
Crunch Time is a fun read that helps you take advantage of your adrenaline and make the most of high-pressure situations.”
—Bill Mathews, Associate Vice President, Facilities Growth, Aramark

Crunch Time brings the magic of The Professor (as Rick was known throughout the big leagues)reader in an engaging, inspiring way. Judd translates Rick's success as a pitching coach into the everyday pressures we face at work, at school, at home, and in the community. The proven power of reframing—under the most trying of circumstances—can help shift our heads, hearts, and hands from victim to victor. You need Crunch Time to be your best!”
—S. Chris Edmonds, author of the Amazon bestseller The Culture Engine

“It is our mindset that distinguishes those who truly perform under pressure and not just our skill level.
Crunch Time taught me how to coach my team to come up with new ways to rethink a situation and see it as a new opportunity and that they have what it takes to succeed! There is a lot to learn from Rick's coaching with elite athletes, and it definitely translates to the business world.”
—Charlene Prounis, CEO, Flashpoint Medica

“Time and again we hear anecdotes about how sports results can relate to business decisions. Rick Peterson, who has always thought beyond the diamond, has coauthored an essential read to help you succeed in business, sports, and life.”
—Joe Favorito, veteran sports entertainment marketing executive and Professor, Columbia University

“As someone who challenges convention and explores new ideas, Rick Peterson is an important voice not only in baseball but also in finding your personal best.”
—Tom Verducci, bestselling coauthor of The Yankee Years and Emmy Award–winning Major League Baseball analyst

Biz Books
(Column for 02/05/17)
Jim Pawlak

“Crunch Time: How to Be Your Best When It Matters Most” by Rick Peterson and Judd Hoekstra (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, $19.95).  Peterson, who coached some of baseball's best pitchers, and Hoekstra, a VP at the Ken Blanchard Companies, combine their knowledge to show how managers and employees can reframe high-pressure situations into less stressful ones that create opportunities to shine.  To set the stage, let's take a drive.  You hop into the car and tune the radio to a preset station.  It's playing one of your favorite songs; you sing along and may even turn up the volume; negative thoughts disappear.  The next song isn't one you like.  What do you do?  Change stations because the song evoked a negative thought and also a positive reaction.  You reframed the situation.
          At work, you can feel pressure because you believe that you have little control over the situation, you don't think you can handle it, or you're thinking about the consequences of failure.  In these cases, your woe-is-me approach means you're playing not to lose.  That's a game you can't win because the negatives create a reflexive bias on your approach to the task. By dumbing-down your ability, you become “your own worst coach”.
          The “Conscious Thinker” focuses on what can be controlled.  Doing so creates confidence in the ability to explore and ‘grade' options, and complete the task.  This playing-to-win mindset sees problems as opportunities to showcase skills and shows that skills can be relied upon to produce results.  To think consciously, slow things down.  Before jumping into a high-pressure tasks, ask yourself about the assumptions you're making about the situation and its possible outcomes.  Filter out the negative ones by remembering that you've face similar situations and won.
          Key takeaway: Thoughts drive actions.

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